Police in Park City, Utah, have confirmed from toxicology reports that Ryan Ainsworth and Grant Seaver, both 13 years old, died in September from an overdose of a synthetic opioid drug, obtained legally from China, that bears the trade name of “U-47700” and street names of “pink” or “pinky.”
The drug is not specifically banned in the US, because it is a derivative synthetic product, manufactured in organic chemistry labs outside the US and not yet listed by the US as a banned or controlled substance. However, the US Drug Enforcement Agency has begun an emergency process of banning the substance. That takes time, and it’s likely another opioid derivative will show up shortly after the ban on U-47700 goes into effect.
The drug is nearly eight times stronger than morphine and has been connected with at least 50 deaths in the US, which is now struggling with an opioid abuse problem. The entertainer Prince, who overdosed on another synthetic opioid known as fentanyl, had pills containing U-47700 in his estate.
Parents simply can’t monitor all the online activity their kids engage in, especially with ubiquitous access to the internet from handheld devices. The drug can be purchased for about $40 online, according to sources close to the Park City teenagers’ death.
The Park City Police Department released some information about U-47700, which is described as a white powder that can also come in liquid form in dropper bottles or nasal inhalers. Delivery is often from Asian countries in unmarked “stealth” delivery boxes, possibly with handwritten labels. Boxes, vials, or plastic baggies labeled “Not for Human Consumption” or “For Research Purposes Only” have been found with U-47700 inside.
U-47700 is extremely toxic, even in small doses, the police warn. “Exposure to U-47700 by inhalation or contact with skin can be fatal. If you believe you have encountered the drug, contact your local law enforcement agency immediately.”
If you suspect a child may be looking into purchasing pink online, you can check browser history for the following websites, listed in a statement from the Park City Police Department:
I’m not so naïve as to suggest filtering all content from these websites on school networks—other domain names would pop up faster than you can say “filter”—but these are the domain names listed by the Park City police as having sold U-47700 to US residents.
As for the drug, current US law requires listing specific chemicals on a schedule of controlled substances. Organic chemistry labs can easily make new drugs that mimic the effects of heroin, morphine, or other opioids, but the DEA has a tough time keeping pace with the continuous and ongoing work of the drug designers in those labs.
Laws ought to take into account not only the chemical structure but some other feature of these synthetic drugs so as to expedite the listing of chemicals like U-47700 and whatever derivative may come after it on the schedule of controlled substances.