Responding to an “imminent threat to public health and safety,” the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has added another horrifying drug to the schedule I list of controlled substances. U-47700 is a novel synthetic opioid, and its use parallels that of heroin, prescription pain relievers, and other, more exotic opioids.
In the announcement, the DEA stated that it “received reports of at least 46 confirmed fatalities associated with U-47700. 31 of those fatalities occurred in New York and 10 in North Carolina. From October 2015 to September 2016, DEA received 88 reports from state and local forensic laboratories of U-47700 submissions.”
The emergence of new or previously unused synthetic drugs continues to create serious problems for law enforcement and addiction professionals. In September, the DEA issued a severe warning about the elephant tranquilizer Carfentanil. Most synthetic opioids like U-47700 or Carfentanil come to the U.S. from labs in China via Mexico but they can also be produced locally using recipes found on the internet.
The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (UNODC) estimates that “new psychoactive substances” (NPS) are emerging globally at an approximate rate of one a week.
According to the latest UNODC’s World Drug Report, “The NPS market continues to be characterized by the large number of new substances being reported. Although data collection for 2015 is still in progress, 75 new substances have been reported to UNODC for the first time, compared with a total of only 66 new substances reported in 2014.”
With that many new substances becoming available so frequently and often with unknown properties, a comprehensive assessment of a substance use disorder and an evaluation of treatment options are becoming ever more complicated.