Fentanyl is the deadliest drug our nation has ever encountered. And it’s everywhere; no community is safe. That’s why it’s important to know the basics about this highly addictive synthetic opioid that continues to drive the overdose epidemic.
What is Fentanyl? Fentanyl is a prescription drug that is also made and used illegally. It’s an opioid, part of the class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Some opioids are made from the plant directly and others, like fentanyl, are made in labs by scientists using the same chemical structure (semi-synthetic or synthetic).
Fentanyl is similar to morphine, but 50 to 100 times more potent.. Like morphine, fentanyl is a medicine typically used to treat patients with severe pain, especially after surgery It’s also used to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids. In its prescription form, fentanyl is known by such names as Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze.®
How is Fentanyl Used? When prescribed by a doctor, fentanyl can be given as a shot, a patch that is put on a person’s skin, or as lozenges that are sucked like cough drops.
Illegal fentanyl is most often sold as a powder, dropped onto blotter paper, put in eye droppers and nasal sprays, or made into pills that look like other prescription opioids. Today, “Rainbow Fentanyl” is being marketed to youth as pills that look like candy.
Some drug dealers are mixing fentanyl with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA. That’s because it takes very little to produce a high with fentanyl, making it cheaper to use. This is especially risky when people taking these drugs don’t realize that they’re actually using something mixed with fentanyl — a cheap, but dangerous additive. When we are unaware of what we’re using, the drug can be stronger than their bodies are used to, making overdose is more likely.
Next week, we’ll take a look at what fentanyl use does to the body.