At-a-glance: Newly reported psychoactive substances in Canada 2020-2021
Organization: Health Canada
Date published: June 2022
On this page
- Data limitations
- Analytical methods
- Geographical locations
- Physical description
- Frequency of detections
- Suggested Citation
- Forty-two new psychoactive substances detected in Canada between January 2020 and December 2021.
- In total, there were eleven new Opioids, nine new Hallucinogen, five new Stimulants and four new Depressants.
- A majority of detections were reported from samples submitted by the province of Ontario.
- Among new opioids, Nitazenes (Etodesnitazene, Metonitazene and Protonitazene) were most frequently detected.
Between January 2020 and December 2021, there were 42 new psychoactive substances detected.
The aim of this report is to describe new psychoactive substances which emerged in Canada since 2020.
This report draws on data made available by the Drug Analysis Service which regularly analyses seized drug exhibits submitted by Canadian Law Enforcement agencies. Some limitations govern the present data. First, law enforcement agencies submit samples for laboratory analysis on a voluntary basis. Therefore, a limited number of samples are analyzed for each substance; low number of samples may not provide an accurate picture of currently circulating substances and analyzed samples may not be representative of seized substances. In addition, analyzed samples may not be representative of substances circulating on the market as a number of factors may influence substances submitted by Canadian Law Enforcement agencies and reporting, such as increased awareness of substances and law enforcement capacities and priorities.
Identification and confirmation of NPS required various analytical techniques. General analytical methods are described below.
First, when comparing to a verified reference material two tests are required; typically Gas Chromatography Flame Ionization Detection (GC-FID) and a spectroscopic technique such as Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) or an Infrared spectroscopy (IR) technique such as solid phase IR or GC-IR.
In certain cases, a reference material cannot be verified using Mass Spectrometry (MS) or Infrared Spectroscopy due to lack of published literature and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR) is employed to verify the standard so the MS and IR spectra can be used for comparison purposes.
In rare cases where a reference standard is not available, literature reference can be used to identify a compound where appropriate. If literature reference cannot be found, a complete structure elucidation of the compound is made using various 1H and 13C techniques 1-dimensional and 2-dimensional experiments, coupled with accurate mass MS spectra and derived chemical formula.
Since 2020, there were eleven new Opioids, nine new Hallucinogen, five new Stimulants and four new Depressants.
Figure 1: New psychoactive substances identifications per Pharmacological class
Figure 1 - Text description
|Pharmacological Class||Chemical Class||N||(% total)|
|Cannabimimetic||Cannabinoid & Mimetics Class||2||(4.8%)|
|Depressant||Benzodiazepine (BZD) Class||3||(7.1%)|
|Quinazolinone (Quaalude) Class||1||(2.4%)|
|Hallucinogen||Arylcyclohexylamine (PCP) Class||2||(4.8%)|
|Lysergic Acid (LSD) Class||1||(2.4%)|
|Phenethylamines (Main) Class||1||(2.4%)|
|Opioid||Fentanyl (Sub) Class||4||(9.5%)|
|Opioid Class (Non-Fentanyl, Non-Opiates)||7||(16.7%)|
|SARMS||Selective Androgen (Or Estrogen) Receptor Modulator (SARM/SERM) Class||1||(2.4%)|
|Stimulant||Amphetamine / Methamphetamine (Sub) Class||2||(4.8%)|
|Cathinone (Sub) Class||3||(7.1%)|
|Other substances||Phenethylamines (Main) Class||1||(2.4%)|
|Precursor / Key Intermediate / Reagent||2||(4.8%)|
|Other (Drug) Prescription, OTC, Or Illicit||4||(9.5%)|
A majority of NPS identifications were detected in Ontario.
Figure 2 – Text description
|Pharmacological Class||Alberta||British Columbia||Manitoba||New Brunswick||Nova Scotia||Ontario||Quebec||Saskatchewan|
|Province||N (% total)|
|British Columbia||153 (11.2%)|
|New Brunswick||20 (1.5%)|
|Nova Scotia||6 (0.4%)|
|Pharmacological Class||Chemical Class||Drug name||Date Received||City||Province||Description|
|Cannabimimetic||Cannabinoid & Mimetics Class||4-cyano CUMYL-BUTINACA||February 27, 2020||Richmond||British Columbia||Powder|
|ACHMINACA||March 4, 2020||Lloydminster||Alberta||Powder|
|Depressant||Benzodiazepine (BZD) Class||Bromazolam||January 21, 2021||Calgary||Alberta||Powder Tablets Residue Rock-like solid|
|Chlorodiazepam||April 29, 2021||Westmount||Quebec||Tablets|
|Norfludiazepam||March 10, 2021||Brantford||Ontario||Powder|
|Quinazolinone (Quaalude) Class||SL-164||September 2, 2020||Vancouver||British Columbia||Powder Resinous substance|
|Dissociative||Ketamine Class||Deoxymethoxetamine||November 24, 2020||Banff||Alberta||Powder|
|Deschloro-N-ethyl-ketamine||November 24, 2020||Banff||Alberta||Powder|
|Methoxisopropamine||November 24, 2020||Banff||Alberta||Powder|
|Hallucinogen||Arylcyclohexylamine (PCP) Class||3-hydroxy PCE||September 11, 2020||Darmouth||Nova Scotia||Powder|
|Fluoro phencyclidine||October 27, 2020||Mission||British Columbia||Crystalline substance|
|Lysergic Acid (LSD) Class||1-cyclopropionyl LSD||February 11, 2021||Gatineau||Quebec||Blotter paper|
|Phenethylamines (Main) Class||Methallylescaline||December 23, 2020||Napanee||Ontario||Powder|
|Tryptamine Class||4-Acetoxy MALT||September 10, 2020||Ottawa||Ontario||Powder|
|4-acetoxy MET||November 23, 2020||Nanaimo||British Columbia||Powder|
|4-acetoxy-N-methyl-N-Isopropyltryptamine||November 9, 2020||New Westminster||British Columbia||Powder|
|5-methoxy-N-methyl-N-allyltryptamine||November 9, 2020||New Westminster||British Columbia||Resinous substance|
|Ethylpropyltryptamine||September 10, 2020||Ottawa||Ontario||Residue|
|Opioid||Fentanyl (Sub) Class||Bromofentanyl||August 12, 2021||Burnaby||British Columbia||Powder|
|Chlorofentanyl||April 23, 2020||Vernon||British Columbia||Powder Residue|
|Hexanoyl fentanyl||May 28, 2020||Cambridge||Ontario||Powder|
|para-Fluorofentanyl||April 9, 2021||Akwesasne||Ontario||Powder Residue Rock-like solid|
|Opioid Class (Non-Fentanyl, Non-Opiates)||5-Aminoisotonitazene||July 29, 2021||Toronto||Ontario||Syringe|
|Etodesnitazene||June 26, 2020||Granby||Quebec||Powder Residue Material Syringe|
|Flunitazene||December 9, 2020||Hamilton||Ontario||Powder Residue|
|Metonitazene||August 21, 2020||Hamilton||Ontario||Powder Residue Rock-like solid|
|N-Pyrrolidino Etonitazene (Etonitazepyne)||May 7, 2021||Napanee||Ontario||Powder Residue Tablets|
|Protonitazene||December 30, 2020||Quebec||Quebec||Tablets Powder Residue|
|W-19||April 26, 2021||Victoria||British Columbia||Powder|
|SARMS||Selective Androgen (Or Estrogen) Receptor Modulator (SARM/SERM) Class||RAD140||October 19, 2020||Lethbridge||Alberta||Tablets Liquid|
|Stimulant||Amphetamine / Methamphetamine (Sub) Class||N,N-dimethyl-3,4-dimethoxyamphetamine||November 27, 2019||Sylvan Lake||Alberta||Tablets|
|N-pyrrolidino-3,4-dimethoxyamphetamine||November 27, 2019||Sylvan Lake||Alberta||Tablets|
|Cathinone (Sub) Class||4'-fluoro-3'-methyl-alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone||September 23, 2020||Aurora||Alberta||Tablets Powder Rock-like solid|
|alpha-Pyrrolidino-2-phenylacetophenone||December 17, 2020||Longueuil||Quebec||Powder|
|alpha-Pyrrolidinocyclohexanophenone||March 25, 2021||Laval||Quebec||Crystalline substance|
|Other substances||Phenethylamines (Main) Class||4-Fluorophenibut||June 22, 2021||Saint-Clet||Quebec||Powder|
|Precursor / Key Intermediate / Reagent||Methyl 2-phenylacetoacetate||September 2, 2020||Vancouver||British Columbia||Powder|
|1-Benzyl-4-piperidone||August 14, 2020||Milton||Ontario||Powder|
|Other (Drug) Prescription, Otc, Or Illicit||1-(1,3-Benzodioxol-5-yl)-2,2-dibromo-1-pentanone||August 24, 2020||Nanaimo||British Columbia||Powder Crystalline substance|
|Bromantane||September 2, 2020||Jonquière||Quebec||Powder|
|Octodrine||December 22, 2020||Woodstock||New Brunswick||Powder|
|Tiletamine||March 4, 2020||Lloydminster||Alberta||Powder Crystalline substance|
Frequently detected emerging psychoactive substances are most often found in powder or tablet form.
Figure 3 – Text description
| Rock-like solid (crack)
|N-Pyrrolidino Etonitazene (Etonitazepyne)||-||-||40||3||-||-||1|
Frequency of detections
Nitazenes (Etodesnitazene, Metonitazene and Protonitazene) were among the most frequently detected new psychoactive substances. The benzodiazepine Bromazolam was also among the most frequently detected NPS since it first emerged.
|Drug name||Detections (n)|
|N-Pyrrolidino Etonitazene (Etonitazepyne)||44|
Nitazenes Etodesnitazene and Metonitazene were frequently detected with Fentanyl, Dimethylsulphone and other nitazenes. Bromazolam was also frequently co-detected with Fentanyl. The co-involvement of stimulants, benzodiazepines and alcohol has been identified as one of the key drivers in the worsening of opioid-related deaths in North America.Footnote 1
Figure 4 – Text description
This short report describes 42 new psychoactive substances (NPS) first detected in Canada between 2020 and 2021, including emerging Opioids (11), Hallucinogens (9), Stimulants (5) and Depressants (4). Over half (58.7%) of NPS were detected in Ontario. Frequently detected NPS were most often found in powder or tablet form. They include Nitazenes Metonitazene (n=338, opioid class), Etodesnitazene (n=332, opioid class) and Protonitazene (n=160, opioid class) as well as the Benzodiazepine Bromazolam (n=225, depressant class). Finally, frequently co-detected substances with Metonitazene, Etodesnitazene and Bromazolam include Caffeine (cutting agent) and Fentanyl (opioid class). As Nitazenes were the emerging psychoactive substance which were most frequently detected, a more in-depth examination of their emergence would be of interest.
Drug analysis service - Health Canada:
- Marie-Line Gilbert
- Michèle Boileau-Falardeau
- Cindy Leung-So
- Caroline Maurice-Gelinas
- Mark Hrynkiw
- Richard Laing
- Stéphanie Lessard
- Janike Pitre
- Benoit Archambault
Government of Canada. (2022). Health Canada Drug Analysis Service. At-A-Glance: Newly Reported Psychoactive Substances in Canada. Longueuil (QC), 2022. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/healthy-living/psychoactive-substances-canada-2020-2021.html
- Footnote 1
Compton, W.M., R.J. Valentino and R.L. DuPont. 2021. "Polysubstance use in the U.S. opioid crisis." (Mol Psychiatry) 26 (1): 41-50.
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: