Trusted Content

New Painkiller W-18 Is 100 Times Stronger Than Fentanyl

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

March 12, 2019

The drug W-18 was designed to be a painkiller with the same effect as morphine. This drug was never meant for commercial use, but recently, has shown an increase in illicit street use.

News reports are recently arising about a substance chemically similar to fentanyl, but with a potential for potency that is far more dangerous. W-18 is a substance which was first developed in a Canadian lab over thirty years ago, according to the Washington Post. Designed at the University of Alberta as a pain reliever intended to be as effective as morphine, W-18 was never manufactured for commercial use. As a medication, it has no purpose. Yet recreational use of W-18 has been increasing in the past couple years, as reported by Inverse.

In December 2015, Canadian authorities found a strange white powder hidden in a clandestine lab. Though it took quite some time to identify the substance, Health Canada identified the drug as W-18—a substance believed to have been gone for more than three decades. The powder had been imported from China, and, if not seized, could have been made into hundreds of lethal tablets. Though it is not yet clear how far W-18 has traveled in the U.S., Canada and Europe have both seen traces of it after careful identification.

W-18: What You Need To Know

How did W-18 come to into use after years of staying out of the public eye? It was part of a series of pain reliever formulas developed and was the most potent in the series. Since no pharmaceutical companies would provide funding to make it a manufactured medication, the recipe for W-18 was left in the archives.

Unfortunately, from there, a Chinese chemist found it and began producing it for consumers in the region seeking a “cheap and legal” high, states the Washington Post. What officials and the public must keep in mind is that W-18 is 100 times more potent than fentanyl and contains a strength 10,000 times that of morphine.

virtual care

Get treatment when
and how you need it.

Although W-18 has not yet reached the U.S., if it does, we need to be prepared and informed. First, it is important to know that W-18 leaves no trace of its existence in the person who has taken it, which is why it can be so dangerous. Any drug could contain the substance and the person taking it would not know. Far more troublesome, though, is what it can cause. As stated by Dr. Alan Hudson of the University of Alberta and reported by Medical Daily, “You only need a tiny speck of W-18, which can cause respiratory depression and kill you.”

For this reason, even the transportation of W-18 is dangerous; if a package became ripped or damaged, the result could be fatal for those nearby. Of further concern is the lack of testing in place for W-18. Without a way to test for its presence in the blood or urine, there is no way to trace its presence in an overdose.

Finally, illicit use of W-18 is not technically punishable. It is not yet listed on the DEA emergency schedule list, and this means that even if someone is caught harboring the drug, he or she will not be placed in jail. While the DEA has yet to take action regarding the implementation of W-18, persons affected by substance abuse should beware of its growing presence in the U.S. and other countries. They should also understand that other substances they are taking may contain it, which could subsequently cause death.

The Opioid Epidemic

People affected by the illicit use of opioids are vast. An estimated 2.1 million people in the United States alone struggled with substance use disorders which stemmed from prescription opioids in 2012. Estimates for the same year in the U.S. include 467,000 who suffered from substance abuse with heroin.

Effects of opioid abuse are numerous, and can include:

  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Mental confusion
  • Nausea

Prolonged use of opioids may also incite tolerance to the effects of them. For persons affected by opioid use, tolerance is problematic in that it contributes to people’s need to take more of the drug to achieve the high they seek. Increasing the amounts of opioids taken may eventually lead to overdose, or even death.

Finding Help Today

Ending the opioid epidemic is a battle we have yet to win. If you or a loved one are facing the effects of substance abuse, you may feel like you are walking that road alone. But there are hundreds of thousands who also know your struggle, and many who have overcome your same troubles. If you are seeking help for you or a loved one, contact us today at to get started. With our trained team, we will hear you, and we will work together to help find the treatment plan that is right for you.

Inverse - “Meet W-18, The Opioid ‘100 Times Stronger’ Than The Drug That Killed Prince”

National Institute On Drug Abuse - America’s Addiction To Opioids: Heroin And Prescription Drug Abuse

Medical Daily - “Dangerous Designer Drug W-18 Is 100 Times More Potent Than Fentanyl, And It’s Now Widely Available”

Washington Post - “This New Street Drug Is 10,000 Times More Potent Than Morphine, And Now It’s Showing Up In Canada And The U.S.”

Want to get help, but not ready to talk?

You can receive 24/7 text support right away and at your convenience. There is no obligation to enter treatment and you can opt out at any time.

Sign up for text support to receive:

✅ Resources about addiction and recovery

✅ Info about our treatment process

"*" indicates required fields


Let Regard Healthcare walk you through the treatment process. We're here to help.
For 24/7 Treatment Help
100% Free and Confidential. Call 888-341-4325

For 24/7 Treatment Help Call:


For Immediate Treatment Help Call:
(888) 979-9592