W-18 belongs to a group of 32 compounds designated as W-1 to W-32, initially developed during research on analgesic drug discovery in the 1980s. While it was first synthesized at the University of Alberta as part of this analgesic drug research, preliminary studies in mice showed its potential as a pain-relieving agent.
Notably, W-18 gained recognition as a designer drug in the 2010s, primarily through its association with recreational drug use, both in Europe and the United States. In Canada, it made headlines when law enforcement seized four kilograms of W-18 during a drug operation in Edmonton in December 2015. Health Canada also identified W-18 in a portion of the fentanyl tablets seized from a residence in Calgary in August 2015.
In popular media, W-18 was frequently mischaracterized as an opioid during the 2010s, although subsequent research debunked this misconception. Instead, W-18 was found to exhibit limited activity at sigma receptors and the translocator protein (peripheral benzodiazepine receptor). Moreover, it was shown to have an inhibitory effect on the hERG potassium channel at higher doses, potentially posing a risk of cardiac arrhythmia.
As for its legal status, W-18 was classified as illegal in Sweden in January 2016. In Canada, both W-18 and its analogs were designated as Schedule I controlled substances. Possession without proper legal authority could lead to a maximum sentence of 7 years in imprisonment. Health Canada also revised the Food and Drug Regulations in May 2016 to categorize W-18 as a restricted drug, limiting its possession to law enforcement agencies, individuals with exemption permits, or authorized institutions.
|CompTox Dashboard (EPA)||DTXSID90726944|
|Chemical and physical data|
|Molar mass||421.90 g·mol−1|
1. What is W-18?
- W-18 is a chemical compound initially created for its potential analgesic (pain-relieving) properties.
2. How was W-18 invented?
- W-18 was invented in the 1980s at the University of Alberta by a research team focused on analgesic drug discovery.
3. Does W-18 have pain-killing properties?
- Early studies on animals, specifically mice, suggested that W-18 might have pain-killing activity.
4. When did W-18 become a designer drug?
- W-18 emerged as a designer drug in the 2010s.
5. How was W-18 discovered in connection with recreational drug use?
- W-18 was detected in Europe in 2013 as a substitute for other controlled substances and also surfaced in the United States.
6. Are there any notable drug busts involving W-18?
- In Canada, authorities seized four kilograms of W-18 in an Edmonton drug bust in December 2015. Health Canada also found W-18 in some fentanyl tablets seized in Calgary in August 2015.
7. Is W-18 an opioid?
- Although initially reported as an opioid, further research revealed that W-18 does not fit the typical opioid classification.
8. What are the known effects of W-18?
- W-18 has been found to have weak activity at sigma receptors and the translocator protein, along with inhibiting the hERG potassium channel, which could lead to cardiac arrhythmia at high doses.
9. What is the legal status of W-18 in different countries?
- In Sweden, W-18 was made illegal in January 2016. In Canada, W-18 and its analogs are classified as Schedule I controlled substances. Possession without legal authorization can result in imprisonment.
10. How is W-18 regulated in Canada?
- Health Canada amended the Food and Drug Regulations in May 2016 to classify W-18 as a restricted drug. Only law enforcement agencies, individuals with exemption permits, or authorized institutions are allowed to possess the drug.
- Kroll D (April 30, 2016). “W-18: The Potent Research Chemical Making Headlines – Understanding Its Nature.” Forbes.
- Warnica M (April 21, 2016). “W-18: A Street Drug with Lethal Potency, Still Operating Within Legal Boundaries.” CBC News. Retrieved on April 20, 2016.
- Gonçalves J (February 13, 2016). “Notification to Concerned Parties – Proposal for the Inclusion of W-18 under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and its Regulations.” Canada Gazette. Government of Canada. 150 (7). Retrieved on February 19, 2016.
- Markusoff J. “A Hazardous Substance More Potent Than Fentanyl Emerges on Alberta’s Streets.” macleans.ca. Maclean’s. Retrieved on February 19, 2016.
- “Illicit Substance W-18: Police Issue Alert – 100 Times More Potent Than Fentanyl.” CBC News. April 20, 2016. Retrieved on April 20, 2016.
- Elkin A (February 1, 2016). “Unveiling the Secrets of W-18: A Drug That Outpowers Fentanyl by 100 Times.” Vice.com. Vice Media. Retrieved on April 20, 2016.
- Southwick R (June 1, 2016). “Health Canada’s Statements on W-18 Questioned – Experts Suggest Misleading Information.” Calgary Herald. Postmedia Network Inc. Retrieved on June 22, 2016.
- Browne R (June 2, 2016). “Canada’s Decision to Prohibit Super-Potent Drug W-18: Possible Unintended Consequences.” Vice.
- Huang XP, Che T, Mangano TJ, Le Rouzic V, Pan YX, Majumdar S, et al. (November 2017). “Fentanyl-Related Designer Drugs W-18 and W-15: In Vitro and In Vivo Opioid Activity Absent.” JCI Insight. 2 (22). doi:10.1172/jci.insight.97222. PMC 5752382. PMID 29202454.
- Huang XP, Che T, Mangano TJ, Le Rouzic V, Pan YX, Majumdar S, et al. (July 24, 2016). “Pharmacological Analysis of W-18 and W-15.” bioRxiv: 065623. doi:10.1101/065623.
- “31 New Substances Eligible for Classification as Narcotic or Hazardous Products” (in Swedish). Folkhälsomyndigheten. November 2015.
- Arsenault D (June 1, 2016). “Amendments to Food and Drug Regulations (Sections G and J) – Lefetamine, AH-7921, MT-45, and W-18.” Canada Gazette. Government of Canada. 150 (11).