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Presence of Novel Opioids More Potent Than Fentanyl Increasing in U.S.

Novel opioids called nitazenes, some of which can be 43 times more potent than fentanyl, are becoming increasingly more present in the United States thanks largely to manufacturers in China that officials say sell the drugs online and ship them to dealers in the United States, David Ovalle reports for the Washington Post. A case in Florida man revealed that a dealer used WhatsApp and bitcoin to purchase nitazenes to mix with fentanyl or heroin, to stretch out his supplies of opioids and make an “ultra powerful substance.”

Although Beijing announced in November that it would curb the sale of precursor chemicals used by Mexican organized crime groups to manufacture fentanyl, experts worry that an unintended consequence could be the proliferation of other synthetic drugs such as nitazenes. Experts say shipments of nitazenes from China have ebbed and flowed as the DEA has placed at least 10 versions of nitazenes on a list of temporarily controlled substances, in a category reserved for those with a high potential for abuse and with no accepted medical use. Nitazenes may complicate rescue efforts if users or medical personnel do not know the drugs have been consumed. In a study published in August, researchers found that a small group of emergency room patients who had taken nitazenes needed more naloxone than people overdosing on fentanyl.

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