Acetyl fentanyl overdose fatalities--Rhode Island, March-May 2013

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2013 Aug 30;62(34):703-4.

Abstract

In May 2013, the Rhode Island State Health Laboratories noticed an unusual pattern of toxicology results among 10 overdose deaths of suspected illicit drug users that had occurred during March 7-April 11, 2013. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for fentanyl in blood was positive for fentanyl in all 10 cases, but confirmatory gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) did not detect fentanyl. The mass spectrum was instead consistent with acetyl fentanyl, a fentanyl analog. Acetyl fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, has not been documented in illicit drug use or overdose deaths, and is not available as a prescription drug anywhere. Animal studies suggest that acetyl fentanyl is up to five times more potent than heroin as an analgesic.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Drug Overdose / mortality*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Fentanyl / analogs & derivatives*
  • Fentanyl / blood
  • Fentanyl / poisoning*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / blood
  • Illicit Drugs / poisoning*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Rhode Island / epidemiology
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Young Adult

Substances

  • Illicit Drugs
  • Fentanyl