Detection of metonitazene

Metonitazene is a substance in the nitazenes substance group with potent synthetic opioid effects, similar to fentanyl. In a review by the World Health Organization, it was found to be 30-200 times as potent as morphine when it comes to analgesic effects, and 50 times as potent when it comes to respiratory depressant effects.

Chemical structure of metonitazene

The substance was first reported to the UNODC EWA on NPS in 2020 by Germany and the United States and has since been identified in other countries worldwide. Metonitazene was associated with 51 deaths in the United States from July 2020 to August 2021, and was scheduled as a controlled substance in the country, effective 18 September 2023. In August 2023, the Australian Department of Health issued a drug alert noting that metonitazene was mis-sold as cocaine in Melbourne, and has resulted in at least two serious hospitalisations.

In East and Southeast Asia, metonitazene was first identified by Malaysia (2023 Q1), followed by China (2023 Q2). The metonitazene in Malaysia was found in white powder form.

Although metonitazene was placed under international control under Schedule I of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 in 2022, the recent detection of the substance in East and Southeast Asia is concerning due to potentially fatal effects of the substance.

Countries reporting identification of metonitazene

  • 2020: Germany, United States
  • 2021: Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States
  • 2022: Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States
  • 2023: Australia, Austria, China, Malaysia, United States

Metonitazene substance page on the UNODC EWA on NPS

(Additional pharmacological/toxicological information and trend data available upon registration.)