Imodium may be the new over-the-counter scary drug but it appears that W-18 is the new illicit scary drug (which is in desperate name of a marketing department to give it a better name):
For the second time in a year, police in Alberta have uncovered a drug called W-18, a synthetic opioid that’s 100 times more powerful than fentanyl — and 10,000 more powerful than morphine.
Police in Edmonton announced Wednesday they seized four kilograms of the substance in powder form during a raid carried out in December during a fentanyl investigation. The powder was then sent to Health Canada, which confirmed on Tuesday that it was W-18.
Staff Sergeant Dave Knibbs told a press conference that this amount of powder could have produced hundreds of millions of W-18 pills.
A stronger substance that people can voluntarily put into their bodies? The horror!
In all seriousness though, W-18 is likely a more dangerous drug than fentanyl but it is also a byproduct of the war on drugs. The iron law of prohibition states that the potency of a prohibited substance increases along with the enforcement of the prohibition:
Super potent pot is not a market failure. It is simply the result of government prohibition. In fact, it is one of the best examples of the iron law of prohibition. When government enacts and enforces a prohibition it eliminates the free market which is then replaced by a black market. This typically changes everything about “the market.” It changes how the product is produced, how it is distributed and sold to consumers. It changes how the product is packaged and in particular, the product itself. The iron law of prohibition looks specifically at how prohibition makes drugs like alcohol and marijuana more potent. The key to the phenomenon is that law enforcement makes it more risky to make, sell, or consume the product. This encourages suppliers to concentrate the product to make it smaller and thus more potent. In this manner you get “more bang for the buck.”
During alcohol prohibition (1920-1933), alcohol consumption went from a beer, wine, and whiskey market to one of rotgut whiskey with little wine or beer available. The rotgut whiskey could be more than twice as potent of the normal whiskey that was produced both before and after prohibition. The product is then diluted at the point of consumption. During the 1920s all sorts of cocktails were invented to dilute the whiskey and to cover up for bad smells and tastes.
Therefore, the current high potency of marijuana is not a market phenomenon, nor is it a market failure. It is primarily driven by government’s prohibition and the odd incentives that this produces on the sellers’ side of the market. Under these conditions consumers may prefer higher potency marijuana, ceteris paribus, but it is not primarily a consumer driven phenomenon.
W-18 is the byproduct of stronger enforcement of opioid prohibitions. Since law enforcers are concentrating their efforts on opioids such as heroine and fentanyl the producers are responding by making a more concealable version (as the product is more potent less is needed for the desired effect) that is easier to transport under the watchful eye of the badged men with guns.
This is just another example of how the war on drugs has actually made the drug market more dangerous. In addition to adding the risk of men with guns kicking down the doors of drug users at oh dark thirty and shooting their family pets, the war on drugs has also made the substances themselves more dangerous by creating an environment that motivates producers to increase the potency. So long as the war on opioids continues we will see more potent forms. In a few years W-18 will likely become a footnote in history; just another less potent version of a new opioid. This trend will continue until the war on drugs is ended and producers are no longer encouraged to make ever increasingly potent substances.