It doesn’t even have a street name yet. It’s a laboratory-made opioid known as U-47700 and it’s quickly racking up a body count around the world. There are more than 50 confirmed deaths in the USA from being injected, snorted, and eaten. U-47700 is technically not illegal in most states – it’s so new, states haven’t been able to enact legislation yet. Because it can be purchased online, and is several times more potent than morphine, it’s an attractive buy for people looking to get a quick high. It hasn’t replaced things like heroin, although it’s just as deadly.
U-47700 is based on research done by the pharmaceutical company Upjohn, which was looking for an alternative to morphine in the 1970s. Chemists, often from China and Europe, search old patent records and online journals for new ideas. Sometimes they find information on drugs that never hit a production line, along with instructions on how to create them. This makes it difficult for law enforcement to stay on top of drug abuse – when they fight off one drug, more pop up in its place. Many of these drugs were never intended for human use due to side effects.
After DEA agents visited Chinese officials, the Chinese government banned over a hundred chemicals in an effort to help the USA crack down on substance abuse and addiction. Chemists immediately changed their formulas or began looking for old recipes, coming up with drugs like U-47700 and W-18. Sweden and Finland have already banned it after deaths in Scandinavia.
Buying new drugs is always a risk. The manufacturers themselves may not understand it or its effects, leading to addiction and/or death in many cases. Some drugs are little more than poison. As U-47700 sweeps the nations, states are in the middle of a frenzy trying to enact laws against its sale or possession.