Designer Drug Pink Linked to 3 Fatal Overdoses in Arizona

By Victoria Kim 01/18/17

According to the DEA, this is the first time that Pink, aka U-47700, has been detected by authorities in Arizona.

Powder coming out of a baggie.

Reports of the potent synthetic opioid U-47700 have surfaced in Arizona, where three people fatally overdosed on the drug last year. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration reported the deaths this month, all of which occurred in Maricopa County among men aged 24-55 from last April to August. According to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office, other substances were detected in two of the men in addition to U-47700, including prescription opioids and sedatives.

According to DEA officials, this is the first time U-47700 (also known as “pink”) has been detected by authorities in Arizona, especially to this degree. As of last fall, the drug was attributed to 46 deaths across the United States. 

“It was an eye opener for us at the time,” said DEA Special Agent Doug Coleman, “because we knew that it was on the way, but we hadn’t been able to actually track it here until we saw those OD deaths.”

Last November, the DEA placed U-47700 in Schedule I, alongside cannabis and heroin. Schedule I is a federal classification reserved for substances that the government defines as having a high potential for abuse and “no currently accepted medical use.” 

The DEA uses “emergency scheduling” to deal with new street drugs that are deemed a threat to public safety. The ban will last for two years, with the possibility of a one-year extension.

According to some reports, the death of music icon Prince involved not only a lethal dose of fentanyl, but U-47700 as well. However a report by the Associated Press does not say that U-47700 was detected in the musician’s system, only that U-47700 pills were discovered in his home.

It’s said that U-47700 is eight times stronger than heroin. The synthetic opioid was made to treat severe pain but was never properly tested on humans. According to Medical Daily, the drug was recreated by Chinese chemists and could be bought online for as little as $5. 

U-47700 is similar to carfentanil and furanyl fentanyl, another synthetic opioid which the DEA banned last November. According to American officials, fentanyl analogs such as these have been popping up in the U.S., supplied by China, as legal alternatives to banned or restricted substances—until the DEA finally catches up. 

It seems that there's no shortage of these "research chemicals" that people will produce and capitalize on, as long as there's a demand for opioid drugs. As Forbes' David Kroll writes, "Buried within a 1978 patent, U-47700 exemplifies the extent to which recreational drug users will scour the peer-reviewed and patent literature for research chemicals with opioid effects but which were not, at the time, illegal."

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr