- Associated Press - Sunday, February 19, 2017

MARION, Ill. (AP) - Officials in southern Illinois are monitoring the use of a synthetic opioid they say was recently introduced in the area and poses a major threat of overdose.

Williamson County officials say U-47700 is eight times stronger than heroin and can be purchased online from Chinese manufacturers at a low cost.

The Southern Illinoisan (https://bit.ly/2m404hw) reports that the drug, also referred to as “U,” ”U-4,” ”Pink,” or “Pinky,” was introduced throughout Illinois last year. It has claimed the lives of about 100 people in Illinois since then.

Williamson County Coroner Mike “Junior” Burke said he can confirm one case in which the synthetic substance was identified in toxicology reports.

“I’ve been fortunate that I’ve only had one,” Burke said. “And I know it’s coming. It just hasn’t hit here yet, at least in Williamson County.”

Williamson County State’s Attorney Brandon Zanotti said that case is under investigation.

The drug can be ingested, snorted and incorporated into heroin, which increases the chance of an overdose.

“What they do, cutting it into heroin, it lowers the cost for the dealers while also making it more potent, and I guess gives more of a euphoria for the person buying it,” Zanotti said. “The issue we have is heroin on its own is already deadly enough, but with this U-4 it is raising the bar and making it extremely deadly.”

A bill introduced by Republican state Sen. Kyle McCarter of Vandalia would mark the drug as having a risk for potential abuse.

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Information from: Southern Illinoisan, https://www.southernillinoisan.com


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