A New Synthetic Opioid Causing Major Concern

The opioid epidemic continues to rage throughout the country in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Isotonitazene (ISO), a new synthetic opioid more powerful than fentanyl, may be contributing to the addiction crisis and causing increasing overdose deaths in the United States. According to a new report, ISO is causing approximately 40-50 overdose deaths a month in 2020, compared with about six per month last summer.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a contributing factor in the emergence of ISO. Supply chains from Mexico, China and other countries have been disrupted due to the pandemic, and less heroin, cocaine and fentanyl have been getting into the country. Dealers are using more readily available synthetic drugs, which is dangerous for those who suffer from substance use disorder.

ISO is particularly concerning for a number of reasons. It was, until recently, able to be sold legally online in the United States. On June 18, the Drug Enforcement Administration placed Isotonitazene on its list of controlled substances. The U.S. has been cracking down on fentanyl, and drug dealers had been using ISO to fill the demand. ISO is more potent than fentanyl, which is 100 times more potent than morphine.

Another concerning aspect of ISO is that it does not trigger test strips that are utilized to screen for the presence of fentanyl in illicit drugs. Drug users may think that they are being safe by testing the drugs they are getting, but ISO will not show up when tested. Additionally, the potency of ISO may require more than the usual dose of naloxone to reverse a drug overdose. Individuals may need several doses of the antidote in order to be effective.

Sadly, we must always be ready and anticipate new versions of illicit drugs, especially during these trying times. The opioid epidemic continues to plague New Jersey and the rest of the nation, and we must remain vigilant in this fight to raise awareness about the dangers of substance abuse and encourage our youth to lead a healthy lifestyle free of drugs and alcohol. Visit the PDFNJ website to learn more about our free prevention initiatives.

Stay well.

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