(NewsNation) — Doctors are warning that a group of synthetic opioids, first developed in the 1950s, is popping up in more street drugs.
Dr. Alexandra Amaducci, one of the researchers involved in the study, said that because nitazenes are so potent, they require a much smaller amount to have the same effect as fentanyl and heroin, making overdoses more frequent and severe.
And unlike fentanyl, overdosing on nitazenes may require more than one dose of naloxone.
“This is a huge opportunity for education,” Amaducci said during an appearance on “Elizabeth Vargas Reports.” “It’s an opportunity to educate the general public and also people treating patients with overdoses.”
“Clinicians should be aware of these opioids in the drug supply so they are adequately prepared to care for these patients and anticipate needing to use multiple doses of naloxone,” researchers wrote in the study.
The study analyzed 537 patients admitted to an emergency department for suspected overdose between 2020 and 2022. Eleven tested positive for fentanyl, and nine tested positive for nitazenes only.
Researcher Joe Friedman, who was not involved in the new study but has analyzed the U.S. opioid crisis, told CBS News that even though the study was very small, the findings suggest that clinicians could benefit from learning more about nitazenes and their potential impact on public health.
“This new study certainly adds to the body of concerning evidence that novel synthetic opioids, such as nitazenes, are really exacerbating the overdose crisis. It’s an understudied class of drugs, and one of the biggest problems we have is that we don’t actually systematically track drugs like nitazenes,” Friedman said.