Thursday, August 25, 2016

Deadly, legal synthetic drug that can be bought online is linked to an increase in drug overdoses

A deadly but legal synthetic drug is quickly growing in popularity among addicts in the U.S., leading to increased reports of overdose deaths. U-47700, or U-4, created in the 1970s, is considered to be at least seven times more potent than morphine and is easily available for purchase online for about $40. A quick internet search found one site selling the product, with a warning that it's not for human or veterinary use, but for scientific research.

The drug has been linked to 50 deaths nationwide, Bill Draper reports for The Associated Press. U-4 is considered to be similar to fentanyl, a widely used drug that was found during the autopsy of musician Prince. It's being reported that many users mix the drug with heroin, which leads to a potent and deadly combination. It has also led some officials to believe that some reported heroin deaths were actually caused by U-4. (CDC graphic)
After two deaths in Idaho this year, the Idaho Office of Drug Policy asked the State Board of Pharmacy "to ban U-47700 on a temporary emergency basis, until the legislature can consider making it permanently illegal," Audrey Dutton reports for the Idaho Statesman. Idaho’s pharmacy board issued a temporary rule effective Aug. 3 designating U-47700 as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. State police also issued a warning in June about the drug.

Georgia state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, a Republican who represents Rome, where a teenager's death is being linked to U-4, "said he hopes to meet with Gov. Nathan Deal this week in effort to pass an emergency order outlawing the drug," Blake Doss reports for the Rome News-Tribune. "An emergency executive order from Gov. John Kasich outlawed the drug in Ohio earlier this year, Hufstetler said. The Georgia Board of Pharmacy outlawed the use of the drug in April, Hufstetler said, but that doesn’t carry legal implications."

Police in Michigan's Upper Peninsula also have issued warnings about U-4, Rachel Droze reports for WLUC-TV. Detective Lt. Tim Sholander, who oversees the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team, told her, "We want people to be aware that even though it's not an illegal drug, it's causing some serious concerns across the state with overdose deaths."

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