A fairly new drug is finding its way into the U.S., and law enforcement personnel say it’s 20 times more potent than fentanyl.
It’s called ISO, which is short for isotonitazene. The Drug Enforcement Administration says drug dealers are mixing it with other illegal drugs, making them more potent.
“It is here. It’s present, and how potent this is — it’s not worth the one time they might use it. It’s not worth that extra high they might get because that could be their only time or their last time,” said Britney Morris, public information officer for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.
The drug is so powerful that is someone were to overdose, it would take multiple doses of Narcan to reverse the effects.
ISO was first identified in 2019 in the Midwest, but now it’s popping up in the Southern U.S. and along the Eastern Seaboard. As of publication, there were no reported cases of the drug in Northeast Florida, but the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office recently confirmed two overdose deaths from 2021 that were caused by ISO.
“It was tested out in the field, and it tested as fentanyl, but when we sent it off to the FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) lab, it actually tested as ISO,” Morris explained.
And now they’re awaiting FDLE lab results to see if ISO is the cause of more recent overdose deaths.
Here is what the DEA knows about this drug:
- It was never approved for medical use and is being sourced out of China.
- In powder form, it can appear yellow, brown or off-white.
- Like fentanyl, an accidental overdose can happen if ISO is ingested, inhaled or absorbed into the skin.
- DEA regional labs are finding ISO is being used to make counterfeit oxycodone pills.
- Investigators are also finding ISO mixed with heroin and fentanyl.
“There may be an individual who is purchasing this and thinks it’s fentanyl,” Morris said. “Maybe they’ve used fentanyl before and they are not going to know it’s ISO until it’s too late or until lab results come back.”
Right now, ISO deaths are relatively low compared to fentanyl, but authorities say this emerging drug is something to keep an eye on.