Alarming trend: Drugs up to 40 times stronger than fentanyl on the rise in the US

BOULDER, Colo. – One person has died in Boulder, Colorado from a drug that the United States has never seen before. N-Desethyl etonitazene is a type of opioid called a nitazene and is considered to be ten times more potent than fentanyl.

According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, nitazenes were developed by researchers 60 years ago as an alternative to morphine, but they were never released because of their high potential for overdose. 

Courtesy: Drug Enforcement Administration

“Nitazines are cheaper to produce than fentanyl and heroin and, depending on the specific formulation, are between two to 40 times stronger than fentanyl,” Dr. Jennifer Middleton wrote for the American Academy of Family Physicians.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), nitazenes are making their way into the U.S. drug market from China, where they are being mixed into various substances. While reports of nitazene-related incidents are still relatively low in the United States, a crisis has emerged in Europe, with Public Health Scotland issuing an alert after witnessing 25 nitazene-related deaths.

“Due to their unexpected presence in the drug supply and high potency, nitazenes pose a substantial risk of overdose, drug-related hospitalization and drug-related death,” Public Health Scotland wrote in the alert.

Termed “Frankenstein opioids” by some, nitazenes are being mixed into common drugs like heroin, fentanyl, and counterfeit prescription pills, putting unsuspecting users at risk. The DEA warns that many individuals may be unaware of ingesting these potent substances.

Courtesy: Drug Enforcement Administration

“People have to keep in mind, with all the synthetic drugs out there, and the way they’re being mixed together, you never know what you’re actually buying,” DEA Intelligence Analyst Maura Gaffney said in a news release.

The DEA urges Americans to only take medications prescribed by your doctor and dispensed by your licensed pharmacist because pills or drugs obtained elsewhere are unsafe and too often deadly.