In an effort to quell the alarming incidence of opioid overdoses and fentanyl-related deaths seen today, the United Nation's Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) has scheduled two fentanyl precursors — 4-anilino-N-phenethylpiperidine (ANPP) and N-phenethyl-4-piperidone (NPP) — and butyrfentanyl, a dangerous fentanyl analogue, under international control.
The declaration was made by UN's Vienna-based drug arm last March 16 at the 60th Session of the CND spearheaded by Ambassador Bente Angell-Hansen.
What Is Fentanyl
Fentanyl is a powerful man-made opioid believed to be between 80- to 500-fold stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is approved for alleviating severe pain — for instance, in patients suffering from advanced stages of cancer. It can be taken as a transdermal patch, as a nasal or oral spray, as a lozenge, or as an injectable drug.
Popularly known as "China White," fentanyl is also sold in the black market as a substitute or to augment the euphoric effects of high-grade heroin.
"Fentanyl is a good medicine, but a bad drug. It has excellent pain relieving properties, but is liable to abuse and can rapidly lead to dependency," UN CND Laboratory and Scientific Section Chief Justice Tettey explained.
5,000 Overdose Deaths Due To Fentanyl
Fentanyl abuse is fatal. It's been linked to increased risks of respiratory failure, multiple organ system damage, anoxic injury, and serious mental health problems, such as depression.
According to UN's Global Smart Report, fentanyl and its analogues have caused over 5,000 opioid-related deaths in North America beginning 2013. The same can also be said in several countries around the world — including Finland, Germany, Australia, Algeria, and Morocco.
Fentanyl analogues or fentanyl-like substances, which are specifically formulated to simulate the pharmacological properties of the original drug, can be much as 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
A Possible Solution To America's Drug Abuse Epidemic
Additional data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, which includes fentanyl, significantly rose by 72 percent from 2014 to 2015.
Experts believe this may be due to the increased availability of illegal, non-pharmaceutical grade fentanyl. At least 4,585 fentanyl confiscations were documented in 2014, with more and more states around the country reporting 20 or more confiscations every six months.
"This vote will make it harder for the criminals that are illicitly producing fentanyl to access the necessary resources. It will require countries to regulate the production, sale, and export of the precursors to fentanyl, and to criminalize sale or trafficking outside of those regulations," a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department told the Daily Mail UK.