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Courts / Law

Florida's attorney general issues an emergency rule banning eight synthetic drugs

Ashley Moody
John Raoux
/
AP
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody says, “As more and more synthetic opioids are making their way into the United States, folks need to be cautious and understand that more people are dropping dead from overdose than we have ever seen before.”

The order targeted drugs known as nitazenes, which Moody’s office said have been linked since 2022 to at least 15 deaths in Florida, including five reported by the Pasco-Pinellas medical examiner.

As Florida continues to grapple with deadly opioids such as fentanyl, Attorney General Ashley Moody on Tuesday issued an emergency rule to outlaw eight synthetic drugs.

The order targeted drugs known as nitazenes, which Moody’s office said have been linked since 2022 to at least 15 deaths in Florida, including five reported by the Pasco-Pinellas medical examiner.

The order makes it a felony to possess, sell, manufacture or deliver the drugs, which do not have a medical use and can be 10 times more potent than fentanyl. Moody said she also will work with lawmakers during next year’s legislative session to permanently outlaw the drugs.

“These synthetic opioids are evolving, becoming more deadly, and they are often being laced in with traditional drugs,” Moody told The News Service of Florida.

At least 20 Florida counties have reported nitazene cases, but they have been mostly identified in the Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and South Florida regions.

Moody said nitazenes were first found in Florida in 2020, with 13 reported cases. That increased to 171 cases last year and 84 so far this year. Moody said the prevalence is likely higher than what is being reported.

“As more and more synthetic opioids are making their way into the United States, folks need to be cautious and understand that more people are dropping dead from overdose than we have ever seen before,” she said.

The emergency rule said nitazenes are commonly available online, along with through illicit drug markets. It said they are often found in combination with drugs such as cocaine and fentanyl.

The emergency rule said nitazenes are believed to be primarily produced in China and shipped to the United States through common mail carriers. In at least one incident, isotonitazenes was confiscated by U.S. authorites at the Mexico-California border.

The rule added the eight drugs to a list of what are known as Schedule I controlled substances.

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