What is it?
According to DEA.GOV Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.
Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients, applied in a patch on the skin. Because of its powerful opioid properties, Fentanyl is also diverted for abuse. Fentanyl is added to heroin to increase its potency, or be disguised as highly potent heroin. Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and actually don’t know that they are purchasing fentanyl – which often results in overdose deaths.
What does it look like?
Fentanyl pharmaceutical products are currently available in the following dosage forms: oral transmucosal lozenges commonly referred to as fentanyl “lollipops” (Actiq®) F,
Effervescent buccal tablets (Fentora®), Sublingual tablets (Abstral®)
Sublingual sprays (Subsys®), Nasal sprays (Lazanda®)
Transdermal patches (Duragesic®), and injectable formulations.
Clandestinely produced fentanyl is encountered either as a powder or in counterfeit tablets and is Fentanyl sold alone or in combination with other drugs such as heroin or cocaine.
How is it abused?
Fentanyl can be injected, snorted/sniffed, smoked, taken orally by pill or tablet, and spiked onto blotter paper. Fentanyl patches are abused by removing its gel contents and then injecting or ingesting these contents. Patches have also been frozen, cut into pieces, and placed under the tongue or in the cheek cavity. Illicitly produced fentanyl is sold alone or in combination with heroin and other substances and has been identified in counterfeit pills, mimicking pharmaceutical drugs such as oxycodone.
According to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System, reports on fentanyl (both pharmaceutical and clandestinely produced) increased from nearly 5,400 in 2014 to over 56,500 in 2017, as reported by federal, state, and local forensic laboratories in the United States. While Mexico and China are the primary source countries for fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked directly into the United States, India is emerging as a source for finished fentanyl powder and fentanyl precursor chemicals.
Overdose deaths on the rise:
According to the New York Times Drug overdoses now kill more than 100,000 Americans a year — more than vehicle crash and gun deaths combined.
In 2015 opioid drug overdoses were reported at 33,091 as of 2021 they are now reported at 78,056 which is a 135% increase and is more deaths than the Vietnam war.
Drugs may contain deadly levels of fentanyl, and you wouldn’t be able to see it, taste it, or smell it. It is nearly impossible to tell if drugs have been laced with fentanyl.
Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths. Even in small doses, it can be deadly.