Morphine is a pretty strong narcotic, but its power is easily dwarfed by Fentanyl, which is reputed to be a hundred times more potent.
Now can you imagine a drug that is a hundred times more powerful than Fentanyl? It’s called W-18, and it’s 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
What is W-18? Here’s what you need to know so far about this powerful and dangerous “new” drug.
1. W-18 is not exactly a “new” drug
W-18 was first developed in a laboratory at the University of Alberta more than thirty years ago. It was part of the “W-series” of 32 opioid compounds, and was originally meant as a less-addictive way of relieving pain. However, the drug was not picked up by any pharmaceutical company even after it was patented in Canada and in the United States in 1984. As a result, the drug was shelved and was largely forgotten over the years.
2. W-18 resurfaced last year
In August 2015, police raided a Calgary home and seized 110 fentanyl tablets. The tablets were sent to Health Canada for analysis, which detected W-18 in at least three of the 110 Fentanyl tablets. An operation by Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) in Edmonton in December 2015 also yielded four kilograms of W-18.
In the United States, 1.1 kilograms of W-18 were found in the possession of a South Florida man. He was convicted in March for smuggling fentanyl, but no charges have been filed against him for the W-18 because…
3. …W-18 is not yet illegal in the United States and other countries
For all the danger it poses, W-18 has not yet been declared illegal in the United States and many other countries, including Australia. So far, only Sweden has deemed W-18 to be illegal. Canada is set to follow suit though, as it has announced in June that W-18 and its analogues would be made Schedule I controlled substances by November this year.
4. W-18 is believed to be manufactured in China
Authorities believe that the W-18 that has been hitting the streets was manufactured in China. According to drug investigators and court documents, Chinese suppliers provide both raw fentanyl and the machinery necessary for the assembly-line production of the drug, and they assume they are doing the same thing with W-18.
5. Its full effect on humans is still unknown
While the potency of W-18 is already known, its full effect on humans remains a mystery. That’s because W-18 was only ever tested on lab mice. Those tests showed that mice injected with small doses of W-18 stood up for about a minute and fell over unconscious, and stayed that way for five days. When the mice regained consciousness, they appeared to be fine but really hungry and thirsty.
6. No drug test for W-18 – for now
What worries health officials so much about W-18 is the fact that no test to detect the drug in a person’s blood or urine exists.
Still, we at Frontline Diagnostics are hopeful that a test for detecting W-18 will be formulated soon. When that happens, it is a certainty that it will be included in our drug testing regimen, in line with our mission to help provide healthy and safe working environments for everyone.