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Florida's attorney general issues an emergency rule banning certain synthetic drugs

Drug dealer selling drugs. Drug abuse concept and overdose concept. Mans hand holds plastic packet with cocaine powder.
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Moody's order makes it a felony to possess and sell the drugs, which have been added to the list of Schedule I controlled substances.

As Florida continues to grapple with deadly opioids such as fentanyl, Attorney General Ashley Moody on Tuesday issued an emergency rule to outlaw eight synthetic drugs. The order targeted drugs known as nitazenes, which Moody’s office said have been linked to at least 15 deaths in Florida since 2020.

The order makes it a felony to possess, sell, manufacture or deliver the drugs, which do not have a medical use and can be 10 times more potent than fentanyl. Moody said she also will work with lawmakers during next year’s legislative session to permanently outlaw the drugs.

“These synthetic opioids are evolving, becoming more deadly, and they are often being laced in with traditional drugs,” Moody told The News Service of Florida.

Moody said nitazenes were first found in Florida in 2020, with 13 reported cases. That increased to 171 cases last year and 84 so far this year. Moody said the prevalence is likely higher than what is being reported.

“As more and more synthetic opioids are making their way into the United States, folks need to be cautious and understand that more people are dropping dead from overdose than we have ever seen before,” she said.

The emergency rule said nitazenes are commonly available online, along with through illicit drug markets. It said they are often found in combination with drugs such as cocaine and fentanyl.

The emergency rule said nitazenes are believed to be primarily produced in China and shipped to the United States. The rule added the eight drugs to a list of what are known as Schedule I controlled substances.