While misuse of opioids remains a serious threat in the U.S., not all opioids get equal attention. One opioid you may not have heard of yet is nitazene. Nitazene is a synthetic opioid with similarities to fentanyl and carfentanil. If you suspect a loved one has been misusing opioids, it’s helpful to add this unapproved drug to your awareness of substances. Keep reading to learn more about the dangers of nitazene and how to recognize if someone you know might be using it.
Nitazenes are not new, even though you may be unfamiliar with the name. One reason is this medication has never been approved for use in the United States. It’s considered more dangerous than fentanyl, which routinely makes headlines due to overdose deaths. If you suspect someone you know is using Nitazene or you see evidence of it, it’s important to get them into a medical detox followed up by a treatment program. In treatment, they can address their opioid misuse and learn the strategies needed to make healthy choices while in recovery.
What Is Nitazene?
The name is short for isotonitazene and sometimes the drug gets referred to as ISO. Nitazenes are highly potent, illegal synthetic opioids that have been related to overdose deaths in numerous jurisdictions across the country. They were first developed roughly six decades ago as a potential pain reliever medicine, but they have never been approved for use in the United States. As they are considered more potent than fentanyl, heroin, and morphine, even one-time use of them creates a serious risk.
How Would I Recognize Nitazene?
“ISO” powder can appear yellow, brown, or off-white in hue. In DEA forensic laboratories, the drug has shown up mixed with heroin and/or fentanyl. Also, it has been found in counterfeit pills and marketed as pharmaceutical medication. In these cases, people may believe they are taking oxycodone or hydromorphone and be unaware of the potency of the nitazenes hidden in what they’re taking.
What Are Nitazene’s Uses?
It’s important to emphasize that nitazene has no authorized use in the United States. No healthcare professionals are prescribing it, and no pharmacies offer it for sale. With that in mind, It has a rapid onset and lasts a relatively short period of time. These characteristics can make it appealing to use more frequently. Like other opioids, nitazene works by affecting the brain in ways that relieve pain and provide pleasure. Other side effects can include sedation, a sense of euphoria, and respiratory depression.
Risks of Using Nitazene
Like any unregulated drug, it’s virtually impossible to tell the purity of nitazene or what it’s been mixed with, if anything. It can be combined with other drugs and consumed by someone who doesn’t know they are consuming it. As supplies of the drug can come into the U.S. from other countries, there is always a risk that the drug product has been manufactured in facilities that make using it more harmful. In data reported by the DEA and collected by the CDC, 75% of deaths related to overdose involved the use of a synthetic opioid. Origins’ Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. John Dyben, DHSc, MCAP, CMHP, emphasizes the risks of nitazene use in this way:
“We should all be concerned about the growing prevalence of the synthetic opioids known as nitazenes. They are generally more powerful than fentanyl and is being mixed into street drugs. Many of us remember fentanyl being a drug spoken about in rare instances before it exploded on the scene to take untold numbers of human life. There is nothing to suggest that we will not see a similar increase in nitazenes in time. Unfortunately, we will see more and more people overdosing, needing multiple interventions and we’ll see an increase in deaths, which is the saddest thing.”
Florida’s Response to Nitazenes
In 2022, Florida’s Attorney General filed an emergency order to add eight deadly synthetic opioids, categorized as nitazenes, to the Schedule I of controlled substances in Florida. Overdose deaths are a significant factor in this rule. The order made it a felony for anyone to possess, sell, manufacture, or deliver any of the eight nitazenes on the list.
The Eight Nitazenes Added to Controlled Substance List
N-pyrrolidino etonitazene—10x more potent than fentanyl
Etodesnitazene—Up to 10x more potent than fentanyl
Isotonitazene—5x more potent than fentanyl
Protonitazene—2x more potent than fentanyl
Metonitazene—Equipotent to fentanyl
Butonitazene—20x less potent than fentanyl
Metodesnitazene—100x less potent than fentanyl
Flunitazene—100x less potent than fentanyl
Finding Help for Synthetic Opioid Use at Origins Recovery Center
Synthetic opioid abuse can lead to addiction and other harmful consequences. There are, however, effective treatments available to assist individuals in overcoming their addiction and regaining control of their life. Here are some ways that treatment at Origins Recovery Center can help you get into recovery from nitazene use.
Detoxification: Under medical supervision, you can safely experience withdrawal from synthetic opioids, become stabilized, have medical needs met, and prepare for treatment to follow.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): We use this evidence-based treatment approach that combines medication and behavioral therapy to help individuals manage their addiction and reduce cravings.
Individual and Group Therapy: Therapy can be effective for addressing the psychological and emotional aspects of opioid use, helping you understand what led you to abuse drugs, developing healthy coping skills, and learning to manage cravings.
Holistic Therapies: We offer yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and more as a helpful way to connect with your mind and body, manage stress, and invest in your overall well-being during recovery.
Continuing Care: We believe what follows treatment is equally important and help you plan for aftercare as a way to maintain your sobriety long-term through ongoing therapy, support groups, and other resources.