The search for the 'next' euphoric non-fentanil novel synthetic opioids on the illicit drugs market: current status and horizon scanning

Kirti Kumari Sharma, Tim Hales, Vaidya Jayathirtha Rao, Niamh Nic Daeid, Craig McKenzie (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)
426 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: A detailed review on the chemistry and pharmacology of non-fentanil novel synthetic opioid receptor agonists, particularly N-substituted benzamides and acetamides (known colloquially as U-drugs) and 4-aminocyclohexanols, developed at the Upjohn Company in the 1970s and 1980s is presented

Method: Peer-reviewed literature, patents, professional literature, data from international early warning systems and drug user fora discussion threads have been used to track their emergence as substances of abuse.

Results: In terms of impact on drug markets, prevalence and harm, the most significant compound of this class to date has been U-47700 (trans-3,4-dichloro-N-[2-(dimethylamino)cyclohexyl]-N-methylbenzamide), reported by users to give short-lasting euphoric effects and a desire to re-dose. Since U-47700 was internationally controlled in 2017, a range of related compounds with similar chemical structures, adapted from the original patented compounds, have appeared on the illicit drugs market. Interest in a structurally unrelated opioid developed by the Upjohn Company and now known as BDPC/bromadol appears to be increasing and should be closely monitored.

Conclusions: International early warning systems are an essential part of tracking emerging psychoactive substances and allow responsive action to be taken to facilitate the gathering of relevant data for detailed risk assessments. Pre-emptive research on the most likely compounds to emerge next, so providing drug metabolism and pharmacokinetic data to ensure that new substances are detected early in toxicological samples is recommended. As these compounds are chiral compounds and stereochemistry has a large effect on their potency, it is recommended that detection methods consider the determination of configuration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalForensic Toxicology
Issue number1
Early online date28 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • Bromadol
  • Clinical and forensic toxicology
  • Novel synthetic opioids
  • Psychoactive substances
  • U-drugs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Toxicology
  • Biochemistry, medical


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