Syringes containing the opioid painkiller fentanyl. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Deadly synthetic drug found in Kamloops that puts users in ‘zombielike’ state

Interior Health warning says substance causes ‘speedy, trippy-like symptoms’ and hallucinations

  • Apr. 22, 2019 10:15 a.m.

Kamloops This Week

A synthetic drug found in fentanyl in Kamloops is the same drug that led to a mass overdose event in Brooklyn in 2015 in which those affected were described as acting like zombies.

Interior Health has issued a warning after a drug-checking machine — Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectrometer — revealed that beige pebbles found in Kamloops contained caffeine, heroin, fentanyl and a synthetic cannabinoid called AMB-FUBINACA.

Interior Health said the AMB-FUBINACA substance causes “speedy, trippy-like symptoms” with hallucinations. In high doses, users of the synthetic cannabinoid can appear to be having what looks like an opioid overdose, but will not respond to Naloxone, a medication that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

AMB-FUBINACA was the drug involved in a mass casualty overdose event in Brooklyn four years ago in which 18 men were taken to hospital after being found in what the New England Journal of Medicine called “zombielike” state, based on observations by onlookers.

READ MORE: B.C. opioid overdoses still killing four people a day, health officials say

Those who had overdosed on the synthetic drug fell into “a trancelike state, groaning and moaning, their eyes lifeless and their movements slow and seemingly mechanical,” according to a December 2016 New York Times article.

The synthetic cannabinoid was originally developed by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, but never tested on humans as the company abandoned its research.

AMB-FUBINACA was also listed as being responsible for about 20 overdose deaths in New Zealand in 2017.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the AMB-FUBICANA tested in Brooklyn in the summer of 2015 was 85 times as potent as the main agent in plant-grown marijuana — THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).

Synthetic drugs like AMB-FUBICANA and K2 are made in labs and a world apart from natural cannabis.

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