Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. As though it’s not bad enough that prescription painkillers and illegal drugs like heroin are being abused, there are also plenty of synthetic drugs out there that are just as deadly. You’ve probably heard of fentanyl, which can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. What you might not know is that there’s another synthetic opioid out there that is structurally related to fentanyl called ocfentanil or A-3217 that’s even more potent than fentanyl.
It was developed in the early 1990s as a naloxone-reversible drug, with the hopes that it would have more therapeutic benefits than fentanyl while having fewer cardiovascular effects and less chance of causing respiratory problems. Keep in mind that fentanyl isn’t only a drug responsible for a lot of addiction and overdoses; it’s used legally as a painkiller and for anesthesia. Ocfentanil was also studied as an anesthetic and showed some promise in being more effective than morphine for pain relief after surgery, but it was never actually developed for medical use. Around 2013, it started being used as a club drug.
As of February 2018, ocfentanil is a Schedule I controlled drug in the US. It, along with six other drugs related to fentanyl, were temporarily classified as such until February 1, 2020, when the DEA can either extend the order or make it permanent. The other drugs are valeryl fentanyl, para-fluorobutyryl fentanyl, para-methoxybutyryl fentanyl, para-chloroisobutyryl fentanyl, isobutyryl fentanyl, and cyclopentyl fentanyl. According to the DEA, placing these seven drugs in the Schedule I category was “necessary to avoid an imminent hazard to the public safety.” Temporarily placing a substance in Schedule I requires consideration of a substance’s history and current pattern of abuse, the scope, duration and significance of abuse, and what, if any, risk there is to the public health.
Ocfentanil has many of the same side effects as fentanyl. These can include relatively minor things like itching and nausea, and more serious effects like seizures and respiratory depression.
Apart from being highly addictive and extremely potent, there are dangers in using these fentanyl related drugs because of the way they’re manufactured. Typically, they are manufactured somewhere overseas – often China – and smuggled into the United States. Since there is no regulation of any kind going on, people taking the drugs have no way of knowing exactly how potent they are or what other substances they might be mixed with. According to data released in August 2017 by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, an estimated 55 Americans are dying every day from overdoses of synthetic opioids.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.