In addition to being used as a pain reliever, fentanyl can even be used as a part of anesthesia during surgery. The purpose of the medication as anesthesia is to help the patient “go under” and to alleviate the pain that is associated with the surgery itself. While all of these uses of fentanyl are positive, there is a big negative that makes the drug appealing to street-drug manufacturers. The drug is fifty to one hundred times more potent than morphine. As a result, fentanyl is one of the most potent and dangerous drugs available on the market. Obviously, with small doses of fentanyl being so strong, only a small amount is needed to give a therapeutic effect.
Street Drug Manufacturing of Fentanyl
Alarmingly, the use of fentanyl as a cutting agent in the production of illicit substances has become more prevalent. Street-drug producers are using fentanyl powder to cut cocaine and heroin making the drugs more dangerous for the user. For example, when an unsuspecting user uses their “normal” dose of heroin that is laced with fentanyl, the person is at a high risk of overdose and death.
‘Nearly 50% of all opioid-related overdose deaths involve fentanyl.’
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Fentanyl Powder Exposure
Another concern with fentanyl powder is that the product is not contained in one area. Accidental exposure to a fentanyl lollipop or lozenge is relatively low. While unintentional exposure to fentanyl powder is a strong possibility when dealing with drug users. As a powder, the material is mobile and granular in nature. Therefore, it can spread through the air by wind, air ventilation, or by being dropped.
When the material becomes airborne, it is extremely dangerous to anyone who breathes it in. This serious health risk is a problem for first responders and police officers when responding to a crime scene or drug overdose or enforcing a search warrant. Several police officers have almost lost their lives during routine searches as the result of fentanyl exposure. Again, the strength of even a trace of the powder can kill an adult. Fortunately, there is a medication called Narcan that has been identified as an antidote to accidental exposure to fentanyl.
Fentanyl and Heroin
As mentioned above, heroin manufacturers are adding powder fentanyl to their product as a cutting agent. By using small doses of fentanyl, they produce a stronger product. However, this also means it is a deadlier product. As a result, the opioid epidemic has become more dangerous than ever, with more people dying from overdoses every day. Moreover, the addictive nature of these drugs makes it increasingly difficult to overcome an addiction to them, as quitting cold turkey can be dangerous due to withdrawal symptoms.
Fentanyl, the Hidden Killer
Many people are unaware that their typical drug of choice has been laced with fentanyl. As a result, the unsuspecting person takes in a more potent drug than their body is accustomed to handling. Since both opiates and fentanyl work on the respiratory center of the brain stem, fatal respiratory depression can occur. This means that the person’s ability to breath is “depressed,” meaning the muscles in the chest become paralyzed and the person stops breathing.
"In six years, fentanyl-related deaths have increased from 14.3% of opioid-related deaths to 45.9%."
Fentanyl Awareness and Treatment
With the increased presence of fentanyl, opiate addiction has become more dangerous than ever. It is important that users of heroin and other opiates are aware of the potential for their drug of choice to be cut with fentanyl. Furthermore, if you have a loved one who suffers from an opiate addiction, having Narcan on hand can save your loved one’s life.
However, the best long-term approach to help your loved one overcome an opiate addiction is through support, intervention, medically assisted treatment, and counseling. It is difficult to overcome an opiate addiction, so your loved one will need lots of support during this process. If you are concerned about a loved one’s drug addiction, Substance Intervention LLC is here to help. We can help make a plan to stage an intervention as well as assist you in selecting the right long-term recovery options.