The shocking number of fatal drug overdoses continues to rise in the U.S. According to the CDC, 100,306 people died from overdoses last year, and more than 60% of the deaths are attributed to synthetic opioids.
With the ever-increasing number of synthetic opioid overdoses occurring daily, it’s vital to spread awareness about these dangerous substances. Although fentanyl remains the most powerful and deadly synthetic opioid available, newer products are emerging that may rival fentanyl in the near future. One such drug is known as nitazenes.
What Are Synthetic Opioids?
Legal opioids are naturally derived from the opium poppy plant and are used medically to provide pain relief. Semi-synthetic opioids are created in labs from natural opiates and are also used medically to manage pain. Synthetic opioids contain no natural opiates.
The most commonly abused opioids in any class are:
Naturally occurring opioids:
Since 2019, new synthetic opioids known as nitazenes have been detected by forensic labs in many southern, midwestern, and eastern states. The drug has caused between 1,000 and 2,000 synthetic opioid overdose deaths across the U.S.
What Are Nitazenes and Why Are They So Deadly?
Nitazenes were developed 60 years ago by researchers who were trying to develop an alternative to morphine for pain relief. Overdoses were a common problem with the drug, so it was abandoned.
The drug was patented but has no approved medical use and is classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the DEA. Nitazenes share the Schedule 1 classification with other drugs such as ecstasy, heroin, peyote, LSD, and marijuana.
Currently, there are 10 known nitazenes, some of which are 800 times more potent than morphine and about 40 times more potent than fentanyl. Analogs of nitazenes include metonitazene, etonitazene, and isotonitazene.
How Are Nitazenes Ingested?
Nitazenes are most commonly sold in powder form, but may also be obtained in liquid or pill form. The drug is ingested by injection, snorting, or taken orally. In most cases, a person is not intentionally ingesting nitazenes. They believe they are buying heroin or fentanyl and aren’t aware that the drug has been spiked or replaced with nitazenes.
Dangers of Using Nitazenes
Nitazenes produce the same robust responses as fentanyl or morphine. They work by blocking the signals between the brain and body that regulate pain. As such, the drug is highly addictive and potentially deadly.
The signs of a nitazene overdose may include:
- Decreased level of consciousness
- Pinpoint pupils
- Respiratory depression
- Slow heart rate
- Low blood pressure
Because nitazenes can be made inexpensively from legal substances, they are widely used by drug traffickers to cut costs and increase profits. Due to the dealer’s greed and dishonesty, innocent buyers suffer needless deaths.
Will Narcan Work for Nitazene Overdose?
Nitazenes are unregulated and are not often tested for, especially if fentanyl is detected first This can be dangerous for several reasons. Because of its potency, nitazene may not respond to the overdose-reversing drug, Narcan. Larger doses of Narcan may be needed when treating nitazene-related overdoses. Addiction experts also recommend a multilevel approach to treatment if nitazene is involved.
How to Avoid the Dangers of Nitazene Use
If you are using any illicit substances, especially heroin or fentanyl, the risk of coming in contact with nitazene is high. The best way to avoid the dangers of nitazene is to seek professional addiction treatment and remove yourself from the potential for harm or death.
Addiction treatment programs help individuals find the courage, develop the skills, and cultivate the desire to live a life that does not include addictive substances.
Ask yourself if you can truly trust your dealer? Do you want to let him determine your fate? Continuing to purchase illicit drugs from him significantly increases your chances of becoming the next victim of a synthetic opioid overdose.
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