A deadly new synthetic street drug manufactured in China and brought into the U.S. by Mexican cartels is spreading among opioid users, and it’s at least 20 times more deadly than fentanyl. It is so dangerous that simply coming into contact with skin or being accidentally inhaled can lead to death.
Technically called isotonitazene, ISO was first developed by pharmaceutical companies in the 1950s for treating pain but was surpassed by safer medications. The Drug Enforcement Administration says ISO entered the illicit drug market in the U.S. in April 2019, causing a spate of 40 fatal overdoses in just two counties in Illinois and Wisconsin.
The final product a U.S. user gets is not made in a laboratory but usually in a makeshift kitchen table lab. The harrowing reality is that the process is quite simple, as someone acquires raw ISO, combines it with inactive ingredients for filler, and puts it into a cheap and easily obtainable pill press.
What comes out are potent pills that are cheaply and illicitly made by people who cannot know a safe dosage since they are not able to measure the purity of the raw ISO.
It is showing up now in several parts of the country, and experts say it is killing users even as fentanyl is in some cases being blamed. Within minutes of exposure, lips and fingernails may turn blue or purple, and difficulty breathing and unconsciousness quickly follow.
The Florida Attorney General’s Office recently warned residents that ISO, which it cites as 20 to 100 times stronger than fentanyl, is appearing in the illicit drug market in pill or powder form. The DEA says fentanyl is already 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine, which demonstrates the even higher danger posed by ISO. Law enforcement officials report ISO is being added to cocaine as well as counterfeit opioids, an extremely dangerous unknown for an unsuspecting user.
The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are chilling. The U.S. is now on pace to surpass the total number of deaths in every war in the nation’s history, just over 1.1 million, every ten years with fatal drug overdoses. Are any more reasons necessary to finally get serious again about border security?