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U-47700: A Synthetic Opioid Sold On The Internet Comes To North Texas


At least two North Texans ended up in the hospital after using a synthetic opioid called U-47700 at a recent party. One is in ICU. Other cases involving the drug across the country led to deaths. 

Dr. Joann Schulte, a toxicologist with the North Texas Poison Center at Parkland Hospital, talks about the synthetic opioid, U-47700.

Highlights from Dr. Schulte’s interview:

What is U-47700? “It was a research drug that was synthesized in the 1970s by Upjohn. People who registered went and synthesized it and started selling over the Internet. It has an opioid structure like heroin or morphine.”

Concerns about sales of the drug: “The people who ordered this, who became sick in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, thought it was cocaine. There’s a lot of misrepresentation on the Internet. It’s labeled as ‘Research chemical. Not for human consumption’ and they’re clearly pushing it for human consumption. And so these people thought they were going to be using something that gave them a high like cocaine and instead they got the cool, as they described it, of heroin, which they weren’t expecting. It’s a shorter acting opioid. The big concern is respiratory depression. If you have respiratory depression, meaning if you don’t breathe, you end up dead. And the person who is admitted into the intensive care unit was found blue in what is called agonal respiration, meaning taking your last breaths.”

For more information:

What are opioids? 

Meet U-47700, the Potent, Newish Painkiller Sending People to Parkland 

Use of synthetic party drug puts two North Texans in hospital 

Buying Drugs Online Remains Easy, 2 Years After FBI Killed Silk Road

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.