NWT issues warning over bromazolam in drug supply

The NWT’s chief public health officer has issued the latest in a series of warnings about new and dangerous forms of illegal drug entering the territory.

On Tuesday, Dr Kami Kandola said bromazolam had been detected in Hay River, the South Slave town that has been the recent focus of concern about the impact of drugs on NWT communities.

Bromazolam is a type of benzodiazepine, a class of depressant drug prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, insomnia and seizures. They are drugs that act to slow brain activity.


Bromazolam, however, is not approved for medical use in any country.

Combined with fentanyl, the sometimes-lethal opioid that is increasingly present in the NWT, bromazolam can have extreme effects.

“The difference with fentanyl containing bromazolam is that the user may not be aware they are also ingesting a benzodiazepine, and the effects may last longer or be more potent, and naloxone will not be as effective,” Dr Kandola’s office said in a news release.

“There are no warning signs of the presence of bromazolam in street drugs – it cannot be detected by sight, smell, or taste. Intoxication due to bromazolam is characterized by excessive drowsiness, loss of balance and coordination, partial amnesia, and inability to follow or participate in conversation.”

Kandola said fentanyl and bromazolam together “can cause serious physical and psychological harm.”


The warning issued on Tuesday was similar in tone and content to one issued last month, when a drug known as liquid Xanax was reported in Fort Simpson.

Naloxone should still be given if someone is showing signs of an overdose, Tuesday’s statement continued, adding that kits are available at hospitals, health centres and pharmacies.

Kandola repeated her January advice to never use drugs alone, a message she gave after Hay River reported six drug poisoning deaths in the past year.