The Top 8 things you need to know about the Dangers of Fentanyl
What makes Fentanyl so dangerous?
By/ uVera Diagnostics
In December 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that fentanyl had surpassed heroin to become the drug most frequently involved in deadly overdoses . Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid painkiller that can be anywhere from 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and fentanyl deaths doubled every year from 2013 to 2016 as the drug rapidly spread through the American market. But exactly what makes fentanyl so dangerous? In this blog post, we’ll answer eight common questions you may have about this opioid.
1. What is Fentanyl used for?
Pharmaceutical Fentanyl was originally developed in order to facilitate pain management for people undergoing cancer treatment. In a medical setting, it is typically used to treat patients with severe or chronic pain, and can be administered using a patch on the skin, via a shot or as a lozenge.
More recently, however, Fentanyl has made its way into heroin to increase its potency — and when people purchase heroin, they don’t always know that it contains a potentially fatal dose of Fentanyl. Fentanyl that is consumed in this way is often sold as a powder, and can induce an intense but temporary high.
2. Why are we hearing so much about Fentanyl?
Recent data from the CDC has indicated that Fentanyl overdoses are on the rise. In the midst of the ongoing opioid epidemic, fentanyl has become increasingly responsible for opioid addiction and overdose. It has become profitable for people selling heroin or other drugs to lace their products with Fentanyl — and when users don’t know they’re consuming Fentanyl, it’s far too easy for them to overdose.
3. How does Fentanyl interact with other drugs?
Fentanyl is often mixed into many drugs that are sold on the street, such as heroin, cocaine and other drugs coming in pill form. Even illicit Xanax or oxycodone can be found laced with Fentanyl. Some people intentionally combine Fentanyl with other drugs to enhance the high they feel, but many users often purchase such drugs unwittingly, without knowing that Fentanyl is present. In both cases, mixing Fentanyl with other drugs is incredibly risky and can easily lead to an overdose because Fentanyl is so potent. Some people may not have any opioid tolerance, for example, while others may take a fatal amount of Fentanyl without realizing it.
4. How can we tell if Fentanyl has been mixed into another drug?
In New York City alone, Fentanyl has been responsible for approximately 44 percent of overdose deaths, so many drug users are trying to take precautions. Being able to recognize the presence of Fentanyl is important; however most times you can not tell. One way that may prove affective are Fentanyl test strips and if they are available to purchase. Carrying an overdose prevention medication naloxone doesn’t help you detect the drug, but it could save your life if the drug you’re taking is mixed with Fentanyl.
5. Can people get addicted to Fentanyl?
This is partly what makes Fentanyl so dangerous; because it is such a potent opioid, it can also be extremely addictive. People may be dependent on Fentanyl without being addicted to it, but this dependency can often lead to addiction. It can also be very difficult to treat a Fentanyl addiction because withdrawal symptoms ranging from sleeping problems to cold flashes can quickly kick in.
6. Is Fentanyl illegal?
The FDA has only approved Fentanyl for medical use in specific cases, but most Fentanyl distribution and consumption in the U.S. is actually illegal. Fentanyl is often manufactured in illicit labs, or trafficked into the country from external sources. Physicians only prescribe Fentanyl for extremely severe or chronic pain, and using the drug outside these circumstances is not only dangerous — but also against the law.
7. What are the effects of Fentanyl?
In the short term, Fentanyl can have similar effects of heroin, such as pain reduction, euphoria and a sense of relaxation. But if Fentanyl is taken for longer periods of time, it can quickly lead to aggravated and potentially fatal side effects, such as seizures, drowsiness, vomiting, weakness, hallucinations and difficulty breathing. Fentanyl’s high potency can eventually lead to an overdose, often due to respiratory failure.
8. How can a Fentanyl overdose be treated?
Naloxone can help treat a Fentanyl overdose if it’s administered right away, but multiple doses may be required because Fentanyl is more potent than morphine and even heroin. However, a Fentanyl overdose can be doubly dangerous because it is often mixed into other drugs, which can make it difficult — even for medical professionals — to identify which drug is causing the overdose. Once naloxone has been administered, the person who has overdosed should be monitored and receive immediate medical attention.
Fentanyl, prescribed by a doctor and taken as instructed, can be an incredibly useful drug for patients who are experiencing severe pain after surgery, or who have chronic pain conditions. Outside these circumstances, however, the illicit consumption of fentanyl is extremely dangerous and illegal. It’s too easy to be unaware that another drug has been laced with fentanyl, and fentanyl on its own is so potent that its addictive potential is amplified.
Overdose deaths from opioids like fentanyl have prompted the U.S. to declare a national emergency, and other countries have placed fentanyl on their controlled substance list. We hope this blog gives you an idea of precisely what makes fentanyl so dangerous, as well as, the precautions people can take to avoid it altogether.
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