A chemist in a crime lab in Washington, DC, discovered a new synthetic opioid distributed and used on the streets. After a spate of overdoses last week, the chemist has put out an alert to first responders to be aware of the new drugs, known as Protonitazene or Isotonitazene (or more commonly nitazene), which is also resistant to Narcan, an opioid-reversal drug. This means that using multiple cans of Narcan may not fully revive an overdose victim.

Where is Protonitazene From?

The drug, Protonitazene, is not entirely new. However, it’s a rarely-seen drug that has never been seen before on the East Coast of America. Crime labs often test drugs for purity level and contents when they are seized. Protonitazene is a drug that’s being marketed to people who use opioids intravenously.

New opioids are often formulated overseas and sold in bulk on the dark web, where people can obscure their identities and do fairly-anonymous drug transactions. Many of the drugs came from China and were once under FDA trials. Usually, the pills didn’t work the way they were supposed to, or they had terrible side effects. However, the formulations are available to chemists online, which is how they end up in unscrupulous factories that sell them to drug dealers in the US.

“Every few weeks, we’re seeing something that we haven’t seen before … you can definitely see that there are consistent changes in the drug supply here in the District,” said supervisory chemist Morgan Levitas, who works at the DC Department of Forensic Sciences.

Will Narcan Work on Nitazenes?

Forensic professionals are unclear about whether or not Narcan will work in reversing an opioid overdose from nitazene. In this case, doctors may need to administer a greater dose of the medicine.

Opioid Addiction Still A Crisis

In DC as well as around America, the opioid crisis is still raging. Last year, there were more than 93,331 deaths from opioids, according to the CDC. Fentanyl is one of the top causes of overdose deaths and is often an adulterant with other drugs. Even drugs like cocaine and ecstasy now have the potential to be deadly due to unknown opioid adulteration.

Many people who die from overdose deaths also have other drugs in their systems, such as cocaine, meth, and heroin.

New drugs are constantly being introduced in the US market, but most opioids found in drug busts contain fentanyl, one hundred times as potent as heroin.