Two Boys, 13, Die From Overdose of Opioid U-47700
Ryan Ainsworth and Grant Seaver, both 13-years-old, attended Treasure Mountain Junior High School in Park City, Utah. They were best friends. Tragically, in September, they died with two days of each other – of the same cause.
Yesterday, the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office announced the results of the toxicology tests. Both boys died of acute drug intoxication – the drug in question was a relatively unknown opioid referred to as U-47700 (nicknamed “pink” or “pinky.”)
The drug, however, is not pink – rather, it is a white chalky powder. The reason for its nickname comes from the manner of use – users grow out their pinky fingernails to administer the drug into their nose.
U-47700 is a synthetic opioid, derived from morphine by a chemist at Upjohn, but is, however, several times more potent than its parent drug.
The drug was patented in 1978, but testing was limited, and U-47700 was never approved by the Federal Drug Administration for human use.
In December 2012, however, U-47700 appeared unexpectedly, responsible for a death in Norway. Like many synthetic opioids, its formula was picked up by clandestine labs overseas and manufactured for users looking for a cheap high.
In this case, U-47700 traveled around 6,800 miles from China to reach Utah.
The tragic death of these boys devastated the community. Another classmate attempted suicide, and school lockers were searched by police using a K9 unit. During that time, police reportedly received some tips during their investigation that U-47700 might be responsible for the boys’ deaths.
Reportedly, the boys ordered the drug online from China, and had it shipped to a friend’s house. At the time, the drug was technically legal. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration has since enacted a temporary scheduling of the drug as a controlled substance, which went into effect in early October.
In 2015 and 2016, multiple deaths caused by U-47700 occurred around the United States. So far, the DEA has confirmed 15 deaths, but other estimates say it could be much higher.
The drug has so far been seen in Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. In May, a Toledo man succumbed to the drug, and another young man, Brennan McGeachy, died of an overdose in the Detroit suburb of White Lake in October.
The DEA issued a statement along with its notice of intent to schedule the drug:
“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.”
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology