This device analyzes the components of drug samples so that harm reduction workers can warn people about unexpected ingredients.
As a central nervous system depressant, it dangerously suppresses vital signs like heart rate and blood pressure. Its consumption in humans is not approved in Canada and its long-term effects on human health are unknown.
Mixed with fentanyl, the sedative can cause damage including amputation. Its emergence in communities across Canada is also worrying, especially since naloxone, which reverses the effects of opioid overdoses, has no effect on the zombie drug.
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Six samples of fentanyl voluntarily submitted for analysis to the Downtown Community Health Center since the beginning of the year tested positive for xylazine. The Sandy Hill Community Health Center first found the tranquilizer in fentanyl samples brought to the center by users last week.
It's pretty new to us, said Derrick St John, a nurse who oversees the Sandy Hill supervised consumption site and other harm reduction services.
Derrick St John works for the Downtown Community Health Center.
< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Member of the community group Overdose Prevention Ottawa, Leah Podobnik mentioned that xylazine has been circulating in Ottawa for two years, even though it was only recently detected in clinics.
We have seen atypical overdoses where we cannot resuscitate the person with just naloxone, explains Leah Podobnik, who previously worked for six years in supervised consumption sites.
The use of recently acquired drug testing devices in Ottawa clinics has helped both drug users and harm reduction workers better navigate a context where, as Derrick St. John, users are unwittingly exposing themselves to a cocktail of opioids and stimulants without any quality control.
The Sandy Hill Community Health Center is located on Nelson Street, just north of Rideau Street.
Both community health centers now regularly test drugs that detect unexpected compounds, such as xylazine.
Mr. St John demonstrated the Sandy Hill testing machine Friday afternoon, when the health center received three fentanyl samples to analyze.
Wearing gloves, he took a piece of crystalline green fentanyl from a bag, placed it on a chip reader the size of a matchbox, and inserted the chip into a black computer tower equipped with 'a laser scanner.
The results, displayed on a laptop about five minutes later, confirmed the presence of xylazine.
The main interested party recalled that consumers can test drugs for various reasons and that others medications will soon be added to the database. It is possible to have your drugs tested at the center, 7 days a week, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
After receiving the results, some people choose to give up their drug, but they can also keep it.
Those who keep it are encouraged to bring a dose of naloxone. Think of harm reduction as a seat belt. That doesn't mean you won't have an accident, but the consequences won't be as serious, he gave as an example.
Downtown Community Health Center CEO Rob Boyd said his clinic hopes to have improved quality control now that it's getting better data.
With information from Guy Quenneville and Nick Persaud, from CBC News< em>