A synthetic heroin substitute that has been easily purchased over the internet has been declared a Schedule I drug by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
Wayne Smith, special agent in charge of the Georgia Clandestine Lab Response Program with the GBI, said the Schedule I designation means U-47700 can only be purchased with a prescription.
Many people were ordering U-47700 online because it was considered a chemical, not a drug.
A Schedule I drug is defined as a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
The Georgia State Board of Pharmacy placed U-47700 under Schedule I drug status in April.
“Where we were at, we could confiscate it, but we couldn’t criminally charge anyone,” said Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome.
U-47700 is a synthetic opioid originally developed as a research chemical that is actively being abused by many, according to a GBI news release.
Some of the side effects include sedation and respiratory problems that can be fatal. It is also reported to be 7-10 times stronger than heroin, according to the GBI.
Floyd County police Maj. Tom Ewing, former commander of the Rome-Floyd Metro Task Force, said the big problem with the substance is that abusers have been able to order it online from people who may be marketing the substance as a bath salt.
“The best thing this will do for us is that they will not be able to order it over the internet anymore,” Ewing added.
Hufstetler predicted earlier this year that the state would make shipping the substance into Georgia illegal.
“I know we have had several instances (of drug overdoses) here, but I don’t know how widespread it is. I’m certainly glad to hear the DEA has taken this action.” Hufstetler said.
In 2016, the GBI identified two overdose deaths because of U-47700. In one of those cases, U-47700 was the only drug found in the system of the dead person, the GBI said.
Rome News-Tribune Associate Editor Doug Walker contributed to this story.