Nitazenes – “Frankenstein” Drug is Sweeping Across America

February 27, 2024

By Jill K. Sanders, Esq.

When it comes to illegal drugs, there’s always something new on the market. Whether its tranq or kratom, people looking to use drugs will find they have many choices. But now, there’s a new class of synthetic opioids that is more dangerous than fentanyl – nitazenes, also known as “Iso” or “Frankenstein.”


What Are Nitazenes?

Also known as the benzimidazole opioids, nitazenes are a class of synthetic opioids. In the 1950s, pharmaceutical research laboratories developed the drugs. However, they were mostly forgotten about until 2019 when they emerged as street drugs in the US and Europe.

Over the past five years, twenty different nitazenes or analogs have been identified, including isotonitazene which became known on the street as “Iso.” The drugs are also known as “Frankenstein.” Additionally, other drugs in this class include includes protonitazene, metonitazene and etonitazene. The drugs are usually a powder (usually white, yellow, or brown), a tablet (usually blue), or are mixed with other street drugs.

Unfortunately, fentanyl test strips can’t detect the drugs and most labs don’t have the specialized testing to detect them. As such, the exact number of overdoses related to the drugs use is unknown. However, the drugs have been blamed for 200 overdose deaths in the US and Europe.

In Europe, where fentanyl has not been widespread, there is more concern that the drugs are on the rise. Why? As there is a reduction in the supply of heroin, drug users will look for alternatives. In this case, nitazenes arrived on the European drug market at the same time the heroin supply had decreased.


Safety of Nitazenes

When it comes to the effects of the drugs, nitazenes are psychoactive substances. Because little research has been done on how the human body reacts to these drugs, it is unknown what amount (if any) of the drug is safe or what the potential side effects are. But lab tests indicate that the drugs could be hundreds to thousands of times more potent than morphine and 10 to 40 times stronger than fentanyl.

According to law enforcement, these drugs have no medical use and have a high risk of abuse. Thus, they are illegal to possess, distribute, import, or sell. Additionally, the drugs are not used in veterinary medicine.

Because the drugs are similar to other opioids, side effects include slowing of the respiratory and central nervous systems, which can lead to death. To treat overdose, opioid antagonists (such as naloxone or Narcan) may reverse the effects of the drugs. However, larger and multiple doses might be required.



Image: Image by