Deadly Synthetic Opioid 'Pink' Now a Schedule I Drug

Megan Brooks

November 14, 2016

Responding to an "imminent threat" to public health and safety, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has temporarily classified the synthetic opioid U-47700 ― known on the street as Pink ― as a Schedule I substance in accordance with the Controlled Substances Act, effective immediately, the agency said.

The DEA said it has received reports of at least 46 confirmed deaths associated with U-47700 occurring in 2015 and 2016, including 31 in New York, 10 in North Carolina, two in Texas, and one each in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Ohio.

According to the DEA, U-47700 is a novel synthetic opioid; its abuse parallels that of heroin, prescription opioids, and other novel opioids.

Law enforcement agencies have encountered the drug in powder form and counterfeit tablets that mimic pharmaceutical opioids.

Ingestion of U-47700 may happen unknowingly to the user, the DEA says. It may be encountered as a single substance as well as in combination with other drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl. Some bags containing the substance are marked with stamped logos, imitating the way heroin is packaged. The drug may also be pressed into pill form and marketed as one of a wide variety of prescription opioids, the DEA notes.

"Because substances like U-47700 are often manufactured in illicit labs overseas, the identity, purity, and quantity are unknown, creating a 'Russian roulette' scenario for any user," the DEA warns in a news release.

"Emergency scheduling of dangerous drugs such as U-47700 on a temporary basis is one of the most significant tools DEA can utilize to address the problems associated with deadly new street drugs," the agency says.

The temporary Schedule I designation for U-47700 will remain in effect for 24 months, with a possible 12-month extension if the DEA needs more data to determine whether it should be permanently classified as a Schedule I substance.

A document describing the DEA's action on U-47700 was published November 14 in the Federal Register and is available for download.

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