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Washington DC Sees Overdoses From New, Potent Opioids

Opioids that are stronger than the deadly drug fentanyl are the cause of a spate of overdoses in Washington DC. The drugs, called protonitazene and isotonitazene, were found to be several times more potent than fentanyl. Fentanyl has been responsible for a series of overdose deaths in the past two years. Fentanyl is said to be over one hundred times as strong as morphine. For inexperienced users, exposure or use results in deadly overdoses.

These new drugs, called nitazenes, are passed off as other opioids, are even more potent, and likely cause an overdose.

Who Found These Nitazenes?

The District of Columbia has a lab that frequently monitors the contents of drugs anonymously.

“The DFS Public Health Lab discovered two nitazenes — synthetic opioids — in used syringes submitted to the lab as part of the District’s Needle Exchange Program. Studies show nitazenes are more potent than fentanyl, which means additional doses of Naloxone may be needed to treat overdoses,” a spokesperson for the DC Department of Forensic Sciences said in a statement to The Hill.

These same drugs were also found in needles at the sites of overdoses, where first responders used multiple canisters of naloxone to reverse the overdoses.

Where Do These Nitazines Come From?

When a new drug comes upon the street scene, it’s usually from China, where prescription drug manufacture is barely regulated. Recently, China banned the manufacture of Oxycontin and Fentanyl. So it makes sense that drug companies in China are now hawking different products. Dealers usually import them via marketplaces on the dark web.

Most drugs that come from China are not tested on humans, and there is a trend of China using formulas from expired drug patents. Most of the patents, it’s important to note, expired and were never sold legally. Usually, this is because of a side effect of the drug or it simply not providing the pain relief it was meant to.

These drugs were formulated in the 1950s, and the company that invented them never sent them to market. There is no legal, medical use for them anywhere in the world, according to a DEA Bulletin put on in June 2021.