Dangerous new synthetic drug is hard to detect, and can be deadly
JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. (WDAF) -- A dangerous new substance has surfaced in the metro and it's already claimed one life. The synthetic drug is sweeping through Johnson County and the top prosecutor is doing his best to stop it.
"People think, 'Oh it doesn't happen in Johnson County because it's an affluent community,' but that's not absolutely true at all. It doesn't matter your socioeconomic class or your background. All kids are susceptible to this," District Attorney Steve Howe said.
It's called U-47700. It's a white powder substance, synthetic and deadly. Howe said the drug, similar to bath salts, is 8-times as potent as morphine.
"We are starting to see more reports of this drug in the Midwest," Howe said.
It began with overdoses in Olathe. In April a 36-year-old man was found dead, a confirmed case of U-47700. A few weeks later, a 23-year-old man also died from a suspected U-47700, but investigators are still waiting on final toxicology findings.
"We know of one in our county. We suspect a second one, but we haven't had confirmation of the toxicology report," Howe said.
It's so new, some law enforcement agencies don't even have the ability to test for this drug.
"Every time we make a synthetic drug illegal, the makers overseas tweak the chemical compound of it to make it legal," Howe said.
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He said U-47700 is hard to detect, even harder to identify at this point.
"It's this constant game that we're playing with those overseas who are selling illegal drugs here in the United States," Howe said.
It's just a click away. The most common source for the substance is websites shipping from China.
"So many of these are purchased overseas through the mail," said Howe.
Investigators are trying to put the case together for an executive order that would make U-47700 illegal now instead of waiting for January 2017 when the Kansas Legislature goes back in session.
"We're trying to react as quickly as possible to save people's lives," said Howe.
Kevin Kufeldt works with kids in Johnson County who are struggling with drug use.
"Every life matters to us. We're starting to see the synthetic drug use on the rise," he said.
He urges parents to talk with their kids before they learn the dangers of drugs like U-47700 on their own.
"Kids are naturally curious with the experimentation of different substances and when they learn about it, they seek it out, they find it, they use it," Kufeldt said.
Howe agreed, "That's the big part of it, letting kids know that the serious repercussions that could exist, including taking their own life."
Governor John Kasich issued an executive order in Ohio May 4, combating the same drug in his state.