Florida attorney general warns new synthetic opioid is 20 times stronger than fentanyl

Commonly referred to as ISO, a derivative of etonitazene, it’s classified as a Schedule 1 illegal narcotic.

Updated: March 19, 2022 - 10:56pm

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Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is warning residents of a deadly new synthetic opioid officials are becoming aware of called Isotonitazene.

Commonly referred to as ISO, a derivative of etonitazene, it’s classified as a Schedule 1 illegal narcotic.

“For years, we have been warning about the dangers of fentanyl and how just one pill laced with this synthetic opioid can kill," Moody said. "Now, there is a new, deadlier drug being found in Florida.

“Isotonitazene, also known as ISO, is so strong that it can kill just by coming in contact with someone’s skin or being accidentally inhaled. ISO has already been linked to overdose deaths in Florida, so please, never take any illicit drug and know that using just one time could cost you your life.”

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office issued a “new dangerous drug alert” about ISO, stating it’s “20 times more potent than fentanyl.”

“ISO can be absorbed by the body by skin contact, ingestion or inhalation,” the alert states.

Signs of an overdose include blue/purple fingernails, blue/purple lips, difficulty breathing, unconsciousness, clammy skin, vomiting, pinpoint pupils, drowsiness, all of which can occur within minutes of exposure. Anyone who observes someone presenting these symptoms, the sheriff’s office says, should “call 911 immediately.”

The sheriff’s office says when deputies first came into contact with the powdery substance they thought it was fentanyl. But after being examined in a lab, it was identified as a newer, stronger drug than fentanyl.

Testing by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Crime Lab revealed that ISO has been found in multiple Florida counties since 2020. At least two deaths were linked to ISO in Pasco County last year.

Like fentanyl, it’s being mixed with other drugs and sold in the illicit drug market. Most drug users don’t know the pills they buy are mixed with fentanyl, or ISO.

“ISO is a dangerous substance that we have, unfortunately, seen in Pasco County," Sheriff Chris Nocco said. "As law enforcement continues to have to address the healthcare crisis of substance abuse, our goal remains to save lives and protect our community, which is why we have highlighted and brought awareness to the impact this dangerous substance has in our community.”

Intelligence chief at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)-Miami division, Justin Miller, told Wink News, the DEA is seeing ISO more in Central Florida, and particularly on the Gulf Coast.

“It’s an illegal narcotic, no medical use,” Miller said. “As you see other synthetic opioids such as ISO, or other compounds as well, that are just as potent – and potentially more so than fentanyl – that it’s going to have a direct correlation within with drug overdoses and fatalities.”

The DEA reports that since April 2019, ISO entered the illicit drug market nationally and is responsible for numerous deaths. Like fentanyl, ISO can be laced with cocaine and methamphetamine and sold as a counterfeit pill.

Moody has published a PSA video message warning people about ISO. Her office also created a “Dose of Reality” website about the dangers of opioid misuse, how to receive support for addiction and where to safely dispose of unused prescription drugs.

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