By Ross Parker
The fight against the opioid epidemic has targeted two new recreational drugs being used on the streets as substitutes for heroin and fentanyl. Both U-4700 and Kratom have been on DEA’s radar screen, as well as US Poison Control Centers, in the last few months because of their increased use in 2016, their potential for abuse and health dangers.
U-4700, a synthetic opioid, is known on the streets as “44,” and “pink” and until recently has been easily available on the internet. It has been reported that it contributed to the death of rock star Prince last summer. It was originally developed for use in the 1970s as an analgesic, but it has many times the strength of morphine.
Last month DEA classified it under Schedule I as presenting an imminent hazard to the public safety.
Kratom, known on the streets as “Ketum,” thang” and other names, is actually an herb that has been used as a recreational drug for several years. Poison Center calls about overdoses have greatly increased this past year. The drug continues to be freely available on the internet and has no age restrictions on purchasing.
However, Kratom has increasingly been found in combinations with opioids in cases of overdoses, and it can independently produce symptoms such as tachycardia, nausea, and hypertension.
DEA’s journey toward its regulation in the last few months presents an interesting study in the agency’s frustrations over getting drugs that are contributing to the opioid epidemic off the streets. DEA originally announced its intention to classify it under Schedule I, but physicians and scientists complained to Congressmen that it has legitimate medical value. These members urged DEA to delay the ban for a period of public comment, which is presently under way. DEA placed it on the Drugs of Concern List and is continuing to consider its appropriate classification.
This report relied on articles from Medscape Internal Medicine (12/9/16), Forbes (8/22/16), and the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (12/16).