Lab Made Synthetic Opioid Is Easily Available and Deadly
U-47700, a new deadly synthetic opioid on the market, goes by “Pink” and is easily purchased and shipped online. The drug is eight times more potent than heroin and is connected to several deaths nationwide.
At this time 80 deaths nationwide have been linked to the synthetic opioid. Four states have banned U-47700, Florida, Ohio Georgia and Wyoming. Marijuana is illegal in 5 times as many states.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency temporarily classifying U-47700 as a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, on September 7th 2016, making it illegal throughout the United States. This officially puts Pink in the same category as other drugs, including heroin, LSD, and ecstasy and marijuana.
Most transactions are done online and through the mail, so they go unnoticed by law enforcement unless an overdose death occurs, at this point states are playing catch up. Another issue with U-47700 is that chemists can modify the formula and create new variations of it, essentially making state and federal laws against the drug, non-existent.
“The hardest part is when something new comes up, and no one in the country or world has seen it in a forensic setting yet and trying to decide what that actual structure or drug is,” said Bryan Holden, senior forensic scientist with the Utah Department of Public Safety. “Sometimes we have had cases where the substance sat for months and months — no one had ever seen it before, and until someone else sees it or manufactures it then we kind of know what it is.”
U-47700 was originally formulated in the 1970s as an morphine alternative, It is now being produced by chemists in Europe and Asia using patents and recipes found online. The effects of the drug vary and can be fatal even when taking a small dose.
Deaths from U-47700
This September, two teenage boys in Park City, Utah died within two days of each other after experimenting with the synthetic opioid. The boys had been discussing taking the drug on Snapchat and other social media sites. A third child came forward and admitted to police that she had ordered the substance from China. A box containing a baggie of white powder was shipped to her home and she then distributed it to friends.
Inside the package was “a clear bag with a white powder substance,” she told police. She then gave the bag to two friends. The police report does not say if the drugs that took the two boys lives, were from that package. They stated that 15 other children were known to be associated with the substance. Several officers at the local school found traces of both methamphetamine and U-47700 on the kids’ belongings.
From 1999 to 2014, the number of opioid-related deaths has quadrupled from 8,050 to 28,647, according to statistics from the CDC. Overdose deaths related specifically to synthetic opioids like U-47700 increased from 730 to 5,544 in the same time period.
Opioids and Marijuana
“We know that patients across the US are successfully utilizing cannabis to treat pain” said Americans for Safe Access’s Executive Director Steph Sherer. “It is not a coincidence that opiate deaths are down nearly 25% in the states that allow medical professionals and their patients to utilize cannabis therapies as a treatment option. The Medical Cannabis Access for Pain Treatment: A Viable Strategy to Address the Opioid Crisis report shows that access to medical cannabis for pain treatment would help address two major components of the opiate crisis; accidental overdoses and addiction.”
In February, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called on the CDC to collaborate with states and other federal agencies on the exploration of “alternative pain relief options” including medical cannabis. Additionally, she requested that the CDC evaluate the impact of medical and recreational cannabis on opioid overdose deaths in states where it is legal. Data gathered from states that have medical cannabis programs has shown a 24.8% reduction in deaths attributed to opioid related overdose compared to states without programs.
Learn more about Opioid Abuse in our Cannabis Pain Management Online Course.