What Is Isotonitazene?

In the ever-changing landscape of synthetic opioids, the newest one on the drug market, isotonitazene, or iso, is making a dramatic entrance. Since 2020, the United States has seen a rise in isotonitazene addiction and overdoses, raising alarms about the potency and availability of a largely unstudied new drug.

Until recently, iso was largely unregulated, making it a common cutting agent in other drugs, including a new type of heroin. What originally was a few isolated incidents of overdoses involving iso is now becoming a nationwide problem, with no signs of slowing down as the opioid addiction crisis continues to grow.

Many people will become addicted to isotonitazene unknowingly because of its presence in their drugs; others will purposely seek it out because of its potency and availability.

Continue reading to learn more about the dangers of isotonitazene and how to get treatment for opioid use disorders.

What Is Isotonitazene?

Isotonitazene, iso for short, is a synthetic opioid relatively new to the drug market. Iso is more potent than morphine, with effects similar to fentanyl but a different chemical structure, making it unique.

Isotonitazene has no recognized medical use because the potential for substance abuse, addiction, and overdose outweighs any potential benefits.

In the first seven months of 2020, the United States saw a drastic increase in overdose deaths involving Isotonitazene, prompting the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to give it an emergency placement as a schedule I controlled substance.

The powder form of iso is an off-white, sometimes yellow or brownish color. People will swallow, snort, smoke, or inject isotonitazene. Some dealers will press iso into counterfeit pills or use it to cut other drugs to save money while providing similar effects.

Isotonitazene hasn’t been around long enough to earn a wide variety of street names, but according to the World Health Organization (WHO), common slang names include:

  • Iso
  • Nitazene
  • Toni

What Does Iso Do?

Isotonitazene, iso, acts as a central nervous system depressant that reduces pain and causes feelings of euphoria and relaxation, similar to other synthetic opioids. In high doses, iso can cause respiratory depression, coma, and death.

In the brain, iso binds to the opioid receptors to release chemicals that cause the previously mentioned effects. These pleasurable effects and rapid physical dependence quickly lead to drug abuse and opioid use disorders.

Isotonitazene Side Effects

Isotonitazene’s side effects are similar to other synthetic opioids; however, the long-term effects are unknown because it is relatively new to the illegal drug market.

Because dealers frequently mix iso into other drugs, healthcare workers may not realize some symptoms they are seeing are from isotonitazene, leading to underreported side effects.

Known isotonitazene side effects include:

  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Blackouts
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Dry eyes
  • Constipation
  • Excessive thirst
  • Slowed breathing
  • Withdrawal

Much like fentanyl, isotonitazene is potent in small amounts, but you cannot die from having brief contact with or touching fentanyl or isotonitazene; they have to enter a person’s system physically.

isotonitazene side effect

Why is Isotonitazene So Dangerous?

Isotonitazene is dangerous for two reasons—its potency and how easy it is to mix with other substances without being detected.

Isotonitazene is up to 100 times more potent than morphine, putting it on par with fentanyl. However, with medical supervision, fentanyl has valid medical uses and can be effective in controlled doses; iso has no medical benefits.

Another dangerous aspect of isotonitazene is how strongly it binds to opioid receptors. While studies are limited, emergency responders and healthcare workers have reported it takes multiple doses of Narcan to reverse isotonitazene overdoses, and not all attempts are successful.

It only takes a small amount of isotonitazene to produce powerful and often fatal effects.

In powder form, isotonitazene can look identical to fentanyl and heroin. Iso is cheaper and easier to get than both, making it an ideal mixing agent for dealers who want to make a low-cost, more potent, and addictive product.

Furthermore, isotonitazene is structurally different from other synthetic opioids and doesn’t appear on standard drug tests used by harm reduction centers and health care workers.

Iso is already a common ingredient in fake pills on the drug market because it is easy to press and potent. Many accidental overdose deaths involve people taking tainted or cut drugs without knowing. One of the most famous overdoses involving counterfeit pills was rapper Mac Miller.

A small study conducted in the midwestern United States during the first seven months of 2020 found that out of 1,021 opioid overdose deaths, 40 involved isotonitazene. Fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and alcohol were the most commonly found co-involved substances during autopsy screenings. While the study was limited, it highlights the rapid pace that isotonitazene is becoming common in the drug supply, mostly without users realizing it.

dangers of isotonitazene

Treat Your Isotonitazene Addiction

If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to isotonitazene or other opioids, help is available. With new and more dangerous drugs constantly emerging, overcoming addiction is the only guaranteed way to stay safe.

At Northridge Addiction Treatment Center, we treat the whole person, not just the addiction. We work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses the roots of your addiction, starting with onsite medical detox to ensure your withdrawal experience is safe and as calm as possible, surrounded by non-judgmental support in a private and peaceful setting.

Our beautiful and comfortable residential treatment center in Northridge, California, provides a relaxing and refreshing atmosphere where you’ll be able to focus on yourself, away from the stress, demands, and triggers of daily life.

During your stay at NATC, we only use evidence-based treatment approaches to empower you with healthy and productive skills that will help you overcome challenges when you return to life after treatment.

A fulfilling life without the struggle of addiction is possible. Contact us today to take your first steps on the path to recovery.

Find Meaningful Recovery

Our caring and compassionate specialists are eager to help you comfortably navigate this journey to recovery. Our individualized treatment plan, programs, and therapies may be a perfect match for you or your loved one. Let us assist you in living the happy life you deserve. It starts with a phone call.

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