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Police warning over potential killer drug fentanyl after overdoses

The man-made opioid fentanyl - which has been responsible for an epidemic of overdose deaths overseas (File photograph)

Drugs laced with a potential killer synthetic opioid are suspected to be in circulation on the island, police warned yesterday.

The news came after a man died from a suspected overdose said to be linked to heroin laced with fentanyl.

A police raid during the weekend netted what is feared to be the first batch of fentanyl found on the island in the past year.

A police spokesman said: “Until we receive more information, we are urging people to be cautious.”

Fentanyl has been linked to overdose deaths in the US and elsewhere.

The spokesman emphasised: “There is no evidence to suggest there is widespread fentanyl use or sale on the island.”

But he added: “The illegal sale of all controlled drugs remains a priority for the Bermuda Police Service and any information or intelligence regarding fentanyl and other harmful substances is acted upon urgently.”

Police said that fentanyl was been behind the admission of an unspecified number of people to hospital for treatment for overdoses.

The drug, which can be fatal even in small quantities, can be used to cut other illegal drugs.

Police earlier said six people were arrested last weekend after what was suspected to be heroin and fentanyl were seized after raids on four houses.

Officers also impounded cash and drugs equipment.

The police spokesman said the six arrested had been bailed and that the seized substances would be analysed by government scientists.

The police operation involved 20 officers from the tactical support teams and drugs unit – some kitted out with protective overalls.

The spokesman said the overalls were “standard procedure when executing drug related warrants or in any situation where the health and safety of officers may be at risk of being compromised due to possible contamination”.

A drugs expert, who asked not to be named, said he knew of overdoses where fentanyl was reported to have been involved.

He added: "From time to time, there is heroin in which fentanyl sometimes is used to stretch and/or increase the potency of the heroin.“

But he said he was not aware of other illegal drugs being mixed with fentanyl.

The counsellor warned: "Just as a reminder, fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than heroin, and any use substantially increases the risk of respiratory distress, overdose and death.

"The prevalence of fentanyl continues to be on the rise globally, because it’s cheap and a little goes a long way, so to speak."

Fentanyl was reported on the island after a drugs seizure in December 2016.

The drug was also believed to have been the cause of suspected overdoses at Westgate Prison in 2017.

The Bermuda Hospitals Board later said it was equipped to treat fentanyl overdoses.

Anyone with information on fentanyl or other illegal drugs should contact police on 211 or at the main police number 295-0011.