The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has classified the synthetic opioid drug U-47700 as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, a designation for substances that have a potential for dependence or abuse such as LSD, heroin and morphine.
U-47700, also known as pinky or pink, is an opioid analgesic drug that was developed by Upjohn in the 1970s, but has never been studied in humans. It is currently being made by chemical companies in China. It is about 7.5 times more potent than morphine.
The drug has been found in powder form as well as pressed into pills as counterfeit tablets that resemble pharmaceutical opioids. The DEA says the abuse potential of the drug is similar to heroin, opioids and other novel opioids.
Not only does the drug pose a risk for serious side effects including strong analgesia, sedation, euphoria, and respiratory depression, its manufacturing process also carries potential risks. “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 warned.
The DEA’s action is the result of at least 46 confirmed U-47700-related fatalities between October 2015 and September 2016. In total, the DEA has received 88 reports from state and local forensic labs of U-47700 submissions.
In January 2016, Sweden listed U-47700 as an illegal drug. In May 2016, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio had the drug emergency scheduled. In September 2016, the Florida Attorney General placed U-47700 on emergency schedule.
The DEA’s scheduling of U-47700 as a Schedule I drug will come into effect on Nov. 14, and will last for 24 months with a possible 12-month extension if the DEA needs more data to determine whether the drug should be scheduled permanently.