What is Pink, Pinky and U-4?

The new synthetic opioid that is being called “Pink”, “Pinky” or “U-4” is to blame for an alarming rise in fatal overdoses across the country. In the last nine months, over 80 deaths have been reported, eight of them out of Florida [1]. So what is it?

“Pink” is a synthetic opioid that is chemically designed to get through the loopholes of drug regulation in our country. Due its dangerous potency, “pink” has already been banned in Finland and Sweden. According to Rolling Stones Magazine, “Pink was created in a lab by 20th-century pharmaceutical giant Upjohn. In 1976, chemist Jacob Szmuszkovicz patented the drug with supposedly less addictive potential than other pain medication drugs such as morphine” [2]. The patent, which included instructions on how to produce the drug, became public information, giving drug labs around the world the ability to create and sell the drug. “Pink’s” chemical makeup is similar to other opioids like morphine and heroin but much stronger.

Effects of Pinky

“Pinky” is twice as powerful as heroin and eight times as strong as morphine according to NBC news [1]. Like heroin or other potent opioids, “pink” produces a strong feeling of euphoria, relaxation and relief from pain. Unfortunately, along with these side effects, it is common for drug users to also experience drops in blood pressure, heart rate and lower respiratory rates. With these side effects comes the potential of slipping into a coma and in many cases, not waking up.

Because “pink” is so new, information about it is extremely limited which explains why it is still legal in 46 of the 50 states in our country. Because it is legal, access to it is extremely easy, especially through online avenues where it is commonly sold. “Pink” is easily accessible from a financial standpoint; a full bottle of the drug sells for less than $40.00. “Pink” is also sold in liquid and powder form however it seems that the pill form of the drug is currently the most popular.

What Is Being Done?

As we’ve seen with the heroin epidemic in our country, accessibility and denial both play a huge part in a drugs ability to cause an epidemic. In order to stop “Pink” from gaining the control and power over our country that heroin has gained; we must make it less accessible. The first step to making “pink” less accessible is to make it illegal. More and more states are hopping on board in the fight against this drug. The DEA is also currently working to put regulations in place. According to NBC news, “On Sept. 7, the DEA took initial steps toward banning the drug nationally by giving notice of its intent to schedule the synthetic opioid temporarily as a Schedule 1 substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act” [1].

Although making this drug illegal will not prevent an epidemic all together, it is definitely a starting point because stricter laws means less accessibility which means less people will be able to get their hands on the drug. We also need to start talking about “pink” in our work environments and in our homes. By doing this, we begin to normalize the conversation.

We must remain vigilant and aware; the second we start to ignore or try to minimize its dangerous potential, its presence within our community will only grow. And before we know it, it may be too late to combat. Even if we are certain that this drug is not present in our social circles or in our homes, as a society, we have an obligation to fight for the safety of everybody living within our community. By doing this, we reduce the chance of this becoming an uncontrollable epidemic as we’ve seen with heroin.


  1. https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/americas-heroin-epidemic/pink-stronger-heroin-legal-most-states-n666446
  2. https://patents.google.com/patent/US4098904