A new synthetic opioid that is not detected in standard toxicology screenings has been linked to overdose deaths in three midwestern states, according to a Cincinnati Enquirer report published by USA Today.
The drug, called isotonitazene, comes in a white or off-white powder form or is pressed into counterfeit opioid pills. It is derived from etonitazene, an opioid first identified in the 1950s that is illegal. The new synthetic, however, is not currently on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s controlled substances list.
Isotonoitazene was detected in an overdose death in Peoria County, Illinois in December 2019. The county coroner says a preliminary toxicology screening showed no matches to known opioids. An expanded screening revealed the presence of the new synthetic.
“We should always be anticipating a new version of a drug,” Newtown, Ohio, police chief Tom Synan told the Enquirer.
“We will always be reacting when it comes to changes in the drug supply. It's why we have to make sure we have the resources needed to keep people alive and connect them to services—so that we can reduce deaths and reduce harm.”