By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
It’s a bold exclamation point on the fact that the opiate crisis has firmly set its roots in the Durham Region.
After the raid of a Pickering residence resulted in the seizure of over 30 guns, and more than 330 firearms related charges for 33-year-old Maisum Ansari of Oshawa, things had already reached into the realm of significant criminal proportions.
However, after sending a large bundle of an unknown substance to the lab for testing, the Durham Regional Police quickly realized that their bust had turned into one of the largest in Canada. Of the 53 kgs of unknown substance sent off to be tested, 42 kgs of that came back positive as carfentanil, making it by far the largest seizure of the deadly opiate in the country.
The street value of the drug is estimated at around $13 million.
Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid, similar to fentanyl, and is generally used for tranquilizing large animals due to its potency, estimated to be 100 times more power than fentanyl, and 10,000 times more powerful than morphine.
That scale of the seizure was confirmed for The Oshawa Express by Det. Sgt. Craig Hudson with the DRPS Intelligence and Enforcement Operations unit. Hudson says that while the only other instance of the powerful opiate being seized in Durham was during an arrest where less than a gram was found, it doesn’t mean that carfentanil isn’t finding its way onto the streets of Durham, which is a serious worry for police, as fentanyl has already found its way quickly into the region.
“We’re concerned about this stuff being distributed on the street, this stuff is mixed with other drugs, or purported to be heroin that people think they’re using heroin and they’re using a much stronger substance,” Hudson explains. “Obviously, any time we’re dealing with an analog of fentanyl that’s potent, that a small amount can cause death, it’s a serious health concern for anybody.”
Fentanyl began leaking into the drug scene on the streets of Vancouver in 2014 where similar to other drug trends, it began to slowly shift eastward.
In recent years, Durham has been hit particularly hard by the dangerous drug with rashes of overdoses, including four overdoses in a span of 30 hours in August 2015, and most recently, a series of eight overdoses in a single weekend in June of this year, followed by, most tragically, the deaths of three men of suspected fentanyl overdoses in Ajax in August of this year.
“We’re seeing our seizures of fentanyl increase dramatically,” Hudson says. “Our statistics, our instances are all growing.”
And the scary opioid numbers are not just in Durham.
Numbers from the Canadian Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use show that between 2009 and 2014 there were approximately 655 deaths in Canada linked to fentanyl alone, and the most recent government data shows that in April, May and June of this year there were 1,898 hospital emergency room visits linked to opioids – a 76 per cent increase from the same time period last year. In 2016, approximately 2,816 Canadians died from opioid-related causes, 865 of them in Ontario.
For that reason, carfentanil is being watched closely by police forces as an emerging threat, as only a microscopic amount, about the size of a grain of salt, can be lethal.
The investigation into the carfentanil and weapons seizure continues.
Police ask anyone with information about this investigation to call the Drug Enforcement Unit at 1-888-579-1520 ext. 5802.