What is Fentanyl?
There is a drug epidemic in our country that is affecting a magnitude of people residing in the US. This opioid epidemic is driven by illicit drugs such as Fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine to name a few. According to the American Medical Association, there have been more than 107,000 deaths as a result of drug overdose between 2020-2021.
Fentanyl is a drug that has been around since the 60’s. It is a synthetic drug that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine, according to dea.gov/factsheets/fentanyl. It was originally created as a pain management treatment for patients with cancer, major injuries, or nerve damage. It is administered in the form of a patch, lozenge, or syringe to alleviate pain. Primarily manufactured in Mexico however, it is now primarily trafficked through international mail from China.
This drug is so powerful that many have elected to use it for recreational purposes and is often added to other drugs to increase potency, such as heroin, cocaine, meth, molly and or ecstasy. Users seldom know that their narcotics are being laced with Fentanyl which is why the number of overdose cases has spiked so drastically. On the street, Fentanyl is referred to as: Goodfellas, Friend, Apache, jackpot, murder 8 and Tango & Cash, China girl, China white, dance fever, Great Bear, or He-Man.
Because it is so potent, Fentanyl is highly addictive. Even when it is prescribed by a doctor, the patient can experience serious symptoms of withdrawal. Patients who become addicted typically experience the following: body aches, muscle, or bone pain, vomiting or diarrhea, cold flashes, anxiety, depression, dry mouth, uncontrollable movements in the body, swelling of your extremities, weight loss, or severe cravings for the drug, to name a few.
Fentanyl stays in your system for 1-3 days. There are test strips you can use to filter if your substance has traces of Fentanyl however, if you suspect someone you know is overdosing, you should act quickly. According to the CDC, if you suspect someone is overdosing on Fentanyl, you should do the following:
- Call 911
- Administer Narcan or Naloxone if you have it
- Attempt to keep the person awake or breathing as best you can
- Make sure the person is laying on their side to prevent choking
- Do not leave the person until emergency personnel arrive
The CDC also advises that most states have laws that protect the person calling for help therefore you should never avoid calling for help due to fear of repercussions.
Symptoms of an overdose from Fentanyl include but are not limited to:
- Pain in your chest
- Trouble breathing/gurgling
- Blue complexion/lips
- Passing out
When first responders are called due to a Fentanyl overdose, they commonly use a medication called Naloxone (Narcan) to reverse the effects of the drug. Narcan can be obtained at a pharmacy without prescription and often comes as a nasal spray or preloaded syringe. It is not unheard of for people to have Narcan in homes where they suspect someone is abusing the drug.
Like other opioids, Fentanyl has its own effects on the body. Many report feeling euphoria, sedation, confusion, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, disorientation, dilatated pupils, shortness of breath and in some urinary retention.
What is Narcan Exactly?
Narcan is a medication approved by the FDA, patented in NY in the 60’s, that was designed to reverse the effect of an overdose. It was created with the intention to treat constipation in opioid users. When a patient is showing symptoms of an overdose, you can administer Narcan as a quick response. Narcan is given as a nasal spray, intramuscular, or into the vein.
If the person experiencing the overdose is non-responsive, spray Narcan into their nose, and begin administering CPR. Side effects of Narcan can include pain or dryness in the nose or perhaps a stuffy nose. According to Steve Wolfe, General Manager at Spaulding Decon Tampa, most first responders have Narcan handy. “For us as a trauma remediation contractor, it is standard practice for us to carry Narcan.
We bring it as a precaution and part of our PPE (personal protective equipment). A responsible contractor needs to be prepared, as we do not know if we will encounter Fentanyl. It is a best practice for us to always carry it”. Spaulding Decon is a remediation company that specializes in drug lab clean-up, suicides, unattended deaths, crime scenes, water damage, rodent cleanup, mold remediation and more. Visit www.crimescenecleaning.com for more information on clean-up protocol.
We spoke with Benjamin Bueno who is the COO of Rock Recovery Center in Florida, and host of Real Recovery Talk Podcast, for behind-the-scenes details about Fentanyl and its effects on addicts. According to Ben there are roughly over 30 types of FDA registered Fentanyl. CAR is the name of the most potent street Fentanyl, which is produced in China. When we asked Ben about the potency of CAR, he said “It is more potent than what hospitals use to put people under for surgery.” He explained that even people who have developed a high tolerance for Fentanyl use are overdosing.
“It is used as an elephant tranquilizer in South-East Asia”, said Ben. He went on to explain that over the last 10 years there has been a shift on the streets from Heroine use to Fentanyl use. Fentanyl is much more cost efficient to produce and therefore more profitable, especially since its effects don’t last a very long time at all. An amount equating to 2-3 grains of salt is enough to kill a non-addict who has encounter this drug, that is how potent and dangerous it is. Fentanyl addicts need to be weaned off slowly with a drug called Buprenorphine, which is a prescription drug. cutting off Fentanyl cold turkey is dangerous and extremely uncomfortable due to its withdrawal effects. Long term effects of Fentanyl use include issues with cognitive function, emotional regulation, decision making.
Ben told us that getting sober requires a strong will and a lot of work from the individual, but that it is in fact possible. Sadly, many people are unable to go into treatment for lack of funding and resources. Ben described using CAR as “playing Russian roulette”, he said “ your next high could kill you in a matter of minutes”. He went on to tell us about friends he had recently lost due to Fentanyl use. If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction visit https://rockrecoverycenter.com/ for treatment options. You can also visit Benjamins podcast for useful resources and tips on how to get or stay sober at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXePpkAu46J7fhlLJEu1F8Q/videos
Drug Overdose Mortality Rates
What are the mortality rates for drug overdoses in each state? Learn more about the state by state recommendations and resources for drug overdose testing kits.
Most Recent Blog Posts
Does Homeowner Insurance Cover Unattended Deaths? Does homeowner insurance cover unattended death? This blog post will answer that question and share tips on getting the most out of your policy when dealing with tragedy. No one ever wants to think about an unattended...read more
Losing a loved one to suicide is a traumatic event that changes the course and the essence of the survivor’s life. Many feel responsible for the death and wonder how they missed the signs or if they could have stopped it somehow. According to the CDC, suicide is a...read more
Suicide: The Signs, Causes, & Prevention Resources Life can be overwhelming for many. For some, their circumstances, struggles, or perhaps the state of their mental health can create extra stress, pain, and unbearable burdens. At times the weight of their...read more