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Legal and stronger heroin substitute hits the streets

A legal loophole has made acetyl fentanyl a new “designer drug” of choice among distributors of heroin. Dr. John Stogner of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, North Carolina and colleagues warn that overdoses that appear to be heroin are actually acetyl fentanyl. The study was reported in the Aug. 18, 2014, edition of the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Police in New York City will be trained in the administration of naloxone and carry kits containing the drug.
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Acetyl fentanyl was discovered at the same time as fentanyl. Fentanyl is a known synthetic opioid that is controlled. The Controlled Substance Act designates acetyl fentanyl as an analogue of fentanyl but packaging that indicates the drug is not for human consumption evades the law. Acetyl fentanyl is considered to be 15 to 40 times as strong as heroin. The sale of acetyl fentanyl as a drug or "designer drug" has not been documented.

The purpose of the research is to get a head start on the recognition of acetyl fentanyl overdose to prevent deaths. Usually acetyl fentanyl is added to heroin. The combination has a stronger effect on users and produces a larger market for heroin. Acetyl fentanyl overdose responds to the same treatment as heroin overdose but requires larger amounts of naloxone to counteract an overdose.

Deaths as the result of acetyl fentanyl overdose began to be reported in 2012 and reached sufficient numbers to cause the Centers for Disease Control to issue an alert for overdoses connected with acetyl fentanyl in 2013 according to Forbes. More than 50 deaths have occurred in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. Deaths have also occurred in North Carolina according to Forbes.

The researchers recommend that acetyl fentanyl be reclassified as a narcotic that is illegal. The concept is to classify the drug based on the potential for the drug to cause harm. Gram per gram heroin is your best drug buy. The abuse of drugs is not going to disappear. The researchers suggest an approach that saves lives.