Canadian Mounties seize fake OxyContin

Bagged pillsPolice in Canada are warning the public to beware of counterfeit OxyContin pills laced with the potent opioid analgesic fentanyl.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Surrey, British Columbia, seized around 4,700 green tablets - worth in excess of C$350,000 ($310,000) - that purport to be 80mg OxyContin (oxycodone hydrochloride).

Lab analyses confirmed that tablets - which have 80 stamped on one side and CDN on the other - contained caffeine and fentanyl, which is more potent than heroin or morphine.

RCMP Surrey warns that counterfeit OxyContin has led to many deaths across the country, particularly among recreational drug users. It points out that 13 deaths in British Columbia during the first four months of 2014 were attributed to fentanyl overdoses.

"We know that this prescription drug is a popular choice among recreational drug users," said Surrey RCMP Cpl. Bert Paquet. "As a result, we want to warn those users in the community to take the necessary precautions to ensure their safety."

In February, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) and Canadian Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (CCENDU) warned that pills containing fentanyl have become increasingly available in several Canadian communities.

Fake OxyContin detailThe fakes are being referred to colloquially as "green monsters" or "green beans" in eastern Canada and "green jellies" or "street oxy" in Western Canada, according to the warning. While the green tablets appear to be more widely available, pills have also surfaced that are white with the number 10 stamped in place of the 80.

In addition to fentanyl (which was the main ingredient in almost 90 per cent of samples), counterfeits have also been found containing anxiety drug alprazolam and ketamine, a powerful general anaesthetic.

Last month, CBC News reported that two men in their 20s died of a suspected overdose in Saskatchewan after taking tablets which resembled those seized by RCMP Surrey.

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