Isotonitazene, known as “iso” to drug users, is a dangerous new opioid that causes overdose deaths across the country in the US. As many as 40-50 people every month are dying after getting ahold of this potent drug.

Iso is not a legal drug, but its origins are still in the pharmaceutical industry.  The formulation was developed in the 1950s scrapped because it was so dangerous. It was a highly addictive drug that could cause dangerous overdoses.

Iso is similar in strength to fentanyl, one of the leading causes of overdose deaths in the past few years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both drugs are about fifty times the strength of morphine and as highly addictive as heroin. Novice opioid users who encounter the drug don’t have the tolerance for it, which results in an overdose.

Pandemic and Opioid Use

The pandemic era has ushered in a renewed opioid epidemic. Overdoses have doubled and tripled in some parts of the country, primarily due to drugs laced with fentanyl.

Some of these overdoses are people who relapsed and were sober for a while. Isolation has caused some drug users to have trouble finding their drug of choice, which means they will often look for a substitute as powerful as the drug they want.

Because many people who use opioids are socially distancing, they often use the drugs alone. This isolated situation makes it less likely that somebody can help them if they overdose. Many drug users carry Naloxone, an opioid agonist, that can help reduce overdoses. However, this harm reduction is useless if a person overdoses alone because nobody can administer it.

What the Experts Say

Iso is a new drug, but, likely, it’s not going to be the only deadly drug that emerges during the pandemic. With resources stretched thin, and suppliers in China are looking to subvert regulations about exporting other opioids like hydrocodone. Now it seems their chemists are looking for novel drugs to sell to people in the US.

“The emergence of this novel synthetic opioid is a major public health concern,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told Medical Express. “The fact that it has similar potency to fentanyl makes it ripe for abuse and misuse, leading to respiratory depression, along with increased risk for death.”

If you or somebody you love is addicted to opioids, it’s still a good time to quit. Treatment centers may have new protocols and there may be virtual therapy and 12-step meetings, depending on your region’s regulations. In most parts of California, there are fewer treatment centers however there are still many operating and taking new clients.