Poison experts are warning North Texans about a potentially dangerous recreational drug, U-47700, that made its inaugural appearance locally with nearly deadly consequences last week.
Toxicologists at the North Texas Poison Center located at Parkland Health and Hospital in Dallas continue to sound the alarms about this synthetic designer drug following an incident where four individuals in the Dallas area snorted the white, powdery synthetic heroin substance at a party. Two of them wound up in an undisclosed hospital. One of these two unidentified people landed in the intensive care unit (ICU) and is lucky to be alive.
On Monday, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported that while two of the four individuals were hospitalized after partying with U-47700, the other two had no adverse reactions to the white, powdery substance that resembles cocaine. Although the drug looks like cocaine, people who take U-47700 do not get a cocaine-like buzz. The manmade compound is similar to heroin or morphine. People who take it experience the effects of heroin or other opiates.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) describe heroin’s effects as an initial “rush” or surge of an intense pleasurable sensation accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and a heavy feeling in the extremities which may include nausea, vomiting, and severe itching. Later, drowsiness kicks in, clouding mental function. It also slows down a person’s heart rate and breathing. This can lead to coma, permanent brain damage, or death.
The North Texas Poison Center calls that slowdown respiratory depression, or hypoventilation, a life-threatening condition where a person’s breathing becomes too slow or shallow to sustain the body.
Speaking to KERA 13 (PBS) North Texas Poison Center toxicologist Dr. Joann Schulte said: “If you have respiratory depression, meaning if you don’t breathe, you end up dead,” adding that the person”admitted into intensive care unit was found blue in what is called agonal respiration, meaning taking your last breaths.”
U-47700 is not new, though. Created in the 197o’s by pharmaceutical giant Upjohn as research drug, the synthetic heroin was not meant for human consumption. In a press release, the North Texas Poison Center says U-47700 is over seven and a half times more potent than morphine. Schulte explained that people usually get opioids in the form of prescription drugs or they buy them as heroin on the street.
The use of natural opiates and laboratory-produced opioids continues to gain popularity through websites and online drug forums. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta reported that synthetic opioid drug overdose death rates nearly doubled between 2013 and 2014. This includes prescription synthetic opioids like methadone and illegally made synthetic opioids.
Another North Texas Poison Center toxicologist, Dr. Kristina Domanski, stated in the press release: “Overdose deaths have been reported in Europe and both Sweden and Finland have made U-47700 illegal.” She added: “You never really know what you are buying when you purchase something online, especially from an overseas vendor.”
Schulte called the recent incident “particularly worrisome” because the manmade opiate was purchased online, presenting the internet as a way to obtain a very dangerous drug. She told the Fort Worth newspaper the perils of someone not knowing what they get when they buy U-47700 from a website may also mean “sometimes the compound is mixed with other chemicals such as insecticides and strychnine.” She stated:“When you get something like this over the internet — you don’t know exactly what it is.”
North Texas Poison Center health experts urge people to avoid this drug and any other recreational drug sold online. According to their press release, U.S. advertisements for U-47700 reflect prices ranging from $65 to $200. In a search of online vendors, Breitbart Texas found one that showed a gram of U-47700 at $125 and 5 grams at $500.
“No matter how you want to party — I don’t think anyone wants to die,” Schulte noted.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.