The past two years have certainly been among the most eventful in recent history, so it’s no surprise that a few notable stories were buried. One of the more concerning ones was the proliferation of “new” synthetic opioids, such as U-47700.
U-47700, often sold under the street names “pink”, “pinky”, “pink heroin”, or “U4”, is a synthetic opioid similar to the much better-known fentanyl. It is most often available in powder form and is characterized by its light pink to white color. Because the market for this specific drug is still limited, it is often misrepresented by drug dealers as some other opioid drug.
While Dallas drug rehabs have not yet identified pink as a serious local problem, as with synthetic opioids, the nationwide proliferation of pink has increased recently, possibly due to the general rise in drug misuse rates during the pandemic.
Is pink a legal drug?
When it first started hitting the streets in the early-to-mid 2010s, pink was not explicitly prohibited and it was one of the more commonly seen “legal narcotics” which were growing in popularity during that era. It was also often used to substitute or misrepresent other popular opioid drugs.
Eventually, US federal authorities put effective controls on pink and other previously legal substances. In 2016, the DEA classified pink as a Schedule I drug, at the same level as heroin and fentanyl. However, because it is a synthetic drug that could be mostly made with legal substances, controlling it has been a major challenge and the drug is still intermittently available throughout the United States.
How is pink used?
It is used much like any other synthetic opioid in powder form, that is, it could be snorted, injected, ingested, smoked, or mixed with other drugs. When it was still legal, it was fairly common in club scenes throughout the US and Europe, often as part of designer drug cocktails.
However, much of its domestic consumption is not related to recreational or party use. Rather, it was and is often used as a substitute for prescription opioids as well as other illicit opioids like heroin and fentanyl.
How dangerous is pink?
The potency of pink can vary from batch to batch. However, in general terms, it is about 7 to 8 times more potent than morphine. In absolute terms, pink is not responsible for an especially large share of overdose deaths, likely due to it being a relatively niche drug. Pink-related OD deaths peaked at around 50 reported in the US, from 2015-2016. There may be more deaths that were attributed to other opioid drugs.
The chief risk of pink is that its presence is often unreported or underplayed in fake prescription pills and designer drugs. This can easily lead to more of the drug being consumed, leading to an OD.
Signs of a pink overdose
Pink overdose signs and symptoms are the same as other opioid drugs like heroin and fentanyl. This can include a loss of consciousness, shallow or stopped breathing, clammy skin, pale or bluish complexion, purple or blue fingernail beds, extremely slow or stopped heartbeat, limpness, and vomiting.
In case you see someone overdosing on pink or other opioids, do the following:
- Call 911
- Lay the person on their side to prevent them from choking on their vomit
- Try to keep the person awake until EMTs arrive
- Administer naloxone, if available. This emergency medication is available in both inhaler and injectable form.
How much of a threat is pink?
Pink is still available on the street, albeit intermittently. Fentanyl, black tar heroin, and illegally sourced or misused prescription medications are by far the bigger threat. In context, it may not be helpful to look at pink specifically, as it is a rather niche drug, and to take the opioid crisis as a whole. Opioid overdoses remain the single largest cause of accidental death in the US, which is far more than vehicular accidents, the next leading cause.
Find help for opioids today
The opioid crisis, which was on a slight downward trajectory before the pandemic, made a deadly resurgence in 2020. With many drug treatment services suspended or at low capacity, even niche synthetic opioids like pink came back into demand as recovering individuals found themselves unable to access treatment.
Things are much better these days, however, and access to addiction treatment and rehab has much improved since the initial disruption due to the pandemic. Today, most inpatient and outpatient programs have readjusted and are now at close to pre-pandemic capacity.
If you’re in the North Texas area, Dallas Drug Treatment Centers offers a wide selection of resources to help you with your recovery. Whether you want to find an opioid treatment program close to home or elsewhere, our experts can help you find something that works.