Fentanyl, developed in the 1960s, has been a critical part of medical strategies for managing pain for decades. However, in recent years, there has been a tremendous increase in fentanyl abuse and addiction, often resulting in tragedy. In the United States, it is one of the drugs most commonly involved in fatal overdoses.
Below are 16 crucial facts you should know about fentanyl.
- There are two types of fentanyl: illegally made fentanyl and pharmaceutical fentanyl. Both are powerful, synthetic opioids. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.
- The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies fentanyl as a Schedule II prescription drug used primarily for its analgesic and anesthetic properties.
- Like other opioids, fentanyl use can result in dependency and addiction.
- Fentanyl is typically used in medical situations to treat patients with severe pain, particularly after surgery or cases of severe trauma. It is also used to manage severe pain in individuals with cancer or renal failure. In medical settings, fentanyl is typically given as an IV, injection, a patch on the skin, lozenges, or lollipops.
- Most of the fentanyl-related overdoses that have occurred have been traced back to illicitly manufactured fentanyl. This substance is distributed in illegal drug markets because it produces effects similar to those of heroin. Because of its intense strength, illicit fentanyl can be mixed with other drugs, such as heroin or cocaine. Doing this creates substances that are stronger, cheaper, more dangerous, and more addictive.
- Most illicit fentanyl is made in labs outside the country and smuggled across the United States-Mexico border.
- On the drug market, illegally produced fentanyl comes in powder and liquid forms. Powdered fentanyl is often mixed with drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. It is then formed into pills made to look like other prescription opioids, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Illegal fentanyl in liquid form can be put into eye drops or nasal sprays. It can also be dropped onto small candies or pieces of paper.
- Fentanyl-laced drugs are extremely dangerous. Depending on an individual’s body size, past use, and tolerance, it only takes two milligrams of fentanyl to be a lethal dose compared to 100 milligrams of heroin. A two-milligram lethal dose of fentanyl is equal to one grain of sand or 10 to 15 grains of table salt.
- After analyzing counterfeit pills, the Drug Enforcement Administration found fentanyl amounts ranging from .02 to 5.1 milligrams per tablet. The tests showed 42% of the tablets tested contained two milligrams or more of fentanyl. An individual can take a pill and not know it contains fentanyl. Or, a person can take a pill being aware it contains fentanyl but has no idea how much of the substance it contains.
- Illegal fentanyl can be swallowed, injected, snorted, or placed on blotter paper and placed in the mouth.
- On the street, illegally made fentanyl is known as China Girl, China Town, Apache, Friend, Goodfellas, Dance Fever, Great Bear, King Ivory, He-Man, Tango and Cash, and Murder 8.
- The effects of fentanyl are similar to other opioids. The substance can produce an intense high. The individual feels extremely happy, euphoric, and drowsy. Additional effects of the drug include nausea, confusion, constipation, sedation, problems breathing, and unconsciousness.
- Symptoms of fentanyl overdose can include slow, shallow, weak, or no breathing. Dizziness, confusion, weakness, sleepiness, and loss of consciousness usually occur. The individual’s eye will have constricted, small, pinpoint pupils. They may make gurgling or choking sounds, feel clammy or cold, and have discolored skin, especially their nails and lips. Their body will be limp.
- There is a treatment for fentanyl overdose. The drug naloxone (Narcan) can reverse the effects of a fentanyl overdose if administered immediately, although due to fentanyl’s strength, multiple doses may be required.
- For people under the age of 50, fentanyl is involved in more deaths than any other cause, including cancer, heart disease, suicide, and homicide.
- 106,000 people died in 2021 from a drug overdose. More than 70,000 of those deaths were from fentanyl.
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