Police in the Canadian city of Saskatoon have urged local drug users to be on their guard after two people died as a result of taking cocaine that is thought to have been cut with fentanyl.
An additional three people remained in hospital yesterday after taking the contaminated drug.
The case prompted local law enforcement officials to take the unusual step of publishing the phone number of the dealer who is said to have sold the synthetic opioid-laced cocaine to the drug users who lost their lives.
Saskatoon police advised anybody who bought cocaine from a dealer named either “Lil Joe” or “Joe Bro”, or from somebody using the phone number 306-881-7300, that the cocaine they purchased could be cut with a fatal dose of fentanyl.
In a statement, the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) said: “If you have purchased cocaine from the person with the above cellular number we are urging you to turn it into the SPS front desk so we can properly dispose of it.
“SPS is not searching to pursue charges for being in possession of this cocaine, we are interested in the health and safety of the public.
“[The] SPS is warning members of the public that any drug taken which has not been prescribed by a doctor, or dispensed by a pharmacist, poses a very serious risk of injury or death.”
Overdose deaths across the US and Canada have been on the rise in recent years thanks to dealers cutting heroin with fentanyl, but a growing body of evidence suggests that other drugs are increasingly being laced with the synthetic opioid.
Days later, CTV Montreal reported that police in the city of Laval had seized blotting papers soaked in carfentanyl, a more potent relative of fentanyl that is used by veterinarians to sedate very large animals such as elephants.
While fentanyl is said to be between 50 and 100 times more potent than morphine, carfentanyl is around 100 times stronger than fentanyl.
Police said the blotting papers were intended to be placed under the tongue or swallowed, much a tab of LSD.
In a warning to members of the public, Evelyne Boudreau, of the Laval police department, said: “We want to let people know that this exists, that if you are in the entourage of somebody that uses drugs it can be dangerous just by touching the different types of drugs that this person may use.
“People must know about it. The consumers must also know that maybe if they think they’re buying LSD it may not be the case.”
In March last year, a British teenager died after ordering carfentanyl from a dark web illicit marketplace vendor, prompting a search of his home by specialist police officers wearing hazmat suits.