Stronger Than Fentanyl? Dangerous Designer Drug Underscores Importance of Awareness and Prevention

Published on July 22, 2020

Canaan, CT – During this deadly time in the nation’s
history, another threat – the opioid epidemic – has been out of focus but has not
vanished. Opioids continue to present a significant public health threat – one
that will likely be amplified by the recent rise of a powerful designer drug
known as isotonitazene.

Isotonitazene, or “iso” for short, is a synthetic opioid
derived from the potent opioid etonitazene, an analgesic drug developed in 1957.
Some health experts warn that the drug is at least 100 stronger times than
morphine and may even be more powerful than fentanyl. According to HealthDay,
fatal overdoses from iso claimed 40 to 50 American lives per month on average
this year, up from approximately 6 deaths per month last year. While these
deaths have been limited to certain states – namely Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois
– some fear that the use and abuse of the drug could spread on a national
level, mirroring increases in fentanyl and methamphetamine usage in recent
years.

Iso often takes the form of a white or yellow powder and has
been found laced into other drugs, including cocaine. Users may not be aware of
the presence of this potent substance in the drugs they have purchased, meaning
they likely do not have a tolerance to iso, and their probability of
experiencing a lethal overdose is therefore higher. In addition to the overdose
risk, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has categorized iso as having a
high potential for addiction.

From 2018 to 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention found that over 70,000
Americans died of a drug overdose
. Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids accounted
for almost
half of these deaths
. With these figures in mind, the increasing popularity
of iso is a daunting prospect. Even more concerning is the likelihood that drug
testing strips will not be able to detect the presence of iso in the way they
would be able to identify fentanyl and other drugs that have been on the market
longer.

“We’ve learned from the past that the prevalence of different
drugs ebbs and flows. While prescription painkillers and fentanyl are top of
mind at the moment, we can’t focus all of our energy on fighting these substances
alone because a multitude of other drugs carry the potential for addiction and
overdose as well,” says Seon
Kim
, Clinical Director at Mountainside. “If we can get ahead of the iso problem
through increased awareness and preventative measures, we can better protect
our communities and avoid repeating history.”

Those who suspect that they or a loved one may be struggling
with opioid addiction should contact a local treatment center.