New Synthetic Opioids Hard to Detect in Overdose Toxicology Reports

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New Synthetic Opioids Hard to Detect in Overdose Toxicology Reports

According to toxicology experts, new forms of synthetic opioids are making their way onto the streets, and they may be very difficult for coroners to detect.

Many of these new synthetic opioids are fentanyl derivatives, but not all. Some are entirely new chemical compounds. Some experts estimate there may be as many as 15 different synthetic opioid drugs available.

For example, U-47700 is a synthetic opioid developed in the 1970s, but was never indicated for use on humans. It is 7.5 times more powerful than morphine, and has recently become a problem in Ohio, the only state in the country currently in the process of making it illegal.

The problem with detection occurs because ingredients are rapidly changing, and coroners and toxicologists have n way to know what they should be looking for in a victim’s system. It must be identified in a certified manner, and guessing is not an option.

For example, there have been a few recent cases where all physical evidence pointed to an overdose, and yet the urine and blood samples tested came back negative for drugs.

Why So Many Synthetic Opioids?

Well, synthetic opiates/opioids are not exactly new. However, there a few different reasons why drug manufacturers and dealers have recently began using different chemicals in their formulations

One, different compositions may result in a increase in amount of product rendered. Moreover, manufacturers are also looking for ways to make their product easier and cheaper to synthesize. That is, if they can get away with using fentanyl instead of heroin, and it is less expensive to produce, they are going to do it.

And finally, changing chemicals can help dealers stay ahead of detection, drug laws, and prosecution.

The Statistics

Opioid overdose has become a major cause of death in the United States. According to an official report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more Americans died of drug overdoses in 2014 than any year previously – and many of those were related to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl or heroin.

Also, there are now more drug overdose deaths in the U.S. than motor vehicle crash fatalities.

Since 2000, the rate of deaths by opioid overdose has doubled. The significant increase in deaths related to opioids has coincided with reports of the increased availability of street-manufactured fentanyl. And unfortunately, illicit fentanyl can not be distiguished from prescription fentanyl in a toxicology report.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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