WBAP News Talk Radio: Drug Cartels Testing New, Deadlier Street Drug Additives

May 1, 2024

This article first appeared on WBAP.com.

An explosion of emergency calls for help with overdoses and eight related deaths in just two days in Austin, Texas, may be tied to two new street drug additives experts believe cartels may be “test marketing."  Now understood to be on the streets and under review in the northeastern U.S., areas of Tennessee, and the Tenderloin district of San Fransisco, the new additives far deadlier than fentanyl are expected to soon undergo a widening geographical spread, now or in the future. In Austin, Texas, officials are now warning of a sudden explosion in calls for help with overdoses in the area in the past two days; most in the downtown core, but also spread beyond city limits into surrounding areas. Emergency officials in Austin state they usually receive between 1-3 calls for help regarding opioid overdose; in the past two days, the calls have exceeded 50 daily. 8 people have died.

Former Senior DEA Special Agent Michael Brown tells WBAP/KLIF News cartels appear to be test marketing two types of synthetic opioid drugs that are much more addictive and deadly than is fentanyl: carfentanil and the class of drugs known as nitazenes.

Carfentanil is used as an elephant or large animal tranquilizer; never meant for human use, and reported to be 10,000 times stronger than morphine, and 100 times stronger and more deadly than fentanyl. Symptoms of carfentanil ingestion include death, as well as respiratory distress or arrest, disorientation, drowsiness, sedation, pinpoint pupils, and clammy skin, with symptoms appearing within a few minutes after exposure.

Nitazenes are known as “the zombie drug” or “Frankenstein drug”, in part, because they cause rot of the flesh. They cause users to pass out for hours, make it much more difficult to revive them, and cause rotting ulcers that can lead to loss of flesh, muscle, bone, and death. The ulcers usually begin as a blackened area with small holes. The lesions grow and begin to ooze pus, and continuing the rot deep into muscle and bone, with untreated addicts losing fingers, toes, and other exposed portions of the body. Experts warn withdrawal from nitazenes so difficult, addicts are known to leave hospitals and treatment including amputations to avoid it, despite understanding the drug is causing their bodies to rot, and being warned it will cause death from rot.

A new and growing issue with nitazene additives, however, is whether inhaled or used in any form, they will also rot bodies internally; perhaps hiding for some time, but causing irreversible and fatal damage to lungs, heart, kidney, liver, and more.

Officials are finding these new additives in powders and pills of many street drugs, including those made to look like a bona fide, pharmaceutical-stamped, regulated product. Another increasing fear is cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and other drug users, even those who prefer to think of themselves as “weekend warriors”, may become victim to the unknown and deadly contents of the new additives, far beyond the risks posed by fentanyl contamination. To date, the epidemic of fentanyl-additive contamination has killed more than 106,000 Americans a year.

Multiple doses of Narcan opioid reviver are typically used in often-failed efforts to revive victims ingesting either carfentanil or nitazenes, knowingly or unknowingly.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the guest and author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rigaku Analytical Devices.

Be sure to check out Michael's podcast 'The Opioid Matrix,' where he has a 360-degree discussion with all angles contributing to the current opioid crisis our communities face.




Michael W. Brown is the global director of counter-narcotics technology at Rigaku Analytical Devices. He has a distinguished career spanning more than 32 years as a Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Most recently he was the DEA Headquarters staff coordinator for the Office of Foreign Operations for the Middle East-Europe-Afghanistan-India. Prior to that he served as the country attaché in India and Myanmar providing foreign advisory support for counter narcotic enforcement. He also spent 10 years in Pakistan as a special advisor to the US Embassy on various law enforcement issues. Michael is a graduate of the United States Ranger Training Battalion and has a master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Technology and Management from the University of Eastern Michigan.

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