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Quebec City public health warns of dangerous synthetic opioid 25 times stronger than fentanyl

The green tablets look like OxyContin, but they actually contain protonitazepyne, according to Quebec City health authorities.  (Drug Enforcement Administration - image credit)
The green tablets look like OxyContin, but they actually contain protonitazepyne, according to Quebec City health authorities. (Drug Enforcement Administration - image credit)

Quebec City public health officials are warning Quebecers about a dangerous new drug circulating in the province.

The green tablets look like OxyContin, but they actually contain protonitazepyne, a synthetic opioid 25 times stronger than fentanyl.

"This drug is super dangerous," said Anne-Frédérique Lambert-Slythe, medical consultant at the CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale. "If people consume this drug, there is a very high risk of overdose."

This synthetic opioid has recently surfaced in Quebec City and was found circulating around Montreal at the start of 2024.

Public health authorities say the tablets can be spotted by their green colour and markings of "80" and "OP," and are advising Quebecers to keep an eye out for signs of overdose.

"People become more and more drowsy, their breathing decreases to the point of respiratory arrest, so people lose consciousness and can turn blue," said Lambert-Slythe.

"It is therefore necessary to avoid consuming alone, mixing substances or even reducing the doses consumed," she said.

Naloxone, a medication that can stop overdoses, is available free of charge in pharmacies, and several doses of the antidote may have to be administered to people who have taken protonitazepyne.

"We give naloxone [in case of overdose]. It is not dangerous to give naloxone even if you don't need it," said Lambert-Slythe.

Protonitazepyne is not detectable by fentanyl test strips. It is recommended that users in Quebec City go to local community organizations like SABSA to test their substances for protonitazepyne.