In the midst of the opioid epidemic, there has emerged another potentially more dangerous drug – W-18. This synthetic opioid is thought to be 100 times more potent than fentanyl and 10,000 x more potent than morhpine.
In a single drug seizure in Calgary in August 2015, W-18 was detected in a tablets being sold illegally on the street as Fentanyl (the typically blue-green tablets shown.) The tablets are also known as”beans” or “shady 80s.”
W-18 is one of 32 synthetic opioids discovered in the 1980s. W1 thru W19 are pure μ-receptor agonists with W-18 being the most powerful agonist of the group greatly increasing the likelihood of overdose and death.
There is very little information yet available regarding this synthetic opioid and as it is not a Fentanyl analog, it is not regulated by the FDA.
There have been no known W-18-related deaths, but because it can be so difficult to detect and the opioid epidemic is only getting worse, we may see W-18 emerge as a significant issue in the fight against opioid related deaths.