YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A new synthetic painkiller nearly eight times more powerful than morphine has made its way to Ohio, and both police and lawmakers are doing what they can to combat it.
The drug, U-47700, is 7.5 times more powerful than morphine.
Authorities in northeastern Ohio say they’re starting to see signs of the drug in recent investigations of overdoses. Since April, it is responsible for at least 20 deaths across the nation.
“People are taking it, thinking it’s heroin. So the likelihood of an overdose is huge,” said Lake County Prosecuting Attorney Charles Coulson.
The death of a 29-year-old man in Lake County, Ohio prompted quick action in the state to ban the drug.
Governor John Kasich signed an executive order in the beginning of May, allowing the Ohio Board of Pharmacy to make it illegal. The order would place U-47700 in the same category as drugs like cocaine and heroin.
In a statement, Kasich’s office said:
The disturbing fact that a drug is nearly eight times more powerful than morphine is readily available and yet is actually considered legal today, makes it a no-brainer for us to outlaw this substance immediately in Ohio.
“The governor took it seriously and took immediate action. I don’t know how it could have been done better. So it’s a very dangerous drug and we wanted to bring it to everyone’s attention immediately,” Coulson said.
The state pharmacy board decided to outlaw the deadly drug. Ohio is the first state to make U-47700 illegal, though it is also banned in Sweden and Finland.
Mahoning County Drug Task Force Commander Jeff Solic says now that the drug is illegal, it’s easier for law enforcement to do their job.
“It’s nice for a change to get out ahead of something and make it controlled…or at least for the pharmacy board to regulate that before it becomes an issue locally,” he said. “We don’t have to go through the lobbying of trying to get it made illegal or make it a controlled substance so we can take enforcement action.”
Though never tested on humans, U-47700 is thought to act like other opioids and can cause respiratory depression, pinpoint pupils and, in some cases, coma or death.