From The Guardian
W-18 is one of thousands of synthetic opiates that is not scheduled as a controlled substance and thus not subject to criminal drug penalties, and one of a handful of drugs that law enforcement officials and scientists say they have seen in increasing numbers in the last six months, as use, abuse and overdose deaths continues to rise.
Another, U-47700, which is seven to eight times stronger than morphine, has been the source of overdoses over the past year in at least 10 states since the first US incident was discovered in Knoxville, Tennessee, in June 2015.
, the executive director for the Center of Forensic Science and Education, said his lab has been able to track down 17 overdose cases of U-47700. And several other overdose deaths and hospitalizations have been identified by local law enforcement in Florida and northern Texas.
The uptick in overdoses and drug seizures involving opiates like W-18 and U-47700 follows actions taken by the Chinese government to criminalize more than 100 chemicals on 1 October 2015, according to Bare.
Once more traditional synthetic drugs were outlawed, chemists looked to more novel substances
The banned chemicals included the makings of acetyl fentanyl, an illicit version or analogue of the powerful prescription painkiller fentanyl that is drastically exacerbating the opioid epidemic in the US. Flakka, a cathinone similar to bath salts, was also banned.
Logan said chemists are finding the recipes for these drugs from research books from the 1970s, when scientists were trying to invent alternatives to morphine.
“In order to find one drug like that you have to test hundreds of them,” said Logan. The result is that there are thousands of variations of research opiates, most of which were never meant to be tried on humans.