A designer drug being sold as Xanax, but with higher potency, has been detected in the Northwest Territories, according to the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO).

In a release on May 11, an OCPHO spokesperson said Flualprazolam, an illegal drug designed to mimic the effects of the benzodiazepine Xanax, was detected in the NWT.

It was not immediately clear where or how the drug was detected, or if it had been linked to any deaths or overdoses in the territory. The drug has already been detected in B.C., Nova Scotia and Ontario.

Although Flualprazolam is designed to mimic the sedative properties of Xanax, it’s more potent than its legal counterpart, putting users at greater risk of overdose, especially when used in combination with other drugs.

“Its unmonitored uses, particularly in combination with other nervous system depressants such as opioids or alcohol, can cause serious psychological as well as life-threatening physical harms,” the OCPHO warns.

The OCPHO warns high doses can result in “prolonged severe sedation; loss of consciousness; difficulty breathing; or severe respiratory depression resulting in coma or even death.”

“This drug has been associated with numerous drug user deaths and cases of clinical intoxications.”

Thanks to Canada’s Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, anyone who witnesses or experiences an overdose of illegal drugs cannot be charged with possession for seeking help. Residents are thus encouraged to seek immediate medical attention for an overdose. Residents are also encouraged to watch for signs of overdose, including slow breating or no breathing, blue lips and nails, and cold and clammy skin.

Residents are also encouraged to administer naloxone, which is available at pharmacies, in cases of overdoses. Although naloxone won’t reverse an overdose of Flualprazolam, it may reverse the effects of other drugs mixed with it.

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