A drug named Pink has been blamed for the overdose deaths of two 13-year-old boys in Park City, Utah. Also known as U-47700, Pink is a new synthetic, opioid drug easily purchased online.
Teenagers Ryan Ainsworth and Grant Seaver, students at Treasure Mountain Junior High, died within 48 hours of each other, leaving parents and the community wondering what killed them. Late last week, the Utah Medical Examiner’s Officer released findings that indicated the boys died from drug overdoses.
The drug found in the boys’ system was Pink, an opioid eight times stronger than heroin. Just after the teens overdosed in early September, police opened an investigation into their deaths.
“U-47700 is extremely toxic, even in small doses,” the Park City police department warned. “Exposure to U-47700 by inhalation or contact with skin can be fatal. If you believe you have encountered the drug, contact your local law enforcement agency immediately.”
During the police inquiry, a teenage girl admitted to helping Ainsworth and Seaver buy U-47700 online. The girl said she had packages delivered to her home to keep the boys’ parents from finding out. According to her statement, the packages contained small baggies filled with a white powdery substance. Police say the substance was U-47700 from China.
Later, after examining a laptop owned by one of the boys, a 15-year-old boy was charged in 3rd District Juvenile Court for distribution of a controlled substance and reckless endangerment. Allegedly, the teenager was somehow involved with Ainsworth and Seaver, possibly selling and distributing the drug Pink to other students.
Potent new drug 'pink' prompts concern for safety of drug-sniffing K9 units in Utah https://t.co/YIlurdvWMR— FOX 13 News Utah (@fox13) September 16, 2016
Looking into social media accounts, the police discovered Pink was a popular topic among students in the community. One student, known to be a friend of both Ainsworth and Seaver, tried to commit suicide by overdosing on Pink. Fearing U-47700 was being abused by numerous students, police launched an extensive search of all school buildings in the district using drug-sniffing dogs.
“I don’t think these young people realize they are dealing with such a powerful drug,” said Ember Conley, Park City School District Superintendent. “…I just don’t think they realize how deadly it can be.”
Developed by a pharmaceutical company in the 1970s as a possible alternative to morphine, U-47700 was never approved for human use and ultimately abandoned. Using old patent records and widely available formulas, chemists from around the world have been able to easily synthesize the substance.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency banned U-47700 in October, stating the prohibition was “necessary to avoid an imminent hazard to the public safety.” Pink is now officially a Schedule I drug alongside other substances like LSD and ecstasy.
The DEA first took notice of Pink when overdose deaths from around the country started being reported in 2015. According to the agency, at least 15 people have died from taking U-47700. However, other estimates place that number as high as 120. After the overdose death of entertainer Prince in April, investigators found evidence of the drug Pink at his home.
“The population likely to abuse U-47700 appears to overlap with the populations abusing prescription opioid analgesics and heroin, as evidenced by drug use history documented in U-47700 fatal overdose cases,” the DEA said in a statement.
While U-47700 is usually a white powder, it can also exist as a liquid and easily put into dropper bottles and nasal sprays. The name Pink is not a reference to the color of the substance, but denotes the ingestion method. Opioid users will place the powder on their pinky finger and inhale it through the nose.
Despite the government ban, Pink is quickly becoming one of the most popular opioid drugs in the U.S., especially among teenagers who can still purchase it online for about $40. The use of even a small amount of U-47700 can be deadly, particularly when taken with another drug.
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