(The Gazette/ Chelsea Keenan)
A new synthetic opioid nearly eight times more potent than morphine has made its way to Eastern Iowa, with one individual overdosing on the drug, according to state public health and law enforcement officials.
The person survived, however the drug, U-47700, has been linked to deaths in other states, including Kansas. U-47700 is a research chemical developed and patented in the 1970s but was never given FDA-approval, said Dr. Ed Bottei, medical director of the Iowa Poison Control Center.
It has no medical purpose, he added.
“People buying these drugs have no idea what they’re getting,” he said. “They don’t know the potency, what it is or what is in there. It’s like when people buy heroin and it has fentanyl in it and they overdose.”
As with other opioids — including heroin, oxycodone and morphine — the synthetic drug can cause sedation and slow the user’s breathing, which can lead to death.
Synthetic opioids are a newer class of synthetic drugs reportedly being smuggled into the country and sold primarily via the internet, according to state officials.
The drugs cans be injected and snorted.
But regulating the distribution of these drugs is difficult, Bottei explained. Much like K2, a synthetic version of marijuana, and “bath salts,” legislation cannot keep up with changing compounds.
Bottei compared synthetic drugs to the Mr. Potato Head toy — the backbone of the compound remains the same but smaller components easily are switched to change the drug entirely as far as the law is concerned.
“It’s now a new distinct chemical, he said, “and they can keep making changes to it.”
The Iowa Poison Control Center advises hospital and emergency medical service personnel to treat a U-47700 overdose the same as that of any other opioid overdose, maintaining airway and ventilation, and using naloxone in an emergency situation.
Iowans with questions about synthetic opioids can contact the Iowa Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222.