New toxic drug formulations present new dangers to users in Prince George

Three purple lumps made of a powderlike substance are pictured on a white background.
Benzodiazepines and Xylazine are becoming more common in Prince Goerge's illicit drug supply. This sample of "Down" tested over 20% bromazolam, whereas a typical dose would be 1-5% Photo Credit - POUNDS Project
Ian Gregg - CFUR - Prince GeorgeBC | 16-11-2023
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Emilee Wells has been facing some unique challenges with her work at the organization’s drop in centre, Two Doors Down.  She is Executive Director at  The POUNDS Project, a local non-profit focused on reducing harm related to drug use.

“Down” a purple opioid focused substance typically composed of caffeine, sugar, and fentanyl has been present in the Prince George area for approximately a year. What is new though, is that it has now been increasingly compromised by the addition of more hazardous substances. Benzodiazepines have been present for roughly a year, and now xylazine has recently been found within several samples, both are typically associated with “Tranq” (as it is known on the street).

The presence of either of these compounds have a complicating effect on overdose recovery. Users can face a simultaneous overdose of fentanyl, benzodiazepines and/or xylazine. While Narcan (also known as Naloxone) addresses an opioid overdose, it does not address other substances.

Wells now monitors clients even more closely. If individuals present signs of overdose, she will administer Narcan, but not too much because that can trigger withdrawal symptoms, sometimes resulting in vomiting. If the individual is also experiencing extreme drowsiness or an overdose from either xylazine or benzos when that vomiting happens, choking or asphyxiation could occur.

Xylazine has also been associated with side effects such as necrosis of the skin. These associated wounds are difficult to address, especially if the afflicted individual does not have access to consistent shelter.

Wells says that while regular users of substances containing fentanyl typically have a resistance built up to its effects, casual or recreational users of other drugs may be dramatically affected by its presence, and an unexpected overdose is not uncommon.

People of all ages and intentions are encouraged to have their substances analyzed by POUNDS as the presence of fentanyl is extremely common and these other additives can also be detected by their spectrometer.

In addition to analyses, POUNDS provides advice and workshops on intervention. The organization depends on volunteer assistance and they have an AGM coming up on Saturday November 25th.

Listen to the radio interview below: