KAMLOOPS, B.C. – The British Colombian National Health Authority warns street drug users about a synthetic cannabinoid that has been linked to the so-called "zombies" in New York.
Principal Medical Doctor Trevor Cornell says that tests on site for prophylaxis of Kamloops overdose detect the powerful drug mixed with heroin, fentanyl and caffeine.
The Authority warns that consumers may resemble an overdose of opioids but will not respond to naloxone and may experience "fast" or "clumsy" symptoms with possible hallucinations.
An article from 2017 in the New England Medical News newspaper says the drug has caused a mass intoxication of 33 people in New York in July 2016 and has been described in the media as a "zombie" outbreak due to the appearance of those who took the medicine.
The article in the journal says the drug was developed by Pfizer in 2009 and is a strong depressant that explains the behavior similar to the "zombie" reported in New York.
Corneil says they do not like using the zombie term because it can give people the wrong impression and what is important is to be cautious when new substances appear on the black market.
Corneil says they are not aware of the death of cannabinoid being the only substance.
"Often, overdose deaths are caused by a mixture of different substances together, and we do not see an increase in overdose deaths associated with this substance compared to the effects of fentanyl, the major toxin we have in our supply of drugs right now. "
Corneil says the discovery of the drug is a good example of the degree of complexity that both workers and harm-reduction users had access to in the province.
"This is the problem of criminalization as it takes away any precautions the system places to ensure that people get the product they think they buy and do not mix with anything else."
He says workers see that consumers are becoming more aware that their illicit drugs have to be tested and when they learn what they have in their medicines, they make better decisions.
Testing machines at Safe Consumption sites are looking at a large drug database that Corneil says is used for both research and police.
"Many of them are unusual and rare, and we find that manufacturers and suppliers are trying different new substances all the time … trying to gain from people who are quite marginalized by the criminalized environment around them."