A New Synthetic Opioid Is Killing American Drug Users 

But we can't ban our way out of the research chemical problem.


A new culprit has surfaced in America's seemingly endless game of opioid Whac-A-Mole: the research chemical isotonitazene. The drug, which has no approved clinical uses, began appearing in autopsy reports in the U.S. within the last year, likely as a result of efforts to curtail the importation of illicit fentanyl.

"Isotonitazene is the most persistent and prevalent new opioid in the U.S.," forensic toxicologist Barry K. Logan told Vice in March. Logan is now reportedly seeing "40 to 50 isotonitazene-related deaths per month in the U.S. compared to about six per month last summer."

In the November 2019 issue of Drug Testing and Analysis, Peter Blanckaert and his team at the Belgian Early Warning System on Drugs identified isotonitazene as a highly potent analog of a pain reliever called etonitazene, which was developed in the 1950s. Etonitazene is currently in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a category that is legally reserved for dangerous drugs with a high abuse potential and no accepted medical use. Isotonitazene is nevertheless sold online in undiluted form. Blanckaert et al. wrote that the drug "represents an imminent danger" to users.

Isotonitazene seems to have arrived in the United States following an aggressive global crackdown on illicitly made fentanyl. The timing makes sense: When governments focus their supply interdiction efforts on one substance, the market responds with alternatives.

Research chemicals are not inherently bad. Many are developed by academics and pharmaceutical companies searching for treatments that are more efficacious or have fewer side effects than drugs already on the market. But these experimental compounds are also a godsend for chemists looking to skirt bans with novel compounds that have not yet been added to the Controlled Substances Act.

We can't ban our way out of the research chemical problem. Drugs like isotonitazene and the various fentanyl analogs that have been killing Americans for years are synthesized from precursors that are also used to make approved medicines and other legal products. They can be produced in large quantities for less money than their plant-based analogs, and they also tend to be more potent than the drugs they mimic.

While isotonitazene might never be as popular as fentanyl, its presence in American communities is a troubling reminder that prohibition makes drug use more dangerous.

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  1. We can’t ban our way out of the research chemical problem.

    The answer is so freaking simple I came up with it while I was in high school. Ban chemistry.

    1. There are those trying to ban some parts of biology , so, you may be on to something.

    2. I mean, the science is settled, so why do we even need science anymore?

      1. Most SJW colleges/programs do not.

    3. Why stop there?

      Ban stupidity.

      1. No Child Left Behind, despite being a Republican proposed bill, did help to improve the educational achievements of many American students.

        1. Evidence? AFAICT, testing scores didn’t significantly improve, classroom curricula became worse (more focused on the test, and classes that weren’t math/english spent time reviewing those subjects instead of teaching their own), and it made worse a trend of teachers being unwilling to fail students.

  2. Just legalize all of it, FFS!

    Half the problem is created by the bans themselves, as is the case here. The other half is simple human nature: some people love extreme risk. Are you going to ban bridges and rooftops? Put speed limiters in every vehicle? Ban any sport with the potential for serious injury? Where does it end?

    None of us will live forever, so just let people live as they wish.

    1. Let people live (and die) as they wish?

      You must be joking. How can you deny the life purpose of every do-gooder, nanny-stater, authoritarian, SJW, shaman, brahmin, and conman?

      1. I have no problem with people who want to “save” others (be it from whatever.)

        So long as they do it on their own time, and their own dime.

    2. Would you PLEASE stop giving them ideas?

  3. You know, I would love to know where this is being manufactured. This article does not say, which I find….curious. Could it possibly be that the origin is a certain Far East Asia country in the news lately?

    This is separate and apart from the question of whether we should legalize drugs (which I believe we should, as a public health matter).

    1. Estonia. Krokodil (desomorphine} is similar in that Eastern Europeans do some crazy-ass drugs. They live in Eastern Europe – what’s the point of living if you’re stuck in Eastern Europe?

      1. I prefer women a little more full bodied, but I could still get used to the women there.


      2. Source? I’d think China and India.

        This is not similar to desomorphine. Desomorphine causes all those crazy effects from massive toxic contamination from kitchen labs, the synthetic fentanyl analogs or this would have to be made in serious labs.

      3. Estonia is part of Northern Europe. Please do not associate Estii with those Slavic savages.

    2. Uh …. anywhere?

      These drugs are so powerful that you don’t need to make tons of them, it doesn’t take a factory to make them, and the ingredients have other uses and cannot be banned without disrupting legit supply chains.

      1. Yeah, they are made via aniline synthesis. The some of the precursors are listed, and some are pretty toxic and carcinogenic.

        Not hard for organized crime to get listed precursors, but who would trust them to leave a clean product?

        1. Sounds like the product could be pretty deadly when clean… maybe especially when clean.

  4. To banned these things is not a solution, We have to find another way.

    1. Coupons for drugs? Count me in!

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  6. So. What’s the deal? Did ENB kill the links?

    1. Robby did the links today. You know what that means.

      1. Wow. That. Was. Amazing.

      2. 2016. nice.

  7. Blanckaert et al. wrote that the drug “represents an imminent danger” to users.

    I hear fish tank cleaner counteracts the effects.

    1. The federal government STILL adds methanol and other maiming/deadly poisons to untaxed ethanol despite over 100 years of piling up corpses and paying out blindness disability claims. Does anyone honestly believe the looter kleptocracy here gives a rat’s ace how many people it kills via prohibitionism and tax extortion? Voting GOP or Dem makes you an accessory to these deliberate murders.

      1. Wow. That. Was. Amazing.

  8. A ban would not work of course. People are far too stupid to pay attention and those addicted ignore them anyway. Frankly a drug that kills its users is probably best to get rid of the useless surplus that would be on welfare anyway.

  9. Yet another chemical they can focus on interdicting and further justify the DEA’s existence!

    1. Hey, hey, DEA, how many kids did you kill today?

  10. People Have no clue about this severe situation. Everybody is looking for a solution.

  11. Most normal people dislike opiates. Double-blind test results reported in “Drugs and The Mind” by DeRopp showed as much. Mildly insane people enjoy the stuff, and worse things can happen than for crazy people to get hold of drugs that tranquilize. In an unregulated market, normal folks prefer things like mescaline, the lethal dose of which is something like a teacup-full–way more than anyone ever took accidentally. It the kleptocracy were to stop poisoning ethanol the concern feigned by looter politicians would seem less ghastly in its hypocrisy.

  12. More like “American drug users are killing themselves by using new opioid”

    And no i’m not saying drug users deserve to die, what i am saying is that people dying by virtue of their own decisions isn’t something i lose sleep over.

  13. If you’re stupid enough to just take whatever white pill or powder some crook on the street will sell you, then you deserve whatever you get for doing it.

    1. personally i don’t see the huge downside to having people prone to opiate addiction self-selecting themselves out of the gene pool

    2. “If you’re stupid enough to just take whatever white pill or powder some crook on the street will sell you, then you deserve whatever you get for doing it.”

      Yeah, just disregard the fact that the gubmint creates the situation because it’s totally irrelevant. The gubmint needs to get serious about this and declare a war on these substances so this does not continue for 50 years.

  14. GOOD who cares. Anyone dumb enough to do opioids deserves to be darwinized. I’ve drank plenty of vino, brews, snorted coke & crank. Also smoked gange, freebased, dropped LSD, eaten shrooms & plenty of X……. IN MODERATION.
    Yet I never did painkillers or anything opioid based cuz that garbage is bad news.
    A man’s gotta know his limitations.

    1. “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”
      Damn right, Callahan.
      You know I smoked a lot of grass
      Oh lord I popped a lot of pills
      But I never touched nothin
      that my spirit could kill
      You know I’ve seen a lot of people
      walking around with tombstone in their eyes
      But the pusher don’t care, ah
      if you live or if you die
      God damn hmm the pusher
      god damn hey I say the pusher
      I say god damn god damn the pusherman
      Well lord if I were the president
      of this land you know I’d declare
      total war on the pusherman
      I’d cut him if he stands and
      I shoot him if he’d run and
      I’d kill him with my bible
      and my razor and my gun
      god damn aww the pusher.
      god damn… the pusher.
      I said god damn, god damn the pusher man


  15. “While isotonitazene might never be as popular as fentanyl, its presence in American communities is a troubling reminder that prohibition makes drug use more dangerous.”

    I don’t support prohibition, but the above argument makes no sense at all. If prohibition on the incredibly dangerous fentanyl results it’s replacement by the equally dangerous isotonitazene, then it’s a wash. It’s not making drug use *more* dangerous.

    I think goal of government should be to eliminate the criminal black market that flourishes because of drug use and prohibition. It’s not even a enough to legalize drugs, government should actually intervene and supply the drugs at a lower price than any black market drugs, even to the point of giving the drugs away. The goal is put the dealers, the cartels, and the Latin American narco politicians completely out of business. The result would be much, much less crime and fewer immigrants from the narco-corrupted failed states south of our border. Imagine having a stable, functioning Mexico as a neighbor.

    1. The gubmint can’t give anything without first taking it from someone else…and causing wealth to evaporate into the redundant redundancy of bureaucracy. Just get the gubmint out of the drug game by decriminalization. What are you even doing on a libertarian site? Isn’t there a “sucking big daddy government’s titty” site you could be on?

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