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No issues in Columbia yet with drug stronger than fentanyl

File photo of a DEA evidence bag.
File photo of a DEA evidence bag.


A drug more lethal than fentanyl has potential to grow and spread across the country.

According to Forbes and CNN, nitazenes are a class of synthetic opioids similar to fentanyl but can be much stronger and more fatal. Nitazenes were made by researchers in the 1950s as an alternative to morphine, but due to there being a high risk of overdoses, the drug was never released, according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.

Columbia Police Department spokesman Christian Tabak said the department is aware of nitazenes, but has not had any issues locally.

Drug Enforcement Agency Agent Bryce Herkert said nitazenes started making its appearance at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It certainly represents a significant public threat just really because of the potential for abuse. We're seeing it more and more often throughout the country. In fact, we've seen it in 48 out of 50 states already," Herkert said.

Herkert said that it is a low-cost drug that is being shipped predominantly from China. He also said naloxone -- also known by its namebrand Narcan -- can reverse overdose effects.

It is difficult to know how many deaths nitazenes have caused. Local medical examiners have certain panels they use to identify fentanyl, and they may not be aware that they would need to order a separate panel to test for nitazenes, according to Herkert.

"I suspect in many of the cases, because it is presents itself similar to to fentanyl and xylophone and other things, they may not be aware that netizens has been mixed in, whether it's in pill form or mixed in with, you know, methamphetamines, cocaine, heroin, whatever. The other dangerous drugs may be," Herkert said. "So the true number of deaths simply is unknown and is likely to remain unknown for some time."

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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Jazsmin Halliburton


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