With so many headlines about COVID-19 and the coronavirus epidemic, many other important stories are getting lost in the shuffle. One notable article from The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel definitely did not get the attention it deserved. It caught our attention because it touted a surge in overdose deaths; all caused by a new synthetic opioid called “iso.”
Iso is reportedly just as powerful as fentanyl and technically remains legal in the United States. It is an analog of etonitazene, which has been on the government’s controlled substances list for several years. The fact that it is getting distributed on the streets is alarming, particularly because this painkiller is so potent.
A Health Department grant manager assigned to the Overdose Response Initiative spoke to The Journal about the dangers related to iso.
“The drugs are getting stronger, they’re becoming more potent, they’re becoming more deadly and I don’t see an end in sight,” rep Courtney Geiger told the outlet. “It’s really important for the public to know there is, in fact, a new drug out there that is as powerful, if not more powerful, than fentanyl.”
For the record, iso first got on the radar as a street narcotic back in 2019. It initially surfaced in Europe, but quickly spread to other parts of the world (and now the U.S.). Per The Journal article, a large portion of its illicit transactions have been occurring on the dark web.
A major problem with iso is that many people who receive it are unaware of its potency. Sandy Koresh, a senior rep at the Wisconsin Controlled Substances Technical Unit, also spoke to The Journal about the dangerous transactions involving iso.
“I think many times people don’t know what they’re getting,” she explained. “They think they’re getting heroin and they’re ending up with something mixed with multiple components. I’ve been working crime lab almost 30 years and the first 20 years you never saw anything new. Nowadays, you see something new all the time. Chemists are very good and it’s very lucrative to make small modifications to these molecules.”
Iso has reportedly been involved in seven overdose deaths in Milwaukee county over the past few weeks alone. And, as the article explains, that number is expected to rise rapidly. We’ll make sure to stay on top of this story as updates develop, as well as other important warnings concerning the country’s devastating opioid crisis.