Bringing a new wave of infamy to the opioid epidemic, fentanyl has become the source of overdosing across the United States. Even those who normally don’t use stimulants or painkillers are still at risk of fentanyl exposure due to its rising popularity. Fentanyl can take on the appearance of established prescription pills on top of being laced into other drugs.
What Is Fentanyl?
Much like many opioids, fentanyl began as an extremely potent painkiller. When it was introduced in 1959, it was administered only through an IV drip. A couple of decades later the drug was adapted into a patch for those with chronic pain such as chemotherapy recipients. From there it was a natural progression to tablets.
Now easier to take, fentanyl generated a large amount of buzz in the world of illicit drugs. It’s 50-100 times stronger than heroin and morphine and activates the same receptors in the brain. For those who heavily abuse opioids, the option to take less and feel more seemed like a no-brainer.
Unfortunately, this cheaper and more potent alternative can quickly lead to a fatal overdose. Drugs such as meth and cocaine are being diluted with fentanyl, making for an even more addictive substance. Even marijuana is being sprayed with a liquid form of fentanyl in large batches.
Why Fentanyl Is Such a Concern
It’s important to understand how dangerous fentanyl is and where it’s being spotted. Someone who illegally obtains and consumes marijuana won’t have any tolerance for opioids. For these individuals, overdose can happen extremely easily. They don’t anticipate any other drug mixed in, meaning their regular amount consumed can prove to be fatal.
Fentanyl made for illicit distribution began with Chinese companies sending the drug directly to the United States in the mail. As demand increased, the chemicals used to make fentanyl started being shipped to Mexico instead to be turned into the drug and smuggled over from there.
Fentanyl Is Invading All Manner of Drugs
Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are now the leading contributor to death by overdose with a record number of deaths from March 2020 to March 2021. There were 96,779 overdose deaths during that window, exacerbated by the stress and fear of the pandemic.
Fentanyl can now be found mixed in with any drug obtained illegally. Only prescription medication prescribed by your doctor and picked up from a licensed pharmacy can be safely taken as directed. What makes fentanyl lacing even more dangerous is that it rarely sees even distribution.
Many dealers who begin lacing drugs with fentanyl aren’t using precise measurements or considering how much could lead to an overdose. Since most individuals seeking out fentanyl already have a tolerance to opioids, dealers aren’t worried about making it “too strong” as that’s what the demand is for.
How to Spot a Fentanyl Overdose
As fentanyl leads to so many overdose deaths, knowing the signs could be the difference between life and death. While the best way to avoid an overdose is to avoid illicit drug use, those who choose to continue should never do so alone.
Fentanyl overdose will present itself through:
- Shallow breathing
- No response to external stimuli
- Pinpoint pupils
- Low blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blue/gray colored fingernails and lips
- Loss of consciousness
If you notice any of these signs in someone using fentanyl, immediately attempt to get their attention and make sure they’re responsive. In the instance that they don’t respond, try to solicit a response to pain by pinching them or applying pressure on the sternum without actually hitting them.
Don’t spend too much time trying to get a response. If they don’t respond in a timely manner, immediately dial 911 to request an ambulance. Some individuals may have Naloxone on hand if they’re aware of fentanyl’s overdose risk. If so, administer the medication while waiting for the ambulance and attempt CPR on the individual.
Always Seek Professional Help for Fentanyl Abuse
As the use of fentanyl rises, so must our efforts in combating drug abuse and addiction. America’s Rehab Campus has been Arizona’s top rehab facility amidst the pandemic. Our doors are open every hour of every day to make treatment as accessible as possible.
Don’t let fentanyl control your life or the life of a loved one any longer. Reach out to our team of compassionate recovery specialists today.