2019 report: What’s in Toronto’s drug supply?

People who use drugs in Toronto have long advocated for free and anonymous drug checking in an effort to reduce the harms associated with using drugs from the unregulated supply. In response, we’re coordinating a drug checking pilot, with samples being collected and results being shared at three frontline harm reduction agencies in the downtown core, including Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (Queen West site), South Riverdale Community Health Centre, and The Works at Toronto Public Health. These samples are analyzed using mass spectrometry technologies (gas- and liquid-chromatography) at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health or St. Michael’s Hospital.

Launched in October 2019, Toronto’s drug checking service provides people who use drugs with timely and comprehensive information on the composition of their drugs along with tailored harm reduction strategies and supports, helping them to make more informed choices. This drug checking service also helps to uncover the contents of Toronto’s unregulated drug supply.

On behalf of our partners, we’re excited to release a report from samples checked by Toronto’s drug checking service between October 2019 and March 2020. This includes results from 543 samples for a variety of expected drugs.

Every two weeks, combined data from samples checked are disseminated with the goal of communicating information about the composition of Toronto’s unregulated drug supply.

Key findings from samples checked between October 2019 – March 2020:

  • 46% of the samples checked were expected to be fentanyl.
  • Samples expected to be opioids were more contaminated than other expected drug types – meaning there were a lot of other drugs found in each expected opioid sample.
    • 6% of expected fentanyl samples contained only fentanyl.
    • 86% of expected methamphetamine samples contained only methamphetamine.
    • 44% of expected MDMA samples contained only MDMA.
    • 77% of expected ketamine samples contained only ketamine.
  • Unexpected noteworthy drugs were often found in Toronto’s drug supply. For example:
    • Benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine-related drugs were unexpectedly found in 36% of expected fentanyl samples.
    • AMB-FUBINACA was unexpectedly found in 3% of expected fentanyl samples.
    • Carfentanil was unexpectedly found in 1% of expected fentanyl samples.
    • Fentanyl was unexpectedly found in 43% of expected heroin samples.
    • Levamisole was unexpectedly found in 14% of expected cocaine samples.