Drug Alert: Dangerous Synthetic Opioids Are Being Disguised on the Streets

opioid addiction treatment

An 18-Year-Old Girl Died From a Synthetic Opioid She Bought Online.  Opioid Dealers Embrace the Dark Web to Send Deadly Drugs by Mail.  Synthetic Opioid Nicknamed ‘Pink’ Blamed For Deaths Of Two 13-Year-Old Utah Boys.  Deadly Fake Percocet Contains Synthetic Drug Seven Times Stronger Than Morphine.  Synthetic Opioid Used To Tranquilize Elephants Found In Two Deadly Connecticut Overdoses.  Opioid That Killed Prince Is Now On The United Nations’ List Of Controlled Substances.

These are just some of the many headlines sweeping the news in the last year, representing some of the many tragedies sweeping our country and some of the many deadly drug cocktails sweeping our streets. And while these headlines bring the crisis to our attention, the opioid epidemic continues on, every day, claiming the lives of our neighbors, friends, family members and loved ones.

In just two years alone, from 2013 to 2015, fatal overdoses due to synthetic opioids tripled in the United States, reaching nearly 10,000 deaths nationwide. Overdose victims are in no way exclusive; both men and women, adolescents and adults, of every ethnicity, have been affected by these dangerous drugs.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has released several drug alerts regarding new, synthetic opioids that have hit the streets over the last year: Carfentanil, an animal sedative that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine; U-47700, also known as “Pink,” a synthetic opioid that the DEA has now classified as a Schedule I substance; “Grey Death,” a combination of synthetic opioids and heroin; as well as unknown, highly-potent pills that are being disguised as regular prescription pills like Percocet.

If you or a loved one is battling an opiate addiction, has bought drugs illicitly off of the Internet or streets, is an occasional opiate user, or is currently misusing a painkiller prescription – be aware: There are highly dangerous, man-made opioids being disguised and sold as safe and effective drugs. Their biggest market? Teens and young adults unknowingly purchasing pills on the Dark Web and on the streets, in search of a quick high.

The key word here is unknowingly. In today’s high stakes drug market, it is extremely common for manufacturers and dealers to “lace” drugs like cocaine with other, more potent drugs like fentanyl – the goal being to create an equivalent high for less cost, and therefore more profit. The problem is, users of these “designer drugs” do not know exactly what they are taking. What one thinks to be a few bumps of cocaine could amount to a fatal dose of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Unable to assess the potency of the drugs, many users (both new and experienced) will unknowingly take too much and overdose.

This is happening all over the country. Just last month, the state of Georgia experienced a chain of overdoses caused by fake Percocet pills. A 36-year-old mother of six and a local log-cutter who purchased the pills for back pain were among the unknowing victims of these synthetic opioids.

As an adolescent and young adult drug rehab, Turnbridge understands the detrimental and devastating impact that synthetic opioids can have on users. Whether you are a parent or educator, friend or family member, opioid user or prospective opioid buyer, it is so important to recognize what synthetic opioids are, the effects of synthetic opioid use, and why buying any illicit drug should be avoided at all costs. Let’s start with some of the most recent (and most dangerous) synthetic opioids identified in the States:

Fentanyl and its analogsFentanyl is a highly-addictive opioid analgesic that is chemically similar to morphine, only 100 times the strength. It is also 50 times more potent than heroin and faster-acting than many other opioid drugs. Even in doses as small as .25mg, fentanyl can be deadly.

Yet the dangers of fentanyl are not straying illicit manufacturers from utilizing the substance. Between 2013 and 2014, the number of seizures of drugs containing fentanyl jumped from 942 to 3,334. And that number continues to grow. Once a regulated medical substance, fentanyl is now being obscured on the streets in drugs such as Oxycontin, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. It was also in the prescription pills that killed legendary musician Prince.

The hasty evolution of synthetic opioid fentanyl is only fueling the country’s opioid epidemic, as new and stronger variants of the drug are being born. Carfentanil, for example, is a close relative of fentanyl that is 100 times more potent. Traditionally used to tranquilize large zoo animals, Carfentanil is now a trending drug of abuse. Other variants include furanyl fentanyl, ohmefentanyl, tetrahydrofuran fentanyl, and man-made fentanyl concoctions.

U-47700 or “Pink” – U-47700, also known under the soft and deceptive name “Pink,” is a fairly new substance to hit the streets. In November 2016, this synthetic opioid drug was temporarily classified as a Schedule I substance by the DEA – meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no approved medical use. Mimicking pharmaceutical opioid drugs, U-47700 is primarily concealed in powder or pill form and produced in illicit labs overseas – making the true identity, purity, and potency of the drug unknown. 

It is no wonder, then, why so many users of “Pink” are fatally overdosing on the drug. Among its victims are two 13-year-old boys from Park City, Utah: they had gotten the drug from another teenager, who bought the drugs on the Dark Web using the online and anonymous currency Bitcoin. More than likely, the two young teens did not know exactly what they were taking.

Grey Death – Implied by its name, “grey death” has been deemed one of the most lethal and scariest designer drugs yet. It is not a single substance, but rather, a compound made up of the synthetic opioids U-47700, Fentanyl, as well as the illicit drug Heroin. According to experts, this drug resembles concrete mixing powder and can range from a chunky, rock-like material to a fine, grey powder. Due to its components, “grey death” is far more potent than heroin and morphine, and has contributed to many fatal overdoses throughout the United States.

Mystery Drug Combos – At the end of June, the National Institute on Drug Abuse alerted that yet another synthetic opioid drug has been discovered: a yellow, unnamed opioid combination is being sold in Georgia as regular, Percocet pills. Its true continents – acrylfentanyl and tetrahydrofuran fentanyl – are synthetic opioids with much greater potency than pain medication and a higher possibility of overdose. According to officials, it is extremely difficult to reverse an overdose on acrylfentanyl.

 

Whether from manufacturers in China or kitchen labs in the U.S., dangerous and deadly opioid combinations like this one are being churned out on a regular basis. All the while, forensic chemists, drug enforcement professionals, and addiction specialists are consistently working to take down the opioid epidemic. But with more and more synthetic opioids entering the picture, it is becoming more difficult to keep up.

Synthetic opioids are ever-changing. When officials ban one opioid compound, illicit drug labs tweak another enough to evade the law. And each time these drugs are tweaked, a new synthetic compound is born – often stronger and more foreign than the last. The problem is, these man-made drugs are unregulated. There is no saying what is in them or how much to take of them.

If you or someone you love is taking synthetic opioids or battling a substance abuse disorder, you can make a huge difference (and save a life) by seeking proper drug treatment. Turnbridge is only one call away. Contact us at 877-581-1793 to learn about our opioid addiction treatment program for adolescents and young adults.