Needle exchange warns fentanyl-laced pills may be hitting Cape Breton streets

A Cape Breton clinic that runs a needle exchange program is warning drug users about pills being sold on the street that look like prescription opioid OxyContin 80, but could contain lethal amounts of fentanyl.

Ally Centre executive director Christine Porter said Thursday she has heard there have been overdoses in Cape Breton because of the bootleg pill, although she has not received confirmation.

Porter said the centre is telling people the pills can kill them. "I can see what's happening in B.C. coming our way really quickly." 

Fentanyl is an opioid 100 times more potent than heroin and is responsible for hundreds of overdose deaths across the country.

Porter is reminding people the centre has naloxone kits available and will train people to use them. Naloxone is used in emergency situations to block the effects of an opioid overdose.

OxyContin 80s were taken off the market a few years ago because of overdoses, said Porter. If people are seeing pills on the street that look like the drug, they aren't the real thing.

But Porter said if the new concoction is the only drug available, many of those with addictions will buy the pill even if they know it's dangerous.

"Some could contain a whole lot of fentanyl while others can contain absolutely nothing," she said. 

"So they don't want to get the pill that has absolutely nothing. They are hoping to get the pill that would have the right amount of drug in it and not the pill that would overdose them, so it's really Russian roulette they're playing here.

"I really hope that if they come across it, they will refuse it and get the word out there."

Police aware of fake pills

Cape Breton Regional Police Staff Sgt. Paul Muise said the force's drug unit is hearing from informants that the fake opioids containing fentanyl are on the streets.

Police haven't seized any of those pills yet but they're preparing for when that might happen. 

"It changes how we do business because of the dangers posed by how bad fentanyl is," Muise said. "Our concern is also for the people that are addicted to opiates and are going to use them and take a chance."