A victory was gained in the fight against opioid abuse this month, as the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved a new bill that prohibits the sale and possession of U-47700, a highly addictive synthetic opioid drug.
“We must protect our young people from synthetic opioids like U-47700 that we know lead to addiction, graduation to heroin and potential death.” —Steve Stern
The pink pill contains fentanyl, another addictive and dangerous opioid, and is resistant to treatment with Narcan, a drug used to revive people who have overdosed.
Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) created the bill, which passed Oct. 5.
“We must do everything in our power to protect our young people from synthetic opioids like U-47700 that we know lead to addiction, serious health effects, graduation to heroin and potential death,” Stern said in a statement.
Stern’s office said U-47700 was originally developed by the pharmaceutical industry as an alternative to morphine but was never marketed when it was determined to be more than eight times as potent as morphine. The drug is manufactured overseas, mainly in China and is sold at a low cost on the internet, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
It can be smoked, snorted or orally ingested and can cause respiratory depression, coma, permanent brain damage and death. The DEA temporarily listed the drug on Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act in September because of the imminent hazard it presents to public safety.
Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse, are not currently accepted for medical use in the U.S. and are deemed unsafe even under medical supervision. Other drugs in the Schedule I list include heroin, LSD and ecstasy.
Many states, including Georgia, Ohio and Wyoming, have banned the drug.
The DEA confirmed at least 15 fatalities from the use of U-47700, and according to news sources, at least 50 deaths nationwide can be linked to the drug.
According to the bill, any person who knowingly violates the law will be guilty of an unclassified misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to one year of imprisonment. The law goes into effect immediately after the Office of the Secretary of State files it.
The legislation to prohibit its sale was supported by the entire legislature, as well as Health Commissioner James Tomarken and Police Commissioner Tim Sini.
“I thank my colleagues on the Legislature for joining me in taking meaningful action to protect the health and safety of our communities,” Stern said.