Michigan Poison Center warns of “purple heroin”

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Officials with the Michigan Poison Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine are warning the public that a new “purple heroin” has been linked to several deaths in that state.

According to the center, “purple heroin” is linked to several overdose cases in the Upper Peninsula and one overdose-related death in Van Buren County. Samples of the drug sent to the Michigan State Police Laboratory found the drug has several components, including the synthetic opioid fentanyl, niacinamide (a form of vitamin B), acetaminophen (the key ingredient in Tylenol), flualprazolam (an illicit sedative similar to Xanax), buspirone (an anti-anxiety drug) and brorphine, a new non-fentanyl synthetic opioid.

Officials said brorphine, like fentanyl, is lethal in even small doses and is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Officials also said it is unknown whether the drug is colored before or after its arrival in Michigan.

Poison Center officials said brorphine is considered a recreational drug. However, the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime identified it as an emerging threat in its 2020 Early Warning Advisory (EWA) on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). The drug is not approved for use on humans or animals and is only available for research purposes.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said public health workers should look for the signs and symptoms of purple heroin use, including respiratory depression, sedation, and other opioid/synthetic opioid overdose symptoms.

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