Novel Synthetic Opioids: The Pathologist's Point of View

Brain Sci. 2018 Sep 2;8(9):170. doi: 10.3390/brainsci8090170.


Background: New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) constitute a broad range of hundreds of natural and synthetic drugs, including synthetic opioids, synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones, and other NPS classes, which were not controlled from 1961 to 1971 by the United Nations drug control conventions. Among these, synthetic opioids represent a major threat to public health.

Methods: A literature search was carried out using public databases (such as PubMed, Google Scholar, and Scopus) to survey fentanyl-, fentanyl analogs-, and other synthetic opioid-related deaths. Keywords including "fentanyl", "fentanyl analogs", "death", "overdose", "intoxication", "synthetic opioids", "Novel Psychoactive Substances", "MT-45", "AH-7921", and "U-47700" were used for the inquiry.

Results: From our literature examination, we inferred the frequent implication of fentanyls and synthetic opioids in side effects, which primarily affected the central nervous system and the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. The data showed a great variety of substances and lethal concentrations. Multidrug-related deaths appeared very common, in most reported cases.

Conclusions: The investigation of the contribution of novel synthetic opioid intoxication to death should be based on a multidisciplinary approach aimed at framing each case and directing the investigation towards targeted toxicological analyses.

Keywords: AH-7921; MT-45; NPS; U-47700; fentanyl; forensic pathology; synthetic opioids.

Publication types

  • Review