WEST PALM BEACH, Fla (CBS12) — A dangerous drug is showing up on our streets in South Florida.
State lawmakers and drug treatment experts say we need to do something to stem the supply of this deadly drug.
You've probably heard of fentanyl, a dangerous opioid that is killing people.
Now there's another drug out there — nitazene — that experts say is even more powerful than fentanyl and even more deadly.
"I'm absolutely concerned about it," said Dr. John Dyben, a board-certified mental health professional and drug treatment expert.
Dr. Dyben, Chief Clinical Officer at Origins Behavioral HealthCare in West Palm Beach, says we should all be concerned about the growing prevalence of a synthetic opioid called nitazene, which drug dealers are adding to drugs such as cocaine or heroin being sold on the street.
"We'll see more and more people coming in overdosing, needing multiple interventions and we'll see people, an increase in deaths, which is the saddest thing," Dr. Dyben said.
"This drug is an incredibly scary addictive drug," said State Rep. Toby Overdorf, R-District 85, Palm City. Rep. Overdorf's district covers Martin and St. Lucie County.
Nitazene is mixed into other illegal narcotics that are snorted, injected or smoked.
"These are things that are made in some guy's bathtub and those folks are generally not too concerned about the health and well-being of the end user," Dr. Dyben said.
And experts say nitazene is showing up more and more in autopsy results in South Florida and is contributing to the deaths of drug abusers.
"We're seeing it in autopsy reports and those numbers continue to rise," Rep. Overdorf said.
State lawmaker Toby Overdorf is the primary sponsor of a bill in the Florida Legislature that will add nitazine to the Schedule I controlled substance list and make it a felony to possess or distribute nitazene, a crime that would carry a prison sentence of up to life in prison depending on the amount of nitazene the individual has.
There's currently an emergency order in Florida that makes it illegal to possess nitazene, but that emergency order expires June 30, and this bill would outlaw nitazene permanently.
"It's something that we want to get ahead of to make sure that this does not threaten Floridians and does not become a worse problem," Rep. Overdorf said.
Rep. Overdorf says the nitazene bill has already been approved in the Florida Senate and still needs to be approved by the Florida House. If the Governor signs it into law, it would take effect July 1.