Health Advice



Nitazenes found in 5 overdose deaths in Philly – here’s what they are and why they’re so deadly

Christopher P. Holstege, University of Virginia, The Conversation on

Published in Health & Fitness

But since first being detected, nitazenes have been blamed for 200 drug-related overdose deaths in Europe and the United States. Although nitazenes are now identified as illegal street drugs in numerous countries, many medical providers aren’t even aware they exist.

Nitazene first appeared in 2019 in the Midwest as a white powdery substance similar to cocaine. It later appeared on the streets of Washington, D.C., as yellow, brown and white powders. Since 2022, the DEA has found other types of nitazenes in both powder and blue tablet forms.

Nitazenes are also mixed with other street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl, and with fake oxycodone pills, without users knowing it.

The Justice Department has indicted several companies in China, alleging that they ship the raw chemicals to make nitazenes to Mexico and the U.S., where they get mixed by cartels and traffickers, then distributed on the streets.

The toxic effects of nitazene resemble those associated with other classic opioids such as morphine and fentanyl and include small pupils and slowing of the respiratory and central nervous systems, which can lead to death.

Because of the potency of the nitazenes, symptoms can develop rapidly after someone is exposed, killing them before they can get medical care.


Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, is reportedly effective in reversing overdoses due to nitazene, but larger and multiple doses might be required.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on Feb. 15, 2024.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit, independent news organization bringing you facts and trustworthy analysis to help you make sense of our complex world. It was written by: Christopher P. Holstege, University of Virginia

Read more:
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Philadelphia bans supervised injection sites – evidence suggests keeping drug users on the street could do more harm than good

How the pandemic helped spread fentanyl across the US and drive opioid overdose deaths to a grim new high

Christopher P. Holstege does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


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