Results from samples checked by Toronto’s drug checking service: August 14 - 27, 2021

Key findings

  • ­­123 samples were checked: 62% were substances1 and 38% were used paraphernalia2
  • 59% of the samples checked were expected3 to be fentanyl or MDMA
  • In an average fentanyl substance:
    • Fentanyl accounted for 3% of the sample (n=8)
    • Etizolam accounted for 3% of the sample (n=5)
    • Caffeine accounted for 21% of the sample (n=10)
  • 14% of the expected3 fentanyl samples checked were known to be associated with an overdose: all samples contained fentanyl, ­most contained at least one benzodiazepine-related drug, and over one third contained carfentanil
  • 67% of the expected3 fentanyl samples checked contained at least one benzodiazepine-related drug
  • Bromofentanyl – an active fentanyl analogue with unknown potency – presented for the first time in an expected3 fentanyl sample
  • “Nitazene opioid” protonitazene, considered to be 2 times stronger than fentanyl, presented for the first time – isotonitazene, metonitazene, and etonitazepyne continued to present in expected3 fentanyl samples

Expected fentanyl substances

  • 71% (10) of expected3 fentanyl substances checked4 contained fentanyl and other drugs, including:
    • 100% (10) contained caffeine
    • 90% (9) contained a benzodiazepine-related drug (!):
      • 80% (8) contained etizolam (!)
      • 50% (5) contained flualprazolam (!)
    • 50% (5) contained despropionyl fentanyl (4-ANPP) (!)
    • 50% (5) contained a nitazene opioid (!):
      • 20% (2) contained isotonitazene (!)
      • 20% (2) contained metonitazene (!)
      • 10% (1) contained etonitazepyne (!)
    • 20% (2) contained lidocaine (!)
    • 20% (2) contained phenacetin (!)
    • 10% (1) contained xylazine (!)

Unexpected noteworthy drugs found in other expected substances

  • 3% (2) of the remaining substances checked,4 meaning substances that weren’t expected3 to be fentanyl, contained an unexpected noteworthy drug, including:
    • 100% (1) of expected cocaine substances contained phenacetin (!)
    • 100% (1) of expected heroin substances contained fentanyl (!)

Notes

1 | Substances: Two types of samples are accepted by Toronto’s drug checking service: substances and used paraphernalia. Substances could be a small amount of powder, a crushed bit of a pill, blotter, or a small amount of liquid.

2 | Used paraphernalia: Two types of samples are accepted by Toronto’s drug checking service: substances and used paraphernalia. Used paraphernalia could be a used cooker or filter, or leftover liquid from a syringe.

3 | Expected (drug): When a sample is submitted to be checked, the drug that sample is expected to contain is recorded. We call it the “expected drug”. Knowing the expected drug helps us tailor our harm reduction advice. It also helps us understand contamination to drugs rather than combinations of drugs (e.g., fentanyl was found in a cocaine sample rather than fentanyl and cocaine were found together).

4 | Reason for reporting only substance samples: While Toronto’s drug checking service checks both substances and used paraphernalia, we’re sharing findings from substances only. Paraphernalia, like cookers, are often re-used. The mass spectrometry technologies used for this drug checking service are so sensitive that very trace amounts of drugs may be found. This means that when paraphernalia is re-used, drugs from past use may present in the results for the sample that is being checked. This can interfere with up-to-date drug supply monitoring, so we’ve excluded used paraphernalia from this report.

5 | Average amount of drugs found: Toronto’s drug checking service can now report the amount of fentanyl, cocaine, carfentanil, etizolam, and caffeine found as a proportion of the total sample submitted for expected opioid, cocaine, crack cocaine and some other powder substance samples. Every other week, we will publicly report the average (median) amount of fentanyl, cocaine, carfentanil, etizolam, and caffeine found in expected fentanyl substances. Additional quantity-based information will soon be available on our website.

(!) | Unexpected noteworthy drug: “Noteworthy drugs” are drugs that (i) are linked to overdose or other adverse effects, (ii) are highly potent or related to highly potent drugs, or (iii) may not be desired by some clients. Noteworthy drugs are flagged when they are unexpectedly found in checked samples.