Emerging synthetic cannabinoids detected by a drug checking service in Toronto, Canada

Background: Toronto’s Drug Checking Service (DCS) provides people who use drugs with information on the chemical composition of their substances and conducts real-time monitoring of the unregulated drug supply. Presented are first known data of three newly detected synthetic cannabinoids (SCs) in Toronto, Ontario.

Methods: The present data are from samples analyzed between April and November 2020. Samples were collected at partnering harm reduction agencies in Toronto and analyzed using gas or liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. An intake survey queried about the sample characteristics on submission, including expected drug(s).

Results: Samples were analyzed between 1 April and 20 November 2020 (N = 19), which marks the period immediately following imposed COVID-19 border and movement restrictions in Canada. The newly detected, unexpected SCs were ACHMINACA (n = 15), AB-FUBINACA (n = 3), and 4-fluoro-MDMB-BUTINACA (n = 1). Fentanyl was expected in 74% (n = 14). Most SCs were detected in samples containing fentanyl or related analogues (n = 18; 95%), or benzodiazepine-related drugs (i.e., etizolam and flualprazolam) (n = 15; 79%).

Conclusions: This information can inform overdose prevention efforts and drug market monitoring of SCs in Toronto and regions served by the same drug trafficking routes. The detection of SCs during a period marked by COVID-19-related restrictions can contribute to efforts to identify global drug market trends during this time.

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