Police Sounding Alarm on New, Deadly Street Drug

Police in Sanford, Maine, have a warning about a dangerous synthetic opioid that could be making its way up the east coast: W-18.

It's a painkiller first developed in Canada in the 1980s, but it never made it to human trials. W-18 is similar to opioids used in large animals, such as elephants and moose, and it is 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

"Just a tiny amount could be enough to kill you," said Sanford Police Chief Thomas Connolly.

It is believed to be manufactured in China and shipped overseas. W-18 has started to show up on the streets of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, in Florida and in Philadelphia.

"I would not be surprised if they start finding it elsewhere, moving up New England," said Chief Connolly.

The fear is that drug dealers will start cutting heroin with W-18, in the same way it can be laced with fentanyl.

"It may have the same perceived high, but it is more dangerous than heroin," said Dr. Ed Bilsky, Professor of Pharmacology at the University of New England. "These are things you do not want to mess with."

Because the drug is so new to the streets, there is no way to test for W-18.

"People could have already died from this, and we wouldn't know it, because the standard test they use at the hospital wouldn't identify it," said Connolly.

On top of that, the drug has not yet been added to the list of Schedule 1 Drugs -- so while it's deadly, it's legal to have in the United States.

Sanford Police are putting the word out about the drug hoping people steer clear of W-18, and realize heroin could be laced with it.

"If it saves one life or keeps one person from using heroin, it's worth it," said Connolly.

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