Synthetic drugs blamed in 19 NC deaths
Posted March 24, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — State health officials issued an alert Thursday for law enforcement officers and medical professionals to warn them of potent synthetic opioids following at least 19 deaths in North Carolina since the start of the year.
Authorities have linked four chemically similar drugs to the deaths, including acetyl fentanyl, which prompted a state health alert two years ago. The drugs are among a group of opiate-like drugs sometimes substituted for and sold on the street as heroin, and officials said people who knowingly or unknowingly use the drugs are at serious risk of death.
"The recreational use of synthetic drugs represents a major threat to public health," Dr. Deborah Radisch, the state's chief medical examiner, said in a statement. "It’s very important for medical professionals and law enforcement to be aware of these dangerous drugs and know that people they encounter who may have used these drugs could require specialized care and treatment."
None of the drugs is available by prescription in the United States, and officials said the 19 deaths span the state, indicating widespread use and availability.
Authorities also have found the research chemical U-47700 in some of the deaths. Research chemicals are drugs that are used in medical and scientific research and are not intended for human consumption.
"The use of research chemicals is a growing problem in North Carolina," Chief Toxicologist Ruth Winecker said in a statement. "In addition to U-47700, we have detected six other new research chemicals in North Carolina deaths in the last six months."