WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- The ‘benzo dope,’ a harmful synthetic street drug in Canada is on the rise in the country and has reached the US.
- Called the ‘purple heroin,’ the drug is a combination of fentanyl and benzo which could cause fatal overdose among users.
- The drug is typically smoked, inhaled, or injected.
A harmful synthetic street drug called ‘benzo dope’ is rising in Canada. With a mixture of fentanyl and black-market benzodiazepines, the drug is stronger and more prone to fatal overdoses among drug users.
More harmful than fentanyl, the benzo dope has already produced a drug death epidemic across Canada and the US. When combined, fentanyl and benzos lead to prolonged loss of consciousness, acute respiratory depression, and amnesia.
Since naloxone ━ a life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug ━ is not effective against benzos, fatal overdoses have a higher chance of happening after consuming the benzo dope.
The most common colors of the benzo dope are dark purple, blue, and orange. It is commonly known as the ‘purple heroin.’
A super-potent benzo, etizolam was a common benzo found in benzo dope, which has yielded record drug fatalities in Scotland.
Canadian officials were first notified about the fatal drug in April 2019 in Vancouver, when local health workers observed about 30 “atypical” cases of drug overdoses for more than two weeks. The drug users were reportedly not responding to the naloxone.
Last October, the British Columbia drug forensic experts discovered that about 16 percent of fentanyl transactions contained benzodiazepines, a drug that is not typically incorporated with opioids. Before 2019, there were zero percent findings of such drugs and only five percent last January.
Then two months ago, about half of the 165 incidents of illicit drug-related deaths in British Columbia, which mostly had fentanyl, also included benzos. There were about 15 percent of similar cases last July.
As the epicenter of Canada’s drug death issue, British Columbia witnessed the most fatal overdoses record last year.
“We are particularly concerned about the toxicity of the drugs detected in many of the deaths recorded in January,” British Columbia’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said on Tuesday. “The findings suggest that the already unstable drug supply in B.C. is becoming even deadlier, underscoring the urgent need for supervised consumption options, prescribing for safe supply, and accessible treatment and recovery services.”
In a recently published report in the International Journal of Drug Policy, it said: “To our knowledge, this is the first report of a sizeable outbreak of benzodiazepines in the context of a continuing opioid overdose epidemic. The advent of the adulteration of high-potency synthetic opioids [with benzos] is of particular concern.”
Typically being smoked or inhaled, or sometimes injected, the drug has already spread across Canada such as in Alberta and Ontario, per the report’s authors. It has also reached the American regions as several cases of overdoses in Michigan have surfaced.