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Dangerous synthetic opioid nitazene discovered in Boulder

BOULDER, Colo. — Just as the Boulder County Coroner’s Office says it has seen a decrease in fentanyl-related deaths over the past year, they are now seeing the emergence of a class of synthetic opioids called nitazene .

There have already been two nitazene-related deaths in Boulder, according to the coroner. Dr. Jeremy Dubin, chief medical officer at the Front Range Clinic, said nitazenes can be 40 to 500 times more potent than fentanyl and morphine.

“We knew this was going to happen. So for those in treatment circles, this is the next drug besides fentanyl for people seeking opioids to be introduced into our community’s drug scene “, did he declare. “For the person experimenting, for the regular user, or even for the tolerant person who suffers from addiction, you may not get a second chance with this drug.”

In addition to being found in opioids like heroin, oxycodone and fentanyl, nitazenes are detected in stimulants such as cocaine, methamphetamines and counterfeit benzodiazepines, sedatives and ketamine, Dubin said.

He explained that nitazenes were first created in the 1950s, but were never accepted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for medical or veterinary use.

“It’s been very difficult to measure them, to detect them in the blood, and we’re still trying to get a handle on that,” Dubin said. “We don’t know how long it lasts in the blood. We don’t know how long it lasts in the urine.”

He added that nitazenes also don’t appear on test strips, so users can’t detect them themselves. With the emergence of these substances in Colorado, it is more crucial than ever to carry the overdose antidote, Narcan or naloxone, Dubin said.

“However, we don’t know how much naloxone that person might need. So it’s important that when someone … receives this antidote, they go to the hospital,” he said. “They might need more than one. They might need two, three and some life support in the hospital.”

He said nitazenes can be yellow, brown, gray or off-white powders. They are most commonly sold as heroin or fentanyl and can be smoked/inhaled, as well as used nasally or vaporized. Street names include hearse, atco, and “show and tell.”

Dubin said nitazenes first appeared in 2019 on the East Coast. Since then, they have been found in the Midwest, the South and now here in Colorado.


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