W-18: A Drug More Powerful Than Fentanyl

22. July 2016

There are many substances prone to abuse and which a person could become addicted. Some of the most common and well-known substances include alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin and some of the other common street drugs. These are substances that have been prone to abuse for quite a long time, periods amounting to decades or even centuries. There is quite an extensive history of addiction to these substances, which directly contributed to the determination with which we developed the various addiction treatment techniques that are in such widespread use today. But even though these are incredibly common and widely abused substances, there are others that are not heard of as much but have become extremely problematic in recent years. The one, in particular, we are referring to today is called W-18.

Most mind-altering substances exist on a spectrum that ranges from stimulants to depressants. Stimulants are substances like cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, and a number of designer drugs that have been created specifically for the purposes of recreational intoxication. These are substances that cause an increase in a person’s energy level, increasing his or her blood pressure and body temperature as well. But they’re also known to inspire more unpredictable and sometimes even violent behaviors, so although they’ve become common these are the most popular illicit substances for recreational abuse.

On the other end of the spectrum are depressants. These are drugs that create what’s essentially the opposite effect of stimulants. In particular, there’s a reduction in energy level, drowsiness, reduced cognitive functioning, decreased respiratory effectiveness, and a number of other effects. There are a lot of depressants, synthetic or organic, that are considered some of the most dangerous substances that exist. 

What Exactly is This Mysterious Opioid?

Before we get into explaining what the drug is, we need to go into a little bit of the background. In the 1990s, the release of an opioid drug called OxyContin — as well as the pharmaceutical manufacturer’s encouraging physicians to prescribe the drug — triggered widespread abuse and, subsequently, addiction to OxyContin. Soon there were individuals abusing and becoming addicted to painkillers at alarmingly rapid rates. In hindsight, the release of OxyContin was considered the genesis of what would become a serious painkiller epidemic, the effects of which we’re still experiencing today. However, before the release of OxyContin, there was an even more potent drug developed in a lab at the University of Alberta in Canada.

It was approximately three to four decades ago when the substance was created. In the preliminary studies, it was shown that the drug had an extremely high effectiveness as a painkiller in animals. This particular drug was the most powerful of all the compounds created in the Canadian lab where approximately thirty different compounds were created. However, due to the intense level of its effects, no pharmaceutical company would pick up the drug for distribution, so the drug’s formula sat on a shelf, unused for almost three decades.

In 2010, this lethal opioid-like drug made another appearance. This time, it was as an illicit street drug that was being traded for the purposes of abuse. According to reports, chemists in China were allegedly trying to find a more potent and inexpensive “high” for substance abusers . The recreated the substance, which has been estimated to be 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, previously considered one of the most powerful painkillers in existence. Additionally, W-18 is considered a whopping 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Inevitably, this disturbingly powerful painkiller-esque drug has made its way to North America where it threatens to overthrow heroin as the major epidemic of today.

man on the streets doing drugs

What are the Effects of W-18?

The effects of this dangerous drug are much like those of virtually all other opioid painkillers. Upon being ingested, the drug bonds with the brain’s opiate receptors, alleviating any pain that the individual might be experiencing. There’s also the surge in neurochemicals in the reward and pleasure centers of the brain, which is another hallmark characteristic of an opioid drug. However, the extent to which the W-18 creates these spikes is at an astronomically higher level than any other opioid drug on the market, which means that the effects are amplified to an astounding degree.

Perhaps the most unexpected trait of the drug is that it doesn’t show up in traditional drug screens, making it very difficult to detect. The implications of this are most dire in situations of overdosing since the substance on which the individual is overdosing couldn’t be detected unless the individual happened to be able to actually identify the drug verbally. This means that while the drug is surely an opioid drug in terms of its effects, it is molecularly unlike the most common, traditional opium-like painkillers in widespread use today. With its effects amplified, the individual is extremely likely to go into respiratory failure or cardiac arrest.

Addiction and Treatment

As with basically any other substance, addiction to W-18 is a treatable affliction. There aren’t really any forms of addiction that can’t be treated, but the issue with this particular drug is that the effects are so powerful, an individual is much more likely of overdosing than with virtually any other drug. Therefore, the longer a person remains in active addiction to this substance, the less likely he or she is to survive to the point of recovery. And in the event of an overdose, it’s possible that there’s little that emergency services could do; the very intensity of the drug has raised concerns that life-saving drug naloxone might not be able to reverse the effects of an opioid that’s so powerful. It’s also possible that an individual who takes this drug for an extended period of time develops such a level of dependence that his or her withdrawal symptoms could potentially be life-threatening, so it’s essential that anyone addicted to this drug only attempt to detox under medical supervision.

Intervention Services is Here to Help, Call Us Today

If you or someone you love would like to discuss treatment options, call Intervention Services toll-free at 877-478-4621 to speak with one of our recovery specialists. Whether it’s day or night, we’re always available to help you or your loved one regain health, independence, and happiness.