DEA Permanently Lists Opioid Brorphine as a Schedule I Controlled Substance
By Sean Price

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently listed the synthetic opioid brorphine as a Schedule I controlled substance, putting it in the same league as other potentially dangerous drugs that have no accepted medical use, like heroin and LSD.  

The move comes after brorphine was linked to at least 21 deaths in the United States between August 2019 and June 2021, DEA says. Brorphine is more potent than fentanyl, which is currently the leading cause of deadly overdoses in Texas and the U.S.  

DEA’s action makes permanent a March 2021 decision to list brorphine as a Schedule I drug temporarily.  

Brorphine was first synthesized in 2018 in an effort to build a better opioid – one that would treat pain without the dangerous side effects opioids are known for, such as arrested breathing, says Mesquite pain specialist C.M. Schade, MD, a member of the Texas Medical Association’s Subcommittee on Behavioral Health.   

“Chemists are trying to create an opioid-like medication that would give pain relief but not euphoria,” he said.  

The legal development of brorphine stopped quickly when experiments on animals showed that it caused typical opioid side effects, according to a March 2022 article in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology. However, brorphine became a street drug by 2019.  

Brorphine may be referred to as purple heroin and appear as a purple or grey substance. It has been reported in the illicit drug markets in Canada, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Sweden, and the U.S. since April 2019, DEA says.  

Stay up to date on developments in the opioid epidemic through TMA’s Opioid Crisis Resource Center.  

Last Updated On

March 24, 2023

Originally Published On

March 21, 2023

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Sean Price


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Sean Price is a reporter for Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. He grew up in Fort Worth and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. He's worked as an award-winning writer and editor for a variety of national magazine, book, and website publishers in New York and Washington. He's also helped produce Texas-based marketing campaigns designed to promote public health. Sean lives in Austin and enjoys hiking, photography, and spending time with his wife and two sons.

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