‘It’s scary stuff’: Deadly drug carfentanil now in Winnipeg

Winnipeg police have confirmed they seized the deadly street drug carfentanil from a city hotel room, where they found blotter tabs that lab tests confirmed contain the powerful opioid.

A 37-year-old Winnipeg man has been charged with numerous offences and remains in custody.

Earlier this month the police service tactical team raided a hotel room in the west end of the city and found 1,477 blotter tabs they suspected contained carfentanil, which they sent for lab tests.

Deadly drug carfentanil is in Winnipeg, police confirm1:28

The presence of carfentanil, a synthetic opioid that is 100 times stronger than the highly addictive fentanyl, is frightening, police and health officials said.

Carfentanil, which looks much like table salt, was originally designed to immobilize large animals such as moose and elephants. A dose as small as 20 micrograms would be fatal to humans, officials said. One microgram of the drug is smaller than a grain of salt, they said.

“It’s scary stuff and we’re concerned,” said Deputy Chief Danny Smyth. 

Carfentanil tabs

Winnipeg police say these tabs, seized in a raid at a hotel room earlier in September, contain the deadly drug carfentanil. (Winnipeg Police Service)

“The risk of overdose is incredibly high,” said ​Dr. Joss Reimer, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s medical officer of health, adding the alert for first responders has been heightened.

“We’re notifying our emergency rooms, our fire and paramedic services, that they need to be watching for this because of how toxic it is,” she said. “We’re worried that it’s going to require higher doses of Naloxone, which is the antidote to fentanyl and what’s in the kits that we give out to people who use opioids.”

carfentanil and a penny

Carfentanil is deadly at extremely low doses, health and police officials say. (Winnipeg Police Service)

The amount of fentanyl has been spiking in the city and the number of fentanyl-related deaths has increased, Reimer said, citing the chief medical examiner, who is still finalizing the numbers so a report can be made public.

Police said the are not aware of any deaths in Winnipeg related to carfentanil, but regardless, Smyth said it is important to think of overdoses and deaths as more than “faceless statistics.”

These are real people in the community being harmed by drugs, he said, introducing Arlene Last-Kolb, whose son Jessie, 24, died of a fentanyl overdose two years ago.

“This recent bust of carfentanil will save many lives,” Last-Kolb said, urging drug users to get Naloxone kits, which can be picked up at Street Connections at 496 Hargrave St., or purchased from any pharmacy without a prescription.

She also urged parents and school officials to invite police to visit schools and educate staff and students “that drugs are not what they used to be.” They’re far more dangerous for kids who are experimenting.

“You never get over the loss of a child,” she said.

Last-Kolb would like to see legislation enacted in Manitoba that offers legal protection to people who help others who are incapacitated.

Arlene Last-Kolb speaks out about son’s fatal fentanyl overdose2:42

That would prevent people from being afraid to call for help if a friend overdoses, she said, explaining that the night her son overdosed, his friends focused on cleaning up and getting rid of evidence of drugs and money.

They then left the home and called for an ambulance from another location, Last-Kolb said, noting Jessie was a one-minute drive from a hospital.

“My son could be alive today,” she said. “They were more concerned about what was going to happen to them.”

Users of carfentanil take it intravenously or absorb it through the skin in a patch, or take it orally like a tablet.

It is also mixed with other street drugs such as cocaine, said health officials, who added there’s no way to safely determine a non-lethal amount of carfentanil.


The police seized 1,477 blotter tabs that lab tests confirm contain carfentanil. (Winnipeg Police Service)

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