A test of a drug sample obtained recently in Sooke – thought by the user to be heroin – proved to be something very different.
The sample provided by a client of AIDS Vancouver Island turned out to be a combination of etizolam (a drug prescribed for anxiety and neurosis), xylitol (a sugar substitute), methorphan (cough suppressant and dissaciative hallucinogen) and fentanyl.
The fentanyl made up 20 per cent of the sample, four times the average amount found in most opioid samples.
“From what we’re seeing, there’s very little heroin around in most drug samples these days,” Lana Fine, health promotion educator for AVI, said.
The findings of this test were passed to the Sooke Shelter Society with a warning that the client supplying the sample obtained it from a main source of illicit drugs in the community.
In response, the shelter society issued a public warning about the illicit drug cocktail.
“As far as I’m aware, this is the main sample (supplier) supplying the Sooke area. Please notify any clients you have living in the area as this is a very strong sample,” read the Shelter Society’s Facebook post.
The situation does not come as a surprise to Sooke RCMP Staff Sgt. Brett Sinden.
“Drug use is prevalent in all communities, but recreational drug users need to be reminded that there are significant risks associated with their use,” he said.
“There is no quality control and no way of knowing what you’re actually taking. People need to realize that.”
Sheri Thompson of the Sooke Shelter Society shared the concerns, but pointed out drug use occurs in all sectors of society.
“Some people think that this is a concern only for the homeless. They’re the ones who get painted with the brush as being drug users,” Thompson said.
“There are lots of people living in homes who are also taking drugs, and they are just as much at risk of harm from these drugs.”
The testing of the drugs was performed by the Vancouver Island Drug Checking Project, an initiative of the University of Victoria.
It offers a free and confidential service at harm reduction agencies in Victoria, including AVI, Lantern Services, and SOLID.
In a snapshot of the test results on Nov. 13, it reported that heroin represented only 10 per cent of most drugs tested. Methamphetamine was present in 16 per cent of samples with MDMA and cocaine being found at seven and two percent, respectively.
The most prevalent drug found in the Project’s samples was fentanyl at 31 percent.
Andy Watson of the B.C. Coroner’s Service said fentanyl has become more prevalent in street drugs, according to federal testing data.
Sinden confirmed at least one drug related death has occurred in Sooke within the past week.