Nitazene is a rapidly emerging new drug in the United States. The synthetic opioid is making headlines for its strength, potency, and potential negative effects on recreational drug users. That’s rapidly becoming more and more of a concern as the drug is making its way across the United States. If you’ve heard of it or know that you or a loved one is potentially using it, it’s important to learn about the drug, how it differs from regular opioids, how you can stay safe, and what you can do.
Of course, the best answer is to not use opioids recreationally. However, if you do, especially a new and experimental one like Nitazene, it’s important to take safety precautions, to try to use in an overdose prevention center, and to ensure that you have Naloxone on hand in case something goes wrong.
The following article will cover everything we know about nitazene so you can make an informed decision about the drug.
Nitazene is a synthetic opioid and unlike many other recreational opioids on the market, was never approved for medical use. Instead, its synthesized and imported from China, where it’s entirely a street drug. Nitazene was most likely synthesized in a lab as part of experimental research to find drugs that aren’t illegal or banned for import/export.
It was also first found in the United States in the Midwest in 2019. The drug came to medical attention after several persons were admitted to the hospital for opioid-induced seizures. Drug tests showed an unknown opioid in their system – which eventually turned out to be nitazene. Those same drugs have appeared across Europe and the Americas, almost exclusively coming to the attention of medical professionals following drug-seizure deaths.
Nitazene was first synthesized in medical labs during the 1960s in the United States. However, their significant health problems meant they were never clinically approved.
Now, it’s increasingly available across the United States, with 726 seizures of the drug between 2021 and 2023.
News articles can dramatically inflate the risks and danger of a drug. However, it is true that Nitazene is an extremely potent opioid. The drug interacts similarly to fentanyl in potency and high. It does so by interacting with the mu-opioid reactor and blocking some other interactions in the brain. This results in a high with feelings of ecstasy, lack of inhibition, feelings of being powerful, etc., that are associated with morphine and other opioids.
It also interacts extremely similarly to a drug identified in the 1950s. This drug, etonitazene is about 500-1,000 times the potency of morphine in animals. It’s also shown to cause significant respiratory depression and significant dependency problems, meaning it is not approved for use in humans.
Of course, actual potency is still up for debate. The original 1960s clinical trial listed Nitazene as being 500x the strength of morphine. However, some doses found in patients suggest it could be much stronger, with quotes listing it as anywhere from 500-1,500x. Of course, news articles listing it as 20x the strength of fentanyl, or 2,000x stronger than morphine, are unfounded.
Nitazene is a class of opioid drugs that aren’t approved for clinical or medical use because they present too many risks to humans using them. This means that it’s always a bad idea to take drugs like Nitazene. These risks relate to high risks of physical complications and to a high risk of dependency and addiction.
For example, nitazene is linked to a high occurrence of respiratory depression. This side-effect of overdose can be fatal, because it means that people don’t get enough air and may even fully stop breathing. In addition, it’s heavily linked with opioid seizures, because the drug is so strong and people go into overdose very easily. That’s especially true when the individuals taking the drug aren’t aware they’ve been sold an experimental drug. Instead, Nitazene is often used to cut other drugs. For example, a filler cut with nitazene can be sold as heroin. That’s even true for people buying pills like Xanax on the street, as fakes can look like the real thing but may be nothing but cellulose with opioids like Nitazene.
Alternatively, many people opt for synthetic drugs like Nitazene because they can use less of them. Stronger and more potent drugs can be more cost-effective, which is usually a desirable thing if you’re using a lot.
In addition, Nitazene is entirely made in illicit labs. This means there’s no medical oversight, no quality control, and no dosing. With no controls to ensure that every batch is the same or that it’s pure and safe for human consumption, it’s never safe to take illicitly manufactured drugs. In fact, there’s no way to tell if one batch of nitazene is 10x stronger than another without taking it in for chemical testing – which means you put yourself at risk every time you use.
Nitazene is also extremely potent. At up to 100 times the strength of heroin, a dose can be extremely tiny. For example, a dose of heroin is 0.4-111mg. For nitazene, that can be 0.004-0.11 mg, which can be significantly difficult to dose and measure out. Often, these drugs are sold “by the dose” as well, which means buyers are expected to take one pre-divided amount of the drug along with fillers. However, street opioids routinely (about 13% of the time) test as having double the required dose for a high, creating significant risks of overdose for people who take them all.
Nitazene is most commonly sold as “ISO” or nitazene, a synthetic opioid. However, it’s also mixed into other drugs which means that it can take a lot of forms. The DEA reports finding ISO in yellow, brown, and white powders. It’s also been found mixed into heroin to increase the strength. And, it’s found in a large range of M-8 and M-30 oxycodone tablets already. This means you may not even be aware you’re buying nitazene – and you definitely don’t know what it is in the pills you’re taking.
If you or a loved one is struggling with drug use, it’s important to look for and to get help. Nitazene is an extreme example of a dangerous synthetic opioid. It’s dangerous because it’s extremely addictive and high risk for your physical health. That risk stems from a high rate of suppressing breathing. It also has a significantly higher risk of overdose than almost any other opioid on the market, because it’s stronger. If you also consider that nitazene is always illicitly manufactured and therefore has no quality or purity controls, there is no safe way to take the drug. That’s even true if you’re at an overdose prevention center where you can be taken to the hospital. For example, Nitazene typically requires four doses of naloxone to reverse an overdose – and Naloxone is sold two doses at a time. In a hospital, medical professionals have to know what they’re dealing with to give you enough medication to help you recover.
At the same time, if you’re struggling with any drug, it’s dangerous. Reaching out and asking for help can give you the tools to improve your life. That can mean getting therapy, help stabilizing your life, help quitting the drug, and help with finding new ways to cope with life. Even reaching out and talking to your doctor to ask for advice can be a good start.
Asana Recovery is located in Orange County, California. and offers detox, residential, and outpatient addiction treatment services in our modern and comfortable addiction treatment facilities. For those with anxiety we offer an effective dual diagnosis treatment program. Please contact us today to speak with one of our experienced addiction treatment team if you have any questions about our programs.