United States: A powerful synthetic opioid called nitazene analogues in synthetic form was identified in five fatal overdoses in Philadelphia in the last two years, while the officer also suspects the threat of the presence of these drugs in other dozens of fatal overdoses cases as reported by the Philadelphia medical examiner’s office. 

Nitazenes is a group of drugs 40 times more powerful than fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid much stronger than heroin that causes most fatal overdoses in Philadelphia. 

The high number of Deaths due to nitazenes OD 

There is a record number of 1,413 people who died due to consuming illegal or legal drugs in overdosed quantities, as shown by 2022 statistics. 

Moreover, as per the reports, the deaths linked to overdose of nitazene have been on the rise, revealing the rising toxic presence of illegal drugs in the Philadelphia market, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. 

As per the city health department, the first case of nitazene analogue detection in drug samples took place in December 2022. Since then, the city health officers have been working to determine the spread of the drug in Philadelphia’s drug supply chain. 

Heath warnings issued by Medical officers 

The health warning posted by city officials last month alerted medical care providers to identify various cases of nitazene analogues in overdose victims since the last month of 2022. 

However, it is not easy to calculate the exact number of people who died from OD of nitazene since the cases of the drug started showing up in the city, as per Daniel Teixeira da Silva, the medical director of the city health department’s division of substance use prevention and harm reduction. 

The reason for that, as given by the officers, is due to the presence of various kinds of nitazenes identified in a number of drug samples in the city. Moreover, it cannot determine the amount of drug circulating in the drug chain, which has been making it difficult for medical experts to know which to look for in a toxicology test. 

According to Teixeira, the medical examiners of Philadelphia have started testing nitazene analogues in overdose deaths, but many communities resist giving tests for such tests at all. 

US is Facing Rising OD Deaths from Powerful Synthetic Opioid, Nitazene Analogues.
US is Facing Rising OD Deaths from Powerful Synthetic Opioid, Nitazene Analogues.

Presence of nitazene analogue – N-desethyl isotonitazene 

The health department reasons that the nitazene variant – N- desethyl isotonitazene – was present among 12 of the overdose deaths in Philadelphia between the months of November- and December of 2022. 

Aside from the aforementioned nitazene analogues, two other nitazene counterparts were found in a deceased individual who committed suicide in June 2023. And then in the past December, the health department also found a fourth analogue in four people who OD’ed and died, as well as two other “traumatic causes of death,” stated the health department. 

Some of the cases also revealed that addicts were taking drug overdoses of other drugs, like fentanyl and xylazine, and others were involved in drug addiction cases, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. 

It is yet unknown whether the drugs were a custom blend by dealers prior to the sale or if the consumers combined them knowingly, health officials say. 

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