There is a new and lethal drug creeping around the streets of Rhode Island. , an illegal synthetic opiate similar to morphine, is illegal and it is killing people and the number of deaths is climbing. In the past month alone there have been two deaths linked to this drug. The number of total deaths is now at 14. Department of Health Director, Michael Fine, M.D. said, “These numbers are extremely high. We get between 100 to 200 deaths a year from injectable drugs, so 14 over a couple of months from a single substance is way too high and any death from injectable drug use is a death too many.”
Acetyl fentanyl is being manufactured illegally. Acetyl fentanyl is not an FDA approved drug, and is not commercially available. This drug is most common amongst IV drug users. Fine said, “Many of the people who have died have been found with drug paraphernalia around them.” The number of IV drug abuse related deaths in Rhode Island is already at alarmingly high numbers with between one and two hundred deaths annually. In a statement issued last week, Fine said it is important for Rhode Islanders to understand that drug addiction is a serious disease for which help and treatment resources are available.
In Michigan there is a similar problem with Acetyl fentanyl, where on the streets it is being called “black shadow.” The results have been an increase in overdoses and death. Recently, over a two day period, eight people overdosed in Washtenaw County alone, including one person who died. Calls to the Poison Control Center have nearly doubled so far this year, with 27 heroin-related calls in May compared with 15 during the same time period in 2012.
Dr. Cynthia Aaron, medical director at the Michigan Poison Control Center at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit said, “This stuff is rapid and it’s lethal.” It is suspected that acetyl fentanyl, a particularly toxic opiate derivative that may be mixed with heroin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an independent testing laboratory identified acetyl fentanyl, a synthetic opiate with properties similar to morphine.
The rise in the lethal drug comes eight years after fentanyl, a synthetic drug described as heroin times 50, became a national epidemic. It killed more than 1,000 across the country and more than 300 in metro Detroit. Aaron said, “If you’re going to shoot up, you need to have a rescue plan.” The drug depresses the respiratory system, slowing a user’s breathing, Macomb County Medical Examiner Daniel Spitz said. If the dose is high enough, the user becomes comatose and stops breathing altogether.