February 11, 2021

What is fentanyl and why is it behind the deadly surge in US drug overdoses?

Mr. Brown was among six people in the community killed in a three-day span by the drug. When Swainson Brown, 40, a beloved chef at a restaurant on Shelter Island, at the eastern end of Long Island, consumed cocaine on an evening in August, authorities said he had no idea it was laced with https://ecosoberhouse.com/. It was powerful — just three baggies replaced her nine daily of heroin — but above all, lab-made fentanyl costs a fraction of the price of natural opiates, which are derived from poppies. Anna, a 31-year-old from Brooklyn, was first introduced to fentanyl three years ago while working in a drug mill in Crown Heights, scooping the chemical mixture into glassine envelopes of heroin.

fentanyl

Other drugs may interact with fentanyl, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this medication guide. For fentanyl lollipops, nasal spray, sublingual tablets or spray since they are used for acute pain, you are not likely to miss a dose of this medicine. Skip any missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose.

What does fentanyl do and how is it misused?

However, it is a very dangerous substitute because of its marked potency and the inability for people to gauge dosages, resulting in frequent deadly overdoses. In 2022, the Mexican Red Cross were called to an average of 60 drug overdoses a month in Tijuana – people from all walks of life. And on both sides of the Mexico / US border, it’s being cut with other drugs including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Across the US, the study identified states like Alaska, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Hawaii and California as having the highest rates of overdose deaths involving fentanyl and another drug. When fentanyl first arrived in the US as part of the illegal drug supply, “a lot of people did not want it”, Prof Shover said. But the synthetic opiate became widely available as it is cheaper to produce compared to other drugs.

Making matters worse, counterfeit pills often look legitimate — they may come in a prescription bottle and match the color and size of the prescription drug. Non-opioid street drugs, like methamphetamine and cocaine, can also be laced with fentanyl. Fentanyl is a very powerful opioid, about 100 times more potent than morphine (CDC, 2023). It has been approved by the FDA for use as a pain reliever (analgesic) or anesthetic and is prescribed after surgery or among those with late-stage cancer (CDC, 2023; DEA, n.d.). Another measure is increasing the availability of opioid agonists like methadone and buprenorphine that reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings, helping people stay in treatment and decrease illicit drug use.

Risks of fentanyl use

Fentanyl has become a leading cause of death in the United States, an issue on the presidential campaign trail and the subject of major diplomatic efforts by the Biden administration. Call an ambulance right away if you suspect you or someone you’re with may have taken an overdose. Fentanyl injections are used in a hospital setting as an analgesic or anesthetic premedication for surgery. If there is any of the tablet left in your mouth, you may drink a glass of water to help you swallow the leftover medicine. Discontinue all other extended-release opioids when beginning therapy.

  • More than one dealer did not measure at all, spritzing liquid fentanyl onto baking sheets of marijuana, creating a once-rare concoction that some dealers say is increasingly requested.
  • Drug traffickers can import small parcels of pure drug into the United States, where they are later cut and redistributed to street-level drug dealers.
  • Fentanyl is roughly 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.
  • When Swainson Brown, 40, a beloved chef at a restaurant on Shelter Island, at the eastern end of Long Island, consumed cocaine on an evening in August, authorities said he had no idea it was laced with fentanyl.
  • Fentanyl contributes to the insecurity – and the profits from its sale are huge.

Milligram per milligram, how long does fentanyl stay in your system is roughly 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. As the chief of medical toxicology at UMass Chan Medical School, I have studied fentanyl and its analogs for years. As fentanyl has become ubiquitous across the U.S., it has transformed the illicit drug market and raised the risk of overdose. The Biden administration has pursued additional policies since taking office. Congress recently passed legislation making it easier for doctors to prescribe buprenorphine, a drug that helps people recover from opioid addiction. The administration has widened federal funding for so-called harm reduction approaches to addiction, like syringe exchanges and the distribution of drugs that can reverse overdoses.

What Is Fentanyl?

Once word got out, he said, his phone would light up with users seeking extra-strong fentanyl, an experience several other dealers said they shared. Since 2018, fentanyl seizures by the New York D.E.A. have tripled, as confiscated heroin fell by more than half. The drug agency in New York says it has taken 1,099 kilograms of fentanyl off the street so far in 2021, compared with just 434 kilograms of heroin. While fentanyl is legally manufactured and distributed in the U.S., it can be stolen, obtained with fraudulent prescriptions or made in illegal labs.

  • He also recommended getting trained on how to use it, carrying it with you at all times and administering it as soon as possible if a person seems to be overdosing.
  • Since then, the drug has spread across the US and death rates have grown sharply.
  • People with substance use disorders may not know about the addition of fentanyl, which puts them at a higher risk of accidental overdose or death.
  • People who use fentanyl swiftly develop a tolerance to high doses, meaning that more of the drug is needed to achieve the desired effect.

While it works quickly, naloxone is a temporary solution that works for 30 to 90 minutes. It’s available both for those who have been prescribed fentanyl and those who are misusing fentanyl. Naloxone may be available without a prescription at community-based programs, local public health groups or local health departments. In many states, the medicine may be requested from a pharmacy without a patient-specific prescription.

It is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product—with or without the user’s knowledge—to increase its euphoric effects. Often, other illegal drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, may be mixed with fentanyl, making them much more potent. People with substance use disorders may not know about the addition of fentanyl, which puts them at a higher risk of accidental overdose or death. Smiley thinks he has seen more than 20 people overdose, but he has revived them all by using naloxone, a medicated nasal spray which can reverse an opioid overdose. But in Mexico you still need a prescription – Smiley gets his supply from a local charity.

  • Mr. Brown was among six people in the community killed in a three-day span by the drug.
  • Mexico’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, recently made headlines when he said Mexico neither produces nor consumes fentanyl.

This material is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Data sources include Micromedex (updated 2 Jan 2024), Cerner Multum™ (updated 16 Nov 2023), ASHP (updated 10 Jan 2024) and others. Fentanyl patches are applied to the skin to treat moderate to severe chronic pain around the clock. Fentanyl patches are used when other pain treatments such as non-opioid pain medicines or immediate-release opioid medicines do not treat your pain well enough or you cannot tolerate them. Some patients and healthcare professionals may not be fully aware of the dangers of this very strong narcotic.

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