Synthetic opioids, manufactured in China, are spreading across this nation.
Drug enforcement officials are now warning about a new group of opioids, ten times stronger than fentanyl, which has been linked to a recent surge in overdoses.
“Laboratory test results indicate that the potency of certain nitazene analogs [e.g., isotonitazene, protonitazene, and etonitazene] greatly exceeds that of fentanyl, whereas the potency of the analog metonitazene is similar to fentanyl,” explained a team of researchers from the Tennessee Department of Health.
Deaths linked to drugs are on the rise. In their report issued Friday, Jessica Korona-Bailey and colleagues said that “four times as many nitazene-involved overdoses were identified in Tennessee in 2021 than in 2020, and this number could be underestimated because of low testing frequency.”
Overall, deaths in Tennessee known to be linked to the synthetic opioids rose from 10 in 2020 to 42 one year later, with a majority of those killed being young males (average age 40).
Tennessee’s State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS) identified the nitazene-related fatal drug overdoses in 2021. There are urgent warnings being issued, as nitazines are so much more potent than fentanyl, that emergency treatment options are being impacted.
Naloxone, a medication used to reverse the effects of opioids sold under the brand name Narcan, among others, has been effective in countering nitazene-related overdoses, the study said.
However, multiple doses may be needed because of the potency of nitazenes, researchers pointed out.
“Given their potency, raising awareness about nitazenes and implementing strategies to reduce harm through increased testing, surveillance and linkage to treatment for substance use disorders are of vital importance,” they wrote.
The use of nitazenes is spreading. Legal Insurrection readers will not be surprised to learn these compounds are being manufactured in China for distribution in this country.
The growing danger of nitazene-tainted opioids in illicit drug supply isn’t specific to Tennessee, of course.
In June, the Washington, D.C.-based branch of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency issued an alert on the same class of drugs being spotted in that area.
“A drug that was never approved for medical use, nitazenes are being sourced from China and being mixed into other drugs,” the DEA explained in a statement.
One nitazene, isotonatazene (nicknamed ISO), was especially prevalent in the D.C. area.
“First identified around 2019 in the Midwest, this dangerous drug has moved into the Southern states and, more recently, along the Eastern seaboard,” the agency explained.
At this, anyone who uses opioids that aren’t via a doctor’s prescription from a reputable pharmacy has a death wish that China will be all too happy to grant.
As a reminder, the potential lethal dose of fentanyl is two milligrams.
Pascoe, 23, of Pittsburg, California, pleaded guilty on February 14, 2022, to the charge of distributing fentanyl. In his plea agreement, Pascoe admitted that on the night of June 16, 2020, a former high school classmate came to his house to buy oxycodone pills. He sold her thirteen M30 pills, which lab tests later showed were laced with deadly fentanyl. The next morning the victim was found dead in her bed, and the baggie containing the M30s that Pascoe sold to the victim was found in her bedroom. Pascoe agreed in his plea agreement that the victim ingested the M30s he sold her and as a result suffered an overdose of fentanyl.
The government filed a sentencing memorandum asserting that while Pascoe did not intentionally cause his high school classmate’s death, her death was the product of Pascoe’s reckless disregard for her safety. Pascoe told the victim he would buy the oxycodone pills from a street source he referred to as his “other connect.” The government pointed out that dealing in M30 oxycodone pills bought on the street is extremely dangerous. According to DEA, counterfeit M30 pills routinely contain fentanyl, and four out of every ten such pills contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl. A lethal dose can be miniscule, as little as two milligrams. Pascoe essentially “played Russian roulette,” the government asserted, but it was the victim who suffered the fatal consequences of Pascoe’s reckless, grossly negligent conduct.
Given that nitazenes are ten times more potent, I would estimate the lethal does to be 0.2 milligrams. Therefore, the number of drug deaths will continue to rise, as our border leaks and there is no coherent plan to stem the flow of synthetic opioids from China.
According to the latest national data, U.S. drug overdoses hit a record high in 2021 — more than 108,000 lives lost. Three-quarters of those deaths involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl or nitazenes.
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