The street drug alarming physicians that's 10x more potent than fentanyl

Nitazenes, a group of highly potent, synthetic drugs made in the 1950s as opioid analgesics, are becoming more commonly used in street drugs. In some cases, it can even be 10 times more potent than fentanyl.

After being developed, nitazenes were never approved to go to market or for medical use. As a result, “in the street drug supply, nitazenes are often found mixed with fentanyl or other agents, but their presence is not always disclosed to drug buyers, who may not even be familiar with nitazenes,” according to a June 2023 study published in Cureus. “These drugs pose a particular challenge since there is little experience in how to reverse a nitazene overdose or potential drug-drug or drug-alcohol interactions.”

Since 2019, there have been 2,400 reports of nitazenes in drug-seizures by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Diversion Control Division.

“The nitazenes can make [a drug mix] stronger than fentanyl,” Anthony Salisbury, the special agent in charge of the Homeland Security Investigations field office in South Florida, told The Washington Post in a Dec. 10 report. “As if we needed something stronger than fentanyl.” 

While Naloxone can reverse nitazene overdoses, it can be complicated when patients or clinicians do not realize they have been taken. A small study published in August 2023 in JAMA found that patients who had nitazenes in their system often needed more Naloxone to be revived than individuals who had overdosed on fentanyl alone. 

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