Little Rock (KATV) — Arkansas State drug director Tom Fisher wants alert Arkansans about a drug that's more powerful than fentanyl.
According to Fisher, the drug is called nitazene. He said it's a synthetic opioid manufactured in illegal labs. Fisher said fentanyl has become a crisis in the state for years, but this drug is much more lethal.
"Is alarming and it's concerning because it's potency can be up to as many as 20 times greater than fentanyl. So obviously fentanyl is something we're struggling with," Fisher said.
Fisher said drug enforcement agencies nationwide first found nitazenes entering the US from China in 2019. He said they've discovered multiple cases already this year.
"In 2022, the lab identified on at least four occasions either a nitazene compound, specifically protonitazenes, and etonitazenes. Then in 2023, we've had two cases," he said.
Fisher said another concern is how this drug helps with overdoses. He said naloxone, which is an opioid reversal drug, may not be able to combat possible overdoses due to its high potency.
"People that are suffering from an overdose or in an overdose crisis that naloxone that's being used traditionally where we can use one or two doses to help them in a fentanyl crisis, it's gonna take more of that drug," Fisher said. "It's gonna take immediate action from a higher level of care."
Fisher said unless law enforcement agencies have an updated rapid identification test, there's no way to tell the difference between fentanyl and a nitazene.
"In the absence of that, and having the equipment and technology to do that, a normal citizen or person would not be able to know the difference," he said.
According to Fisher, as of August 7, the Arkansas Crime Lab has not detected overdoses linked to nitazenes. He said nitazene cases found this year were in an object that can be smoked.