October 14, 2020

Michigan Poison Center issues warning about 'purple heroin'

The Michigan Poison Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine wants the public to be aware of recent reports involving “purple heroin” identified in Michigan.

“Purple heroin” has been linked to several overdose cases in the Upper Peninsula and one overdose-related death in Van Buren County. Samples sent to the Michigan State Police Laboratory for testing have identified several components of this product, including fentanyl, niacinamide, acetaminophen, flualprazolam, buspirone and brorphine. Brorphine is s a new non-fentanyl synthetic opioid identified in “purple heroin” and has been implicated in the death in Van Buren County.

At this time, it is not known if “purple heroin” is colored before or after arrival in Michigan. The significance of the color is unknown.

The risks of using opioids and synthetic opioids such as brorphine is known and of deep concern to Poison Centers and other health care professionals.

The availability of brorphine combined with other potent opioids, like heroin and fentanyl, pose an imminent hazard to public safety, further fueling and complicating the existing opioid epidemic.

Brorphine is considered a recreational drug and an alternative to fentanyl by users. Although data is limited, brorphine overdoses should respond to normal naloxone dosing.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration encourages public health workers to look for signs and symptoms related to use of “purple heroin.” Public health providers should implement surveillance to rapidly identify drug overdose outbreaks and track geographical trends. Engagement with local poison centers and clinicians for patient management is paramount. Patients suspected of using heroin, fentanyl or other opioids/synthetic opioids who present with sedation, respiratory depression and other related symptoms should be reported to the local poison center for assistance with treatment.

For those with opioid use disorder or who know an individual suffering from substance use disorder, please consider treatment. Because this is an evolving situation, the opioid you use may contain brorphine or other synthetic opioids. The Poison Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine strongly suggests obtaining the opioid antagonist naloxone in case of inadvertent overdose.

Please contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 800-662-4357 to find resources and connect with local substance abuse treatment centers.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Service encourages those who use opioids to obtain naloxone (Narcan®) in Michigan at no cost by visiting https://nextdistro.org/michigan.

You may also call Never Use Alone at 800-484-3731 or visit NeverUseAlone.com for help.

The Michigan Poison Center is available day or night, every day of the year. If you have questions or concerns about substance use, drug safety or any other poison related issue, please call 800-222-1222.