Fentanyl is all over the news today. Whether you hear about fentanyl overdoses from tainted heroin or cocaine, its use in counterfeit prescription pills, or on its own, fentanyl is everywhere. If you or someone you love is addicted to fentanyl, you already know it is a potent opioid. You also need to be aware that you or may be exposed to it through using other drugs that contain it, fentanyl is widespread in the illicit drug supply. Fentanyl is all over but most of us have little to no idea what it is and why people using fentanyl are overdosing. Learn all about fentanyl, what to do in the event of an overdose, and how you can get help with opioid addictions, including fentanyl.
The same fentanyl that people receive for severe chronic pain, pain endured in cancer treatment, or in the hospital after surgery has infiltrated the illicit drug supply. Fentanyl is relatively cheap, easy to transport and use in small amounts that can be cut into other less potent drugs, and it's more potent than many other opioids. Being chemically derived, the supply of fentanyl isn't limited by a natural source, as heroin and other opioids are. Unscrupulous manufacturers in China and Mexico are flooding the market with fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and other synthetic opioids to use as is or to be mixed into other drugs to increase their potency.You may not even know you're getting fentanyl if it is being mixed into heroin, cocaine, or pressed into counterfeit prescription pills with other substances. Fentanyl Forms and Side Effects Fentanyl can come in patches, via injection, nasal spray, for sublingual use, in lozenges, or as a powder. Fentanyl is used to ease severe pain, in combination with other drugs for anesthesia, and for recreational and illicit uses. Fentanyl is so potent that a few grains the size of a single shake of the salt shaker are enough to overdose a grown man. Fentanyl is 50 -100 times the strength of morphine or heroin.
Side effects of fentanyl overdose include diarrhea, nausea, constipation, sleepiness, dry mouth, weakness, and sweating. It's less likely to cause nausea and histamine production than morphine. The most danger is with fentanyl overdose.
Fentanyl overdose is very difficult to reverse, even with Narcan as fentanyl is so much stronger than other opioids. If you are opioid naive, fentanyl is a big risk as it is so strong and can cause opioid overdose. The greatest concern with fentanyl or other opioid overdose is if you experience respiratory depression and central nervous system shut down. Because fentanyl is so potent, even an opioid reversal drug like Narcan may be not be successful in overcoming its effects and saving your life. Using Narcan for a fentanyl overdose usually requires several times more Narcan doses than if the overdose is from a less potent opioid like morphine or heroin.
Another risk is that fentanyl may be in a drug and you are unaware of it. Fentanyl is being used more and more to cut with cheap low quality heroin to increase its potency. Unfortunately, fentanyl can be hard to reliably cut in to drugs as only a few grains more here or there can have an overdose effect.
Dealers aren't concerned with dispersing the fentanyl in their product reliably so it's a case where you can't know if you're safe if you buy a drug outside of a pharmacy. Fentanyl has been used in the illicit manufacture of cocaine, heroin, and the manufacture of counterfeit prescription pills. Traces of fentanyl have been found in MDMA, heroin, and cocaine as often these illicit drugs are produced under less than stringent laboratory conditions.
Just as fentanyl increases the potency of heroin and other drugs, fentanyl has been found in counterfeit drug of all types, including drugs marked as Oxycodone, Oxycontin, and Xanax. Prince was found to have in his possession counterfeit pills marked "Watson 853" which is supposed to be acetaminophen and hydrocodone. The pills in his possession however also contained fentanyl. His cause of death was due to opioid overdose of fentanyl, taken knowingly or unknowingly.
Fentanyl has been found in all sorts of drugs and all across the US. Although Dayton, Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia were hit hard by fentanyl initially, the DEA reports fentanyl is found and increased overdoses and deaths are occurring across the US and Canada. You simply can't know if fentanyl is mixed in or contaminating drugs you buy anywhere.
If you find someone who may have overdosed on opioids, whatever you believe them to be, check for them breathing as respiratory depression is one of the main concerns in an opioid overdose. If you believe they may have taken drugs, call 911 immediately and let them know you suspect opioid overdose and follow any instructions they give you over the phone. If you believe an overdose is occurring and Narcan is available, give the Narcan and take note of the time. Narcan may need to be given multiple times so it helps to know what time you gave it and what effect it does or doesn't have on the person overdosing. Even if the person seems better after giving Narcan, it's important they go to the hospital for further medical monitoring. Narcan only acts for a short period of time and can cause side effects that need to be monitored until the person is out of danger of overdosing.
If you or someone you love is addicted to fentanyl or may be at risk of being exposed to using fentanyl through using other drugs, there is help to quit. The Freedom Model for Addictions can help you to move past addiction without tying you to a lifetime of meetings, therapy, or rehab. You don't have to stay trapped in the addiction-treatment-relapse cycle. If you're ready to live free of addiction to fentanyl, heroin, or any other drugs, you can do it now. Help with addiction is only a phone call away at 888.424.2626.