The opioid crisis in North America is at an all-time high, and one of the worst drugs being abused is fentanyl. In 2020, more than 1,900 people died in Michigan of synthetic overdoses that included fentanyl, which accounts for more than 70% of overdose deaths in the state.

But as bad as that sounds, and as deadly as fentanyl is, there's unfortunately a new drug that has made its way across Europe, and into North America that could soon come to Michigan.

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Nitazenes, which have been used in Europe and North America since the 1950s as a pain-killing medication. However, it was soon proven to be highly addictive, and was never officially approved for medical or therapeutic use.

However, it still exists, and people who use, and abuse it typically mix it with other drugs and alcohol.

Now, the drug is making its way across the Atlantic, and into the United States, and soon it could be in Michigan. Nitazenes have been detected in the UK, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Belgium, Canada, and now the United States.

In a 2022 Q1 report from the Michigan State Police, breaking down the the drugs apprehended, they reported two nitazene compounds in counterfeit oxycodone tablets.

Nitazene Michigan Drug Bust
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The drug's rise follows a ban on poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, which reduced opium production by more than 90%.

At this time, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported in its latest World Drug Report that they're following the number of deaths associated with the drug, but also the potential long-term effects of people who use them.

One thing that the UNODC did say that is alarming is, Nitazenes will likely lead to heroin users switching to opioids, which will likely "lead to an increase in overdoses."

Fentanyl, the current synthetic opioid of choice, is already 50 times stronger than heroin, and has resulted in more than 100,000 deaths in 2022 in the U.S. Globally, drug use and abuse has increased more than 20%, according to the UNODC, including 292 million people.

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Gallery Credit: Cindy Campbell

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