Nitazenes: New synthetic opioid

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A group of novel synthetic opioids emerging in illicit drugs in the U.S. may be more powerful than fentanyl, 1,000 times more potent than morphine, and may even require more doses of the medication naloxone to reverse an overdose.

Stephanie Siete from Community Bridges is an expert prevention trainer on drug trends and community resources spending her time educating the public about the realities of drug abuse.

“It’s a stronger version of fentanyl. Historically this stuff was created over 60 years ago as an alternative to pain management and an alternative to morphine. It was never FDA approved. It proved that it was very addictive; there were a lot of overdoses, so it was never ready for market,” Siete said.

Siete said she has seen some reports state that nitazenes are anywhere from 10 to 40 times stronger than fentanyl, and she has also seen reports that it can be anywhere from 800 to 1,000 times more potent.

Nitazenes are synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, although the two drugs are not structurally related. This is a drug that was never approved for medical use. According to Siete, nitazenes are being sourced from China and being mixed into other drugs.

Siete said overdoses are under-reported and toxicologists may not test for the drug as it is not systematically tracked.

“The big message still is, you don’t take unknown chemicals or pills into your body if you don’t know where it came from because it’s just easy to mix it. That’s just it; it’s just like fentanyl. You may look at it and not even know you’re seeing it,” Siete said. “It’s a legitimate concern. There have been deaths already tied to this. If you don’t see it in a package, and it didn’t come from a store, if it’s not sealed and it didn’t come from a doctor, you don’t take unknown substances. We really need to emphasize that with our youth, everyone from the little kids to the college kids.”

Stephanie Siete, Community Bridges

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