What does it look like?
Synthetic opioids like AH-7921 and MT-45 have been sold as white powder, and they have also been found mixed with synthetic cannabinoids in herbal smoking mixtures.
Medical synthetic opiates, such as fentanyl, are available as patches, pills, tablets, lollipops and solutions for injection.
Synthetic opioids can be used in a similar way to natural opiates; they can be injected, sniffed, swallowed or heated and inhaled.
Sniffing or inhaling synthetic opioids may damage your throat and nose. Injecting can do nasty damage to your veins and arteries, which can lead to gangrene (death of body tissue, usually a finger, toe or a limb), blood clots/thromboses and to infections.
There are also risks from sharing needles, syringes and other equipment used for injecting – with the danger of developing serious tissue infections or spreading viral infections like hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV.
How does it make you feel?
As with natural opiates, the effects of synthetic opioids include:
- pain relief
- euphoria or well-being
User have also reported sweating, itching and nausea.
How long the effects last and the drug stays in your system depends on how much you’ve taken, your size, whether you’ve eaten and what other drugs you may have also taken.
Physical health risks
These are the same as the risks of natural opioids.
However, as some synthetic opioids are more potent than natural opioids they can be effective at very small doses, which can make it easier to take too much and experience the negative and harmful effects, which can include:
Nausea and retching
Loss of consciousness and coma
There is a greater risk of overdose and death if you mix synthetic opioids with other drugs that suppress breathing such as alcohol, benzodiazepines (like diazepam or Valium), and/or other opiate drugs (like heroin)
Dizziness or fainting
Suppression of normal breathing, including respiratory arrest (when you stop breathing altogether)
If you inject synthetic opioids you can do nasty damage to your veins and arteries, and this can lead to gangrene (death of body tissue, usually a finger, toe or a limb), blood clots/thromboses and to infections
There are also risks from sharing needles, syringes and other equipment used for injecting – with the danger of developing serious tissue infections or spreading viral infections like hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV
Blurred vision and temporary hearing loss has been reported by some people who had taken MT-45, in one case the hearing loss reportedly lasted for more than two weeks
There are also social harms that can develop with repeated use of synthetic opioids, especially if you become addicted. These social harms can include committing crime to afford to buy more synthetic opioids, disruption to your family life and other relationships, general poor health and social functioning including through loss of employment.
What is synthetic opioids cut with?
It is possible that a synthetic opioid may be contaminated during its production and shipment or it may be mixed with another substance(s), such as sugar, starch or powdered milk, to increase its bulk and the seller’s profits.
Testing has shown that MT-45 has been sold in combination with other drugs.
Fentanyl has been found added to heroin and in some post-mortem analyses.
Can you get addicted?
Yes. Animal testing and user reports suggest that, as with other opiates, you can build a tolerance and become dependent to AH-7921 and MT-45 and the same is likely to be true for other synthetic opioids.
This is a psychoactive drug and is covered by the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act, which means it’s illegal to give away or sell.
There’s no penalty for possession, unless you’re in prison.
Supply and production can get you up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
Like drink-driving, driving when high is dangerous and illegal. If you’re caught driving under the influence, you may receive a heavy fine, driving ban, or prison sentence.
If the police catch people supplying illegal drugs in a home, club, bar or hostel, they can potentially prosecute the landlord, club owner or any other person concerned in the management of the premises.
Additional law details
Most synthetic opioids are class A drugs which means they're illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell.