The HSE has issued a public health warning about a new synthetic drug, which Gardaí believe was responsible for the death of a 16-year-old boy in Cork City earlier this month. Gardaí believe that Michael Cornacchia died as a result of taking a synthetic opioid called U-47700, after traces of the drug were found in the boy’s home at Deermount in Deerpark.
The tests on white powder found at the scene confirmed that the powder was a synthetic drug called U-47700, which has already been blamed for a dozen deaths in the US, including that of singer Prince, who died due to a cocktail of drugs last year, which included U-47700. The HSE has issued a warning about the substance, which looks like cocaine and is nearly eight times stronger than heroin.
The drug, which was developed in 1976 by chemist Jacob Szmuszkovicz for Upjohn, was tested on animals and found to be more potent than morphine, but with supposedly less addictive potential. The drug was intended to treat severe pain associated with cancer, surgery, or injury, but was never tested on humans, never produced commercially and ended up being relegated to research.
Last November the US Drug Enforcement Agency added U-47700 to its list of Schedule One drugs that has a high potential for abuse, and no current medical use, after dozens of deaths. While several US states, including Ohio, Florida, Georgia and Oregon, have all moved to ban the drug.
In relation to its similar appearance to cocaine, the HSE advises that there is no guarantee that the drug you think you are buying and consuming is in fact the drug you are sold. “We are aware that substances sold as cocaine may in fact contain other substances such as synthetic opioids. There is no way of telling what is in a powder or pill just by looking at it. It may look like the drug you want to purchase but it may well be something else.”
The HSE added “There is no quality control on illegal drugs. There can be problems with purity and contaminants in all illegal drugs. It is always better not to take unknown or illicit drugs at all due to unwanted and serious medical and psychological side effects.” For those that decide to use illicit drugs, the HSE advises to never mix your drugs with alcohol or other drugs (legal or illegal), as they can all interact dangerously with each other. They also recommend taking a smaller amount of a substance if you’re unsure of its source, and to always have a friend with you who can call the emergency services for help if you suffer a negative reaction.
If you have concerns around drug use please contact the confidential HSE Drugs & Alcohol Helpline at freephone 1800 459 459 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Information can also be accessed at www.drugs.ie.