PHOENIX - The Drug Enforcement Administration is dealing with a new type of synthetic drug around the nation, and it's made its way to Arizona.
"As addicts are seeking a better high, the market is being flooded to meet that new demand,” said Erica Curry, spokesperson for the DEA Phoenix District.
That's perhaps the reason behind the new synthetic drug formally known as U-47700, or simple U-4. On the streets it's known a pink, or pinky.
The drug is so potent that just by touching it, “you could possibly overdose on that exposure,” said Curry.
The DEA confirmed the drug has caused at least three deaths in Arizona.
Curry said synthetic drugs are a problem because they're affordable. Many addicts start with costly prescription medications, then price themselves out.
A quick search online found a website that offers pink for sale right now.
As of Wednesday afternoon, it was 78 percent off the original price.
The site warns the substance is not safe for human or veterinary use, but it also shows reviews from customers who appreciate the "discreet packaging" and compare the high to "meth."
The DEA has placed U-4 into Schedule I. That criminalized the drug across the nation. It’s also been a topic of discussion for state lawmakers in the legislative session this year.
"Any regulation any law that we can pass to criminalize these substances helps,” said Curry.
But criminalizing a drug will only get us so far, according to Debbie Moak, director of the Governor's Office of Youth, Faith and Family. She said if you ban one drug, they’ll come out with another.
"They will change the [way it’s made] and something else will be on the market tomorrow,” said Moak. “If we follow that strategy we're always going to be behind."
Moak also said lawmakers have to take strong action to ban any harmful substances, but after working with teens as young as 13 years old to get help, she said prevention is key.
"I'm the mother of a son in long-term recover so I have seen this first-hand for 17 years," Moak said. "We have to start much earlier."
That's especially true considering U-4 is almost eight times stronger than morphine.
For more information and resources on substance abuse in Arizona, you can visit the Office of Youth, Faith and Family's website.