Newswise — Months ago, ASRA member and anesthesiologist Anita Gupta, MD, suspected overdose patients had received heroin spiked with a synthetic opioid additive because they were not responding to the antidote, naloxone, routinely used by emergency workers. Gupta suspected the drug was laced with W-18, a synthetic additive that acts like heroin but is 10,000 times stronger.

A recent surge in antidote-resistant overdose patients in Philadelphia seems to support her theory. Typically manufactured in China, W-18 is not yet regulated. It is believed to be responsible for at least 50 deaths nationwide.

Gupta is an anesthesiologist, pharmacist, and pain specialist at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. She notes that whether patients become addicted to opioids through illicit means or just desperation in trying to manage their pain, it is critical that physicians be aware of this new challenge in managing the opioid epidemic.

ASRA supports measures to manage the opioid epidemic and provide multimodal options to chronic pain patients without completely removing opioids from the pain physician's armamentarium.

Dr. Gupta is available for interviews on the topics of opioids and the discovery of the W-18 additive.