Ever heard of fentanyl? Most people have. It is a prescription pain drug that contains synthetic opiates, that is more powerful than morphine. It has been used to treat patients with severe pain, and typically is given by pill, injection of patch.
Right now, fentanyl is having its day in the media, as recently, California state health officials has officially linked fentanyl usage to 10 deaths and 42 overdoses in the city of Sacramento in a very short amount of time – just 12 days.
Sadly, California is hardly the first to report such “outbreaks”. Over the last few years, several other major cities throughout the country have also had similar occurrences. Because of this, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a nationwide alert in 2015 warning the public against fentanyl.
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths related to overdose from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl increased by 80% from 2013-2014, and over 5,500 people died from overdoses of these drugs in 2014.
This particular recent outbreak in California has been traced to counterfeit hydrocodone pills that contained fentanyl, according to the Sacramento County Dept of Health and Human Services. In other cities, fentanyl has been illegally produced in labs and even mixed in with heroin, or used instead of heroin in powder form.
This drug goes by many different street names, which include: dance fever, friend, goodfella, Tango, China Girl, and Cash.
Fentanyl binds to your body’s opiate receptors, similarly to morphine, heroin and other opioids. Typically, these are highly concentrated in the area of your brain that is responsible for feeling pain and emotions. When this drug works, it increases dopamine levels, putting the user in a euphoric and relaxed state.
Also similarly to the other drugs, fentanyl can be deadly when too large of a dose is taken. It is an extremely potent drug, possibly the most powerful opioid drug that is currently available for use today. In fact, it is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin, and up to 100 times more powerful than morphine.
As you can probably guess, fentanyl’s potency is greatly increased when mixed with street drugs that contain heroin and cocaine. The cocktails in these drugs may produce dangerous side effects such as nausea, constipation, sedation, unconsciousness, respiratory issues, euphoria and even coma.
Fentanyl overdoses need to be immediately countered using medications called “opiate receptor antagonists” such as Naloxone which are able to counteract the effects of the opiate drugs.
The DEA believes that fentanyl is being brought into the US via drug smuggling from China. If you have any medication containing fentanyl you will want to be vigilant and careful about not accidentally overdosing, or the results could be devastating.