Designer Drug 'Pink' Is More Potent Than Heroin, Legal in Most States

By McCarton Ackerman 10/19/16

One Utah police chief claims that the drug Pink AKA U-47700 is so powerful that "if you touch it, you could go into cardiac arrest."

Designer Drug 'Pink' Is More Potent Than Heroin, Legal in Most States
Pink AKA U-47700 Photo: via YouTube

A drug that’s eight times stronger than heroin is legally floating on the market in most U.S. states—and the potentially deadly impact of the synthetic opioid is causing some alarm.

Pink, otherwise known as U-47700, is part of a family of powerful synthetic opioids including carfentanil and furanylfentanyl. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime described it as having “effects very similar to morphine and heroin, but with a significantly shorter duration of action.”

It’s only illegal in four states and can be purchased online for as little as $5. The drug comes in pill form, a powder and even a mist.

"This stuff is so powerful that if you touch it, you could go into cardiac arrest," said Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter to NBC News. "The problem is if you have a credit card and a cell phone, you have access to it."

Data from Pennsylvania-based NMS Labs, which conducts forensic toxicology tests, showed that Pink has been implicated in 80 deaths throughout the U.S. since January. The Drug Enforcement Administration has recorded 15 deaths across five states from the drug, but suggested the number is likely higher due to delays and challenges in reporting.

Last month, two 13-year-old boys in Utah were reported to have likely fatally overdosed on Pink after legally purchasing the drug and having it sent to them by mail. Pink deaths have also been reported throughout Europe, prompting Sweden and Finland to ban the drug.

The DEA took steps last month to impose a federal ban on Pink by announcing its intent to temporarily classify it as a Schedule I substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The ban would give the agency three years to conduct research on the drug and determine whether it should remain a Schedule I substance or drop back down to a non-controlled status. Four states have already imposed bans on Pink, including Florida, Ohio, Wyoming and Georgia.

However, the bans don’t entirely address the problem. Chemists can slightly tweak the compounds of the drug and release a new substance that can stay on the market for months before states recognize it and impose a ban.

Opioid overdose deaths continue to remain an issue throughout the United States. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that prescription opioid overdose deaths nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014, soaring 8,050 to 28,647. Synthetic opioid overdose deaths increased nearly eight-fold during that same period, rising from 730 to 5,544.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.