Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy Some New Opioids are Even More Dangerous than Fentanyl

Some New Opioids are Even More Dangerous than Fentanyl

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The last thing the vulnerable people who are struggling with an opioid use disorder (OUD) needed was even more deadly drugs to arrive, but that’s just exactly the situation we find ourselves in. 

What’s more, some of these new drugs are more deadly than fentanyl and resistant to the life-saving Narcan overdose reversal nasal spray.  

Nitazines: Frankenstein opioids: 

There are several new synthetic opioids on the streets known as “nitazines” protonitazene, isotononitazine, and others.  These drugs are even more deadly than fentanyl, which has been credited for causing accidental overdose to become the number one killer of people aged 18 to 45 and single-handedly lowering the life expectancy in the US.

These drugs are usually in the form of pills or powders. Keep in mind that, as the DEA has told us “one pill can kill”.  The #OnePillCanKill campaign was created to spread awareness that it’s not even safe to do any drug that does not come from a licensed pharmacist even a single time. Many of the now-deceased high school students accidentally poisoned themselves with fentanyl when they thought they were taking a different drug like ADHD medication or a benzodiazepine like Xanax. These drugs were marketed on social media platforms, such as Snapchat.

Xylazine: tranq dope

You may have seen viral videos of groups of people stooping over on the streets of our cities.  These haunting images are the result of xylazine, aka “tranq dope” being ingested en masse by the opioid-using population of a given city.

Xylazine is actually an animal tranquilliser that is not an opioid. As such, it does not respond well to the nasal spray Narcan, which is an intervention that has to save the lives of countless opioid users.

Tranq dope also is known for causing abscesses in the arms and legs of people who inject it, which is earned it the reputation as a “skin-rotting zombie drug”.

What to do for someone who has an OUD

If you know someone who is using drugs, the important thing is to take action now. Make sure they understand the danger of opioids like nitazines and fentanyl, and other drugs like xylazine.

The viral hashtag #ExpectFentanyl was created by The Santa Clara Opioid Overdose Prevention Project in California (SCOOP)  to spread awareness that fentanyl is being mixed into up to 80% of illegal drugs sold in California.

Anyone who is using illicit drugs needs to understand that ‘one pill can kill’ and that when someone gives them a drug, they have no idea what is inside of it.  This is a conversation that so many bereaved loved ones wish they could have had before it was too late.

Make sure your loved one knows that you are there to help them if they are using drugs and/or struggling with mental health. Many fentanyl fatalities are people who have taken counterfeit Xanax, due to experiencing anxiety. If you are a parent, encourage your children to ask for your help if they need it.

Get Naloxone (Narcan) and learn how to use it. Narcan is a nasal spray that can reverse an opioid overdose if taken in time.  It’s widely available at many pharmacies without a prescription, and many parents have saved the lives of their children by using it.

I always encourage family members to explain their concerns, and then give their loved ones a chance to respond and really listen to what they are saying. Remain supportive and non-judgemental. 

Get Help from a Trained Counselor

I know from my personal experience as a father that it can be daunting to connect with your teen over this type of sensitive subject. Fortunately, there is a ton of help available in the form of trained family counsellors.  It’s always helpful to talk with a behavioural health professional about your specific situation, and the counsellor will likely have insight and tools to help you take proactive steps to protect your child.   

You can start by contacting The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association (SAMHSA) Treatment Locator, which is a toll-free number that is staffed 24/7. That line can be reached by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you’re in California, contact Confidential Recovery at (619) 452–1200, or visit https://www.confidentialrecovery.com/.


Scott Silverman is one of the nation’s leading experts on addiction and recovery.  He’s made countless public speaking engagements and appearances on television to raise the alarm about the opioid epidemic and spread hope and awareness that there is help available. He is the founder and CEO of Confidential Recovery, an outpatient drug rehab program in San Diego that specialises in helping Veterans, first responders, and executives achieve long-term recovery.

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