The emergence of a dangerous new street drug tied to overdose cases in Utah is another reason for stepped up vigilance against the scourge of opioid narcotic abuse. The drug, known on the streets as “pink” or “pinky,” is officially referred to as U-47700, and was recently categorized by federal authorities as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Authorities in Davis County have tied the drug to a near-fatal overdose this month, while police in Cedar City confirmed a death linked to use of the drug last March.
In Park City, officials are trying to find out if the drug was responsible for the deaths of two middle school students, both 13 years old, in a case that has shocked the town and brought evidence of the drug’s menace to the forefront of public attention. That adolescent children can find a way to easily access the drug is disturbing by itself and a call to action for parents who need to be aware of the availability and apparent attractiveness of the substance, as well as other dangerous drugs that are trafficked among kids in all demographic classes.
It will take weeks before toxicology tests reveal whether “pink” was the cause of the deaths of two boys, described as best friends, who died within 48 hours of each other. The case prompted police to conduct a sweep of local schools, and has rallied the community to recognize a problem that can afflict virtually every family. To a lot of people, it’s shocking to learn that young teenagers, with a record of good grades in school and participation in social and athletic activities, who are considered “good kids,” are conspiring amongst themselves, often on social media, to attain something that will give them a powerful and immediate “high.” But, it is happening, and probably at a greater rate of frequency than we would like to admit. Police will tell us that it’s something we have to confront with ongoing intent.
The abuse and misuse of opioid narcotics has risen to the level of a serious public health problem, generating a number of initiatives to confront the problem. Still, it brings a tragic toll on a daily basis. It’s estimated that 24 Utahns die each month from an opioid overdose. Across the country, 165,000 people died between 1999 and 2014 from painkiller overdoses. That’s close to the number of people who live in Salt Lake City proper. It is the equivalent of a modern-day plague, but one not brought by a malevolent biological intruder, but by the lure of chemicals that can produce a sense of euphoria that is endemically addictive. In our age of advanced technology and interconnectivity, such substances are relatively accessible. The U-477000 drug is a synthetic derivative of the drug Fentanyl, a substance found in the blood of the pop star, Prince, who died of an apparent overdose earlier this year.
It happens that this week has been proclaimed by President Obama to be “Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week.” The cases in Utah tied to the drug, “pink,” should certainly elevate awareness to a higher level. Parents need to be watchful over their children’s behavior for clues they have fallen prey to the lure of drug use. That requires a high level of attentiveness within the family circle, because there is no government policy, whether preventative or punitive, that will negate the abilities of such drugs to be appealing, or realistically, to be available to people — even those barely out of childhood.