It’s 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and 100 times more powerful than Fentanyl. It’s called W-18 and first responders believe it has made its way to our area.
“I think we’ve already seen in the Altoona area,” said AMED Executive Director Gary Waters. “We’ve had some patients that have been somewhat resistant to the initial doses of narcan. The problem is, unless you actually have the heroin itself tested, that’s kind of hard to determine.”
W-18 is a psychoactive substance that comes in powder form, originally developed in a Canadian lab more than 30 years ago.
It is incredibly potent; enough to tranquilize an elephant, and it is untraceable in a person’s blood or urine.
“That makes it virtually impossible for chronic users of heroin to regulate what they normally use,” Waters said. “So if they know they use 3, 4 5, 6 packets a day, they may delve into this and suddenly have an overdose situation because they’re not used to the strength of it.”
Narcan, the go-to drug to reverse an overdose – is not as effective when it comes to W-18. Overdose victims require more Narcan, all at a cost emergency services have to absorb.
“Narcan used to be very reasonable,” Waters said. “It used to be about three or four dollars a dose. But with the prevalence of the public getting it and all the police officers and the firefighters in this whole push — it just now as gone to 70 dollars a dose.”
Last year, AMED gave 153 doses of Narcan. This year, they have already used it 110 times.
“If we had an inundation of calls, the system is designed to handle that load,” Waters said. He added he does not think the region will see the 26 overdoses in four hours that West Virginia did, but they are still prepared for the worst.