Drug 40 Times Stronger Than Fentanyl Plagues Philadelphia
An evidence bag containing seized heroin at the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Evidence Facility in Daytona Beach, Florida, US, on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. The rise of fentanyl has brought on the most dangerous phase yet in the USs decades-long opioid epidemic, causing a surge in overdose deaths and crippling efforts to end a devastating addiction crisis. Photographer: Thomas Simonetti/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A class of drugs even deadlier than fentanyl has contributed to a growing number of deaths in Philadelphia.

Synthetic opioids called nitazene analogues, can be 40 times more powerful than fentanyl, have been connected to at least five deaths in the city, and a dozen more deaths may be attributed to the deadly drugs.

“The health department suspects that a nitazene analogue known as N-desethyl isotonitazene was present in 12 overdose deaths in Philadelphia between November and December 2022,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.  Two other nitazene analogues were identified in an overdose victim who died in June 2023.

Although the drug naloxone can be used to reverse the effects of fentanyl,  the normal dose of naloxone may not be enough to combat the effects of nitazenes.

Nitazenes apparently cause withdrawal symptoms so intense that sufferers are not able to bear waiting for inpatient treatment. “Often in Philadelphia, people looking to enter inpatient treatment must first go through an intake process that can take hours and sometimes days, researchers at Jefferson University Hospital found in a recent study,” the Inquirer noted.

“Someone who’s dependent on a very toxic drug supply has a very small window in which they feel well enough to even consider treatment,” Daniel Teixeira da Silva, the medical director of the city health department’s division of substance use prevention and harm reduction, said. “It’s really a vicious cycle, and this just makes it worse.”


The U.S. Department of Justice stated in January of nitazenes, also known as Benzimidazole-Opioids, “Recently, a number of synthetic substances of the benzimidazole structural class are being trafficked and abused for their opioid-like effects. … The population likely to abuse benzimidazole-opioids appears to be the same as those abusing prescription opioid analgesics, heroin, and other synthetic opioid substances. … In the illicit drug market, some of these benzimidazole-opioids have been identified in drug seizures. … Since 2019, there have been over 4,300 reports of benzimidazole-opioids to NFLIS-Drug. … With no approved medical use, the positive identification of these substances in toxicology cases underscore the public health threat associated with their presence in the illicit drug market.”

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