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Another technically “legal” substance has been added to the wave of synthetic, or so called “research drugs,” that skirt state and federal law by slightly altering the molecular makeup. Known on the streets as U4, Pink or Pinky, U-47700 is a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than morphine. It’s been implicated in as many as 80 fatal overdoses this year, including the overdose of rock and roll icon Prince.
“The consumer, they don’t know what they’re putting into their body,” Drug Enforcement Administration Spokesman Russ Baer told the New York Daily News.
Baer’s comments came in light of the deaths of two teenage boys in Park City, Utah last month. Though the families are awaiting toxicology reports, it’s believed the boys ordered U4 on the internet. Their bodies were found days apart.
Though the chemical was developed in 1976 by the pharmaceutical company Upjohn, U4 never went through human trials and is categorized as a research drug.
The relatively cheap drug, which users are ordering online, however, isn’t made in a controlled lab. Underground labs in China are producing it and its purity and potency will come in wild variances.
Drug dealers will also take a substances like U4, and “step on it,” dilute it with another even cheaper drug, to make higher profits on the backs of unsuspecting customers.
What’s even more common, is finding U4, Fentanyl, or a combination mixed in heroin. The results are often deadly. Because it’s an opioid, U4 suppresses the respiratory system while it sedates the user. All too frequently a user will nod off and stop breathing. Without immediate medical attention, the chances of survival are slim.
What are the Side Effects of U-47700?
Because U4 has not undergone human trials, experts base the side effects of the drug on similar opioids. These can include the following:
- Strong painkilling properties as with other opiates
- Respiratory depression
- Sedation and extreme drowsiness
- A temporary calming and euphoric sense of wellbeing
- Tolerance leading to addiction with continued use
A handful of states have moved to place a ban on the synthetic opioid while it remains technically legal. The DEA just last month filed a notice of intent to at least temporarily classify U4 as a Schedule I narcotic, which will essentially remove the drug’s “research” status and make it illegal.
Unfortunately the true number of fatalities as a result of U4 could be much higher than projected. “The recent rise in use of these novel drugs,” Dr. Barry Logan, Chief Forensic Toxicologist at NMS Labs, said in a press release, “…is probably underestimated since these drugs are frequently a blind spot for many forensic labs, because they are novel and the labs are not looking for them in their routine procedures.”
Anyone suffering with an addiction to opiates must take extra precaution. Do not take for granted that a substance is what it’s sold as. Users might want to practice harm reduction techniques.
Receiving medically assisted treatment for addiction, though, is the safest and most effective way to avoid becoming an unwitting victim to synthetic opioids like U4.
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