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Nitazene​s, opioids "more potent than fentanyl," related to 2 recent Colorado deaths

Opioid "more potent than fentanyl" found in 2 Boulder County deaths
Opioid "more potent than fentanyl" found in 2 Boulder County deaths 02:11

There's a new street drug that has been found in Boulder and it is very deadly. This past week the Boulder County Coroner said it has had two deaths tied to nitazenes since mid-2023.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says since 2021 the state has had 13 deaths related to nitazenes.

"And that is from El Paso to Larimer County on the Front Range," said Sam Bourdon, the harm reduction and grant fund manager with the Overdose Prevention Unit at CDPHE.

Nitazenes are a very potent synthetic opioid pain reliever that have been around for decades.

Sam Bourdon CBS

"These drugs like fentanyl and heroin and the nitazenes, they're all opioids. If you overdose, they can make you stop breathing and it's just that the nitazenes are even more potent than fentanyl," said Dr. Chris Hoyte the medical director of Rocky Mountain Poison Center.

Nitazenes have not been approved by the FDA for consumer use and this makes it even more dangerous.

"It's not monitored for potency or purity so when someone is buying an illegal substance or they are procuring something that's not directly prescribed to them they don't have any guarantee of what's going to be inside of it," said Bourdon.

Nitazenes are usually mixed with other drugs to increase potency, lower costs or evade legal regulations and detection methods. So, drug users may not even know they are taking them.

Dr. Chris Hoyte CBS

"You think that you are buying one thing but sometimes they can be used in counterfeit drugs, so people don't necessarily know they are getting that," said Hoyte.

"Just not knowing what's in your substance inherently will put you at some risk for overdose or drug-related harm," said Bourdon.

Doctors say the best medical advice is to get clean if you can, but if you are using illicit drugs being cautious and prepared can reduce the potential for tragedy.

"You just got to be so careful about buying drugs on the street," said Hoyte.


"Carry Naloxone -- it's now over the counter. Also, using with someone else if possible and then there's also tools like fentanyl test strips that and other types of test strips that help you at least confirm that there is something in your substance," said Bourdon.

Naloxone will reverse some effects of nitazenes just like it does with other opioids. 

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