St. Tammany Parish coroner warns of new drug ‘100 times more potent than fentanyl’

LACOMBE, La. (WGNO) — St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Charles Preston is sounding the alarm on an old drug with a new recreational use.

Nitazenes were first developed in the 1950s as a pain reliever, but the drug was never approved. In the past two years, it’s been linked to overdoses in St. Bernard, St. Tammany and Ascension parishes.

Preston said the reason nitazenes spiked in Louisiana and other parts of the country is because finding the key components to make the drug is as simple as a trip to the store.

According to Preston, any drug bust raises an eyebrow because, just like fentanyl, anything could be laced with nitazenes.

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“Just like we’ve seen with the fentanyl poisons being pressed into pills that look like pharmaceutical pills, the same thing is happening with the nitazenes,” Preston said.

Preston also said because the drug is two to 100 times more potent than fentanyl and up to 1,000 times more potent than morphine, it could take four doses of Narcan to revive someone.

“We don’t really know what the chemical behavior is as it metabolizes through the body,” Preston said. “So, a half-life could be a few hours to many days. We just don’t have the clinical experience to know.”

Preston said fentanyl test strips won’t detect the presence of nitazenes. That’s because the easy accessibility made the drug easy to manipulate. To date, there are 60 variations of nitazenes. However, Preston said Deterra can deactivate a drug using water.

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