Isotonitazene: A New Synthetic Opioid Causing Overdose Deaths in Indiana

by | May 23, 2020 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Opioid addiction continues to be a serious public health concern in Indiana, where the rate of painkiller prescriptions and overdose deaths are significantly higher than national averages. New reports from Indiana say that a new synthetic opioid called isotonitazene is circulating the streets and causing accidental overdoses in residents who are struggling with opioid addiction.

Here’s a closer look at what isotonitazene is, why it’s dangerous, and where you can find detox and drug rehab treatment if you live in Indiana and need help fighting opioid addiction.

What Is Isotonitazene?

Isotonitazene is derived from a powerful opioid called etonitazene. Etonitazene was first identified during the mid-1950s and is about 60 times more potent than morphine. The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) reports that etonitazene is not used in humans due to its propensity for causing respiratory depression. Therefore, the use of etonitazene in humans is banned and illegal all over the world.

A report from the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education (CFSRE) suggests that the potency of isotonitazene is similar to or greater than that of fentanyl. In 2018, 713 overdose deaths in Indiana involved synthetic opioids like isotonitazene for a rate of 11.5 deaths per 100,000 persons compared with the national rate of 9.9, reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In May 2020, USA Today reported that isotonitazene was detected in the blood of people who had recently died of overdoses in Indiana and Illinois and that the drug had been mixed with cocaine.

Why Is Isotonitazene Dangerous?

Isotonitazene is dangerous because it can cause a near-instant overdose like fentanyl. Additionally, this drug is said to be just as potent or more potent than fentanyl. The NIDA reports that the number of overdoses in the U.S. involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl increased nearly 12-fold between 2012 and 2018. In 2018, an estimated 31,335 overdose deaths in the U.S. were caused by synthetic opioids, which represented 46.5 percent of the total overdose deaths that occurred that year.

Law enforcement officials say that isotonitazene is being manufactured overseas — mainly in China — where the manufacturing of synthetic fentanyl was recently banned. Isotonitazene is legal to export from China, which is partly why its use is becoming more widespread in the U.S.

Why Are People Using Isotonitazene?

Many people who are using isotonitazene are doing so unknowingly. This designer drug has been found pressed into tablets that resemble other less potent opioids and is also being added to cocaine and heroin supplies. Dealers can buy isotonitazene in bulk at a low cost from China, and mix it into their drug supplies to save money. Adding isotonitazene to drug supplies can also get users “hooked” and addicted more easily to keep them coming back for more, given this synthetic opioid is extremely potent and works faster than other opioids to increase tolerance and dependence.

An aforementioned report from the NIDA states that in 2018, Indiana prescribers wrote 65.8 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons, while the average national rate was significantly lower at 51.4 prescriptions. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that in 2018, an estimated two million people in the U.S. had an opioid use disorder. Many with opioid use disorder who can no longer obtain legal prescriptions eventually resort to buying opioids on the streets, which exposes them to dangerous drugs like isotonitazene.

Where to Find Detox for Opioid Dependence

Medical detox is an addiction treatment that helps people safely withdraw from opioids while experiencing less discomfort from symptoms. Opioid detox is available at many inpatient residential rehab centers where patients can be monitored closely as they go through withdrawal. Medications are often used to reduce and relieve symptoms, and to help patients feel as comfortable as possible during detox.

Bridges of Hope offers opioid detox and a variety of drug rehab programs for opioid addiction. Call us at 765-358-7320 today for more information.