FREDERICTON (GNB) – The acting chief medical officer of health is warning the public that a dangerous drug known as bromazolam has been detected in blood samples from nine sudden death investigations. These are the first indications that the drug is being used in New Brunswick.

Fentanyl, a strong opioid, was also detected in some of these cases.

“The emergence of bromazolam in the street drug supply in New Brunswick is a major concern,” said Dr. Yves Léger. “What is especially concerning is that people do not know it is contained in their street drugs. There are no warning signs of bromazolam’s presence, as it cannot be detected by sight, smell or taste. There are no telltale signs.”

These deaths took place from July to November. Léger said testing can take months to complete, so there may still be a risk to drug users.

Bromazolam is not approved for medical use in any country and can lead to serious adverse effects, including death, especially when taken with opioids such as fentanyl.

Léger said there is increasing concern over combinations of benzodiazepines (benzos), such as bromazolam, with opioids, also known as benzo-dope. Taking benzos and opioids together increases the risk of overdose and death. Naloxone, which is commonly used to counteract the effects of opioids and prevent overdose, has no effect in combatting the adverse effects of benzos.

Public Health is contacting frontline organizations that work with people using street drugs about how they can lower their risk of overdose and death.

It recommends that people who are using street drugs:

  • Be aware that bromazolam is in the province and could be in street drugs without your knowledge. Avoid benzo-dope.
  • Do not use drugs alone. Leave your door unlocked and tell someone to check on you.
  • Take advantage of an overdose prevention site if one is available in your community.
  • Do testers to check drug strength. Begin with a small amount, use less and pace yourself.
  • Have naloxone on hand; it will not help with bromazolam but could help with opioids such as fentanyl.
  • Talk with a health-care provider about reducing risk.