Meet The Pink — An Opioid Drug That Has Killed 80 In Nine Months

Pink, better known by chemists as U-47700, is eight times stronger than heroin, and is part of a family of deadly synthetic opioids, all of them more potent than heroin. It is mostly made up of the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl.

It’s been linked with many overdoses, most recently causing deaths of two 13-year-old boys in the ski town of Park City, Utah, who died within 48 hours of each other in September. What’s more shocking is that it is legal in all states except just four.

The drug can be legally delivered to people’s homes by the mail service after placing an order online. The synthetic drug can easily be ordered online and can go for as low as 5$ plus shipping charges.

The drug has been popular in many Asian countries for quite some time, and is directly imported to US from China and other countries. The distinct ‘pink’ or slightly purplish hue of the drug comes from the way it is cut or processed.

Ryan Ainsworth was found dead in his home in Park City, unresponsive on his couch, just after 48 hours of his best friend Grant Seaver’s passing away. According to investigators the death toll could have been much higher due to the drug being casually discussed on social media.

According to Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter’s quote to NBC News, “This stuff is so powerful that if you touch it, you could go into cardiac arrest. The problem is if you have a credit card and a cell phone, you have access to it.”

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), total opioid overdose deaths nearly quadrupled between 1999 and 2014, rising from 8,050 to 28,647. The portion of those deaths caused by synthetic opioids, however, rose almost twice as fast, from just 730 in 1999 to 5,544 in 2014.

A heroin overdose can cause slow and shallow breathing, coma and death. People often use heroin along with other drugs or alcohol. One of the most popular concoction is speedball which is the mixture of heroin with cocaine or morphine.

This provides the intense euphoric rush with the high characteristics of both drugs without negative effects such as anxiety. Such a practice is especially dangerous because it increases the risk of overdose.

Heroin is typically injected but is also smoked and snorted. When people inject heroin, they are at risk of serious, long-term viral infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and C as well as bacterial infections of the skin, bloodstream and heart. These diseases arise not directly because of the drug but rather because of the needles they use are often infected and shared among users.

Heroin is highly addictive drug derived from morphine, an opioid. Opioids are a family of naturally occurring chemicals found in the seeds of some opium plants better known as poppy plants. Morphine, a powerful painkiller and a prescription drug, is then reprocessed and refined to produce heroin, chemically diacetylmorphine, which is a white crystalline powder.

Opioids produce their action on three neuroreceptors — mu, delta and kappa – with heroin having high affinity at mu receptors. This leads to triggering a chain of reactions, and releases an excess of dopamine which causes the characteristic high which makes it so addictive.

Since there are so many drugs and synthetic illicit substances constantly popping up on the market, there is a lack of definitive toxicology reports with a high possibility of deaths being mistakenly linked to other substances.

But in the case of pink, 80 deaths across the country in just the past nine months have been linked to this lethal drug. This figure is based on NMS Labs, which conducts forensic toxicology tests, and is based out of Pennsylvania.

In 2014, 26 overdoses were linked to pink heroin in Lorain County, Ohio, in a 72-hour period. Moreover, the drug is reported to be less responsive to the overdose reversal drug Narcan [naloxone].

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is aware of the deaths caused by pink in the states of  New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. According to DEA’s own official records, the death tolls are 15 but in reality the number is much higher due to delay in reporting and recording.

On September 7th, the DEA took steps toward banning the drug nationally by giving notice of its intent to schedule the synthetic opioid temporarily as a Schedule 1 substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, which allows it to regulate the illicit drugs placed on that list. Other Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, MDMA, LSD, Ecstasy, GHB Mescaline, Psilocybiz, Methaqualone (Quaalude), Khat (Cathinone), Bath Salts and marijuana.

Some states did not want to wait for a decision of a permanent federal ban. In late September, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi signed an emergency order outlawing the drug after it was tied to eight deaths in recent months. Florida joins Ohio, Wyoming and Georgia in outlawing the compound and other states are quickly following the suit.

The U-47700 ban allows DEA 3 years to research whether something should be permanently controlled or whether it should revert back to non-controlled status.

The opioid epidemic has gotten so out of hands that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had to approve a subdermal (a patch placed under the skin) buprenorphine skin implant for the treatment of opioid dependence. They announced their decision on May 26th, 2016.

As part of a new drug treatment program, chemists have designed probuphine as a method for low dosage buprenorphine delivery for six months in patients who have shown stability while on mild to moderate dosage of the drug. This decision was reached after an independent FDA advisory committee supported the approval of probuphine in a meeting held earlier this year.

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