This deadly drug is on its way to metro Atlanta streets

ATLANTA — The head of the DEA office in Atlanta is warning about a deadly new street drug that can be 100 times stronger than fentanyl, the drug blamed for the overdose death of singer Prince.

The DEA special agent in charge in Atlanta is talking about W-18, the latest synthetic opioid linked to deaths and overdoses.

READ: Local deputies make one of the largest fentanyl busts in the country

The drug, which was created decades ago in Canada as a hyper-potent painkiller, was never sold pharmaceutically.

Daniel Salter of the DEA said rogue chemists in China got hold of a recipe and are mass-producing and shipping it online. %

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Some experts say W-18 can be 100 times stronger than fentanyl and 10,000 times stronger than morphine.

“What makes it so dangerous is not only are they using W-18 itself, but they are mixing it with other illicit drugs,” Salter said.

Those drugs include heroin.

But despite the life-threatening dangers of W-18, it's legal to buy and possess.

“W-18 is legal,” Salter said. “I will say we are working with Congress and our partners in all states to regulate it. It's relatively new. These rogue chemists are staying one step ahead to what we can regulate through laws.”

Fentanyl, another powerful synthetic opioid, is illegal.

As Channel 2’s Tom Regan first reported exclusively this week, the Bartow Cartersville drug task force made a record seizure of the drug after a traffic stop: 40 kilos, or more than 80 pounds.

“It was a great effort by Bartow County and the 40 kilos of fentanyl," Salter said. “When distributed in user amounts, it could potentially be lethal to hundreds of thousands of people. That's the truth.”

Doctors say that W-18 is so powerful, people who overdose on it do not respond to Narcan, the drug used to revive heroin overdose victims.