Fentanyl, 50-100 times stronger than morphine, is a powerfully synthetic opioid that is prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain for patients with tolerance to other painkillers and to manage pain for post-operative patients, surgery and as well as an anesthetic for surgery. Fentanyl is a Schedule II prescription, which according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) means it has “a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence and are considered dangerous.” — It cannot be refilled and is heavily regulated in comparison to most other medications. Fentanyl is administered by medical professions via injection, with a transdermal patch, or lozenges.
Despite its Schedule II status, fentanyl is widely available as a street drug. With the familiar name “China White,” it is also referred to as “China Girl,” “TNT,” and “Dance Fever.” Underground and illegal labs produce fentanyl in powder form, on blotter paper, or pill form. Fentanyl-laced heroin has become increasingly popular, and deadly, in recent years. Like regular heroin, fentanyl can be swallowed, snorted, or injected.
As the opioid epidemic continues, fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths are disturbingly common. In New York City, fentanyl has become the most common substance in all drug-related overdose deaths. Over 57% of all overdoses in 2017 involved fentanyl.
These statistics paint a grim trend across America. In a recent research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers found that nearly half of all opioid-related deaths in 2016 detected fentanyl. In many ways, the opioid crisis may actually be a “fentanyl crisis” since its easy availability, illicit drug trade, and easy-to-use forms mixed with its extreme potency makes it one of the deadliest drugs out there.
Fentanyl, at least 50 times stronger than the average street-grade heroin, is extremely addictive. However, public awareness traditionally overlooked the dangers of fentanyl. Because the stigma of heroin addiction is (rightfully) very negative, fentanyl has been somewhat ignored until recently. Many opioid users get hooked, or addicted, to prescription strength opioids such as Vicodin, Codeine, and OxyContin. As they build tolerance, fentanyl becomes the next stepping stone.
Many addicts who begin with pharmaceuticals will eventually start to use heroin. Heroin by itself is extremely dangerous, but drug dealers or supplies realized they could “cut”—mix—heroin with fentanyl for cheap. Rather than making the heroin weaker as most additives do, fentanyl makes heroin cheaper and much, much more potent—thus more deadly.
Fentanyl addiction is very similar to heroin or opioid dependence. Symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal include:
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Vomiting and stomach cramping
- Excessive sweating
- Increased heart rate
- Diarrhea and dehydration
- Overall body pain and aches
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms are painful and uncomfortable, but there is no risk of seizure or death from withdrawal like there is from benzodiazepines or alcohol. Narcan, the life-saving medication that treats heroin and morphine overdoses, has reportedly not been as helpful in cases of fentanyl.
The potency of fentanyl makes the drug fatal in ways that other drugs are not. Addiction treatment and recovery are the only ways to ensure fentanyl addiction does not result in death.
Because fentanyl is 50-100 times stronger than heroin or other opioids, accidental overdoses and overdose deaths related to fentanyl have soared. When someone addicted to heroin uses fentanyl-laced heroin, the addicted person has no way of knowing that their heroin is going to be so potent. Using the same amount as they usually would, they overdose.
Recently, illicit drug suppliers have begun lacing cocaine with fentanyl, creating a deadly combination. Early September 2018 has seen at least three deaths in San Diego from such a dangerous mixture. Along with cocaine and heroin, fentanyl is now being used to lace methamphetamine and counterfeit pills (that look like pharmaceutical medications). Authorities warn that it takes only 2 mg of fentanyl to produce a fatal overdose.
We’re Here To Help
While it takes laboratory tests to confirm fentanyl when it is mixed with other drugs, Boardwalk Recovery is here to help you or your loved one recover from addictions of any kind.
You not alone if you or a loved one is suffering. As the opioid and heroin epidemic worsens with fentanyl-laced drugs, treatment options and success stories are also on the rise. Recovery from opioid addiction is possible, and new approaches to recovery have provided new hope to thousands of addicts, families, and parents.
At Boardwalk recovery, we have a caring and expert staff of doctors, nurses, and therapists to provide a safe place for addicts to recover from fentanyl or heroin and work to overcome their addiction. Our primary concern is helping the heroin addict become a healthy and happy person and family member.
With advances in science and health, as well as integrated mindfulness and experiential treatments, Boardwalk Recovery can help those who used to be opioid addicts begin living their lives and get back to being sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, friends, and amazing success stories.