It is vital the state update its controlled substance list to ensure successful prosecutions for drug crimes, said Bridget Brennan, the special narcotics prosecutor for New York City, at a press conference Thursday. Fentanyl analogs, or synthetic replications of the painkiller with slight chemical alterations, are increasingly prevalent in New York’s narcotics supply, but officials remain barred from moving forward with cases involving the drug, reported Staten Island Live.
Unless the various narcotics are added to New York’s list of controlled substances, a dealer cannot be charged with a crime, even in fatal circumstances. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed adding 11 variants of fentanyl to the list in 2017, but state lawmakers only approved two for scheduling as a controlled substance. (RELATED: Fentanyl Is Behind More Than One Third Of Cocaine Overdose Deaths In NYC)
Fentanyl analogs rejected by the legislature for scheduling were linked to at least 48 fatal overdoses in 2017 on Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, officials said. The deadly analogs, which are usually more powerful than fentanyl, include fluoroisobutyryl fentanyl, furanyl fentanyl, methoxyacetyl fentanyl and U-47700.
Overall, fatal opioid overdoses are up 65 percent on Staten Island since April, killing 53 people, according to Staten Island Live.
“Fentanyl is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin … and the analogs are even more potent, multiple times more potent than fentanyl itself,” said Brennan, according to the report. “In the eight years we’ve seen this crisis unfold, we have seen an escalating pattern of ever more dangerous lethal drugs starting with pain pills, followed by heroin, then fentanyl and now fentanyl analogs, which make it our greatest challenge yet.”
Fentanyl overtook heroin as the U.S.’s deadliest substance in 2016, claiming 19,413 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans younger than 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016.
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