FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Gov. Matt Bevin issued an emergency administrative regulation on Tuesday to help fight Kentucky's drug epidemic.
The emergency administrative regulation allows Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services to take emergency action to make a synthetic opioid, known as U-47700, a Schedule I controlled substance and subject to criminal drug penalties.
The regulation also allows other drugs and synthetics that are scheduled on the Federal register to be automatically placed in the same drug class in Kentucky regulation. This allows the process to be expedited, instead of reopening the regulation every time a new synthetic drug is discovered.
"New illicit deadly drugs are making their way into our communities and destroying lives," Gov. Bevin said in a news release. "We intend to eradicate this epidemic, and this executive order gives our law enforcement officers the immediate support they need to help save lives."
The emergency administrative regulation places U-47700 in the same drug class as heroin and acetylfentanyl - drugs that have no accepted medical use and a high potential of abuse.
Authorities in Kentucky say they're starting to see signs of the drug in recent investigations of overdoses.
Van Ingram, executive director of Kentucky's Office of Drug Control Policy, told WKYT's Garrett Wymer that the drug emerged in 2014, but that they did not see it in Kentucky until this year. Investigators believe the drug is to blame in three cases, including one overdose death, Ingram said.
"This is not a safe drug," Ingram said. "This is not a drug that's ever been approved for human consumption. This is produced in back-alley laboratories. This is not something that's safe, this is not something you need to be using."
Overdose deaths are the leading cause of accidental deaths in Kentucky, surpassing car crashes. Most of the deaths involve the abuse of legal painkillers and a growing heroin epidemic.