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DEA warns about new synthetic opioid

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

There is a warning from the Drug Enforcement Administration about a new synthetic opioid that's killed at least 15 people across the country. 

It's called U4 or U-47700, and according to the Associated Press, two 13-year-old boys in Utah died after overdosing on it. 

"There is no medical use for this stuff in the medical profession at all. It is simply a horrible opportunity and a straight shot at death is what it is," said DEA Special Agent-in-Charge of the New Orleans Field Division Stephen Azzam.

Azzam says the synthetic opioid is similar to heroin and fentanyl, and it's being sold online. 

"It's a relatively new synthetic opioid for us, we haven't seen any just yet in the New Orleans area, but it is throughout the United States," said Azzam. "It's coming in and we are doing everything we can as an agency to try to intercept, and we're trying to target these folks that are shipping this stuff into the United States, but it's a very arduous project." 

The DEA says it's aware of 15 confirmed deaths across the U.S. from U4, but Jefferson Parish Coroner Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich says that number is likely higher. 

"It's tragic, and the likelihood is it's more than 15. A lot of times you get these folks who overdose, and some of these new drugs - even though they are synthetic opiates - sometimes they don't test as opiates," Cvitanovich said. 

Even though U4 hasn't been found in the New Orleans area yet, the DEA says it's time to have a conversation about it and the opioid epidemic.

"Families need to have a conversation with their young adults. It's not just children, but young adults - it's college kids. We have to have this conversation. If we don't, you run that risk that that could be your child," said Azzam.  

The DEA is in the process of trying to make U4 illegal and a Schedule I drug. The agency says that needs to happen to avoid an imminent threat to public safety. 

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