The opioid abuse epidemic continues to impact cities throughout Florida, including Fort Myers and its neighboring communities. Now, another new type of substance has been introduced and is adding to the enormity of the problem.
Commonly known to those who abuse the substance as “U4,” “pinky,” and “pink,” U-47700 is a powerful synthetic opioid that is said to be nearly eight times stronger than the prescription painkiller, morphine. CNN reporter, Max Blau, explained that the original purpose of U-47700 was to serve as a substitute for morphine. However, the drug was never tested on humans and therefore never received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As such, it was never made available on the market and, instead, continued to be classified as a research chemical.
When It Became a Problem
Despite the fact that U-47700 never officially became available on the market, and, as a result, was never distributed to hospitals and physicians to serve as a legitimate substitute for morphine, the drug quickly became available via the internet. Manufacturers and drug cartels in the international drug market, predominantly in China, became aware of the chemical composition of U-47700 and began formulating it themselves in various types of underground laboratories and then selling it online.
Because possession of the substance is legal in the majority of the United States, these online sales and subsequent shipments are not necessarily considered illicit. However, because of the ways in which the substance is formulated within foreign laboratories, buyers can never be certain of what chemical components are included in the final product that they receive. Tragically, some of these concoctions can prove to be deadly.
In September of 2016, NMS Labs, which is a provider of forensic toxicology services, reported that the consumption of U-47700 has been directly responsible for more than 80 fatalities in the U.S. during the last nine months.
Florida Becomes One of the First States to Ban U-47700
Following the U-47700-related deaths of individuals in Florida’s Pinellas County, which is approximately a two hour drive from Fort Myers, as well as deaths in the Panhandle and in Orange County, Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, issued an emergency order outlawing this drug in the state. Under this new law, if individuals are found to be in possession of U-47700, they could face punishment in the form of a third-degree felony, which can carry a jail sentence of up to five years. This makes Florida one of only four states to have banned U-47700, following Georgia, Wyoming, and Ohio.
In order to combat the continued problem of opioid abuse and addiction in Fort Myers, Lee County, and throughout the rest of the state of Florida, local treatment centers must remain abreast of any information that is provided regarding the distribution and use of U-47700. By remaining aware of how the drug is affecting communities, these treatment centers can be more effective in offering individuals the assistance that they need.