Fentanyl is a powerful opioid painkiller that is much stronger than heroin or morphine. It acts by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, causing euphoria and relaxation. However, if taken too much, it can cause addiction and respiratory depression that can lead to unconsciousness or death.
Look for the warning signs of a reaction to fentanyl, including severe dizziness, extreme sleepiness, slowed or difficult breathing and unresponsiveness. Seek emergency medical attention immediately if you experience these symptoms.
What is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a fast-acting opioid (synthetic opiate) pain medication. It works by changing the way your brain and nervous system respond to pain. This medication is used to treat breakthrough pain (sudden episodes of pain that occur despite round-the-clock treatment with other narcotic pain medications) in cancer patients who are at least 18 years old (or at least 16 years of age for Actiq brand lozenges). It is also used to relieve chronic pain in cancer patients who are already taking another type of narcotic pain medication and have become tolerant to it.
It is possible for a person to develop dependence on prescription fentanyl. Dependence can lead to addiction, a severe form of substance use disorder (SUD). People with SUDs compulsively seek drugs even though they have harmful effects on their health and well-being.
Illegal drug dealers are also using fentanyl as an additive to other drugs because it can be cheaper and easier to synthesize than other opioids. For example, fentanyl is more lipophilic and can easily pass through the lipid bilayer membrane in the brain, so it can reach the CNS quickly. It is so potent that even short-term exposure can cause respiratory depression and death.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that does not occur naturally. It is manufactured in laboratories using the chemical formula (CH)2COCH2CHOCHCH2.
The drug can be found as a pill, lozenge, transdermal patch or nasal spray to treat chronic pain. It can also be mixed with heroin to increase its potency, and the resulting combination is called an “overdose.”
In the United States, most fentanyl-related overdose deaths are linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl. The drugs are produced by criminal manufacturers to evade policy restrictions and elude detection by standard drug tests. The odorless and colorless chemicals are often distributed in powders or blocks that look like sidewalk chalk or candy. The drug can be sold in different colors to mimic popular brands of pills, such as Xanax or Oxycodone.
Some state lawmakers have tried to address fentanyl overdoses by pushing for harsher punishments for possession. However, similar anti-heroin strategies have failed in the past. Most fentanyl in the United States is imported from China, and Chinese manufacturers have been modifying compounds to avoid regulatory controls. This has created a wide range of new fentanyl analogues, which are known as fentalogs.
Fentanyl is a potent and dangerous synthetic opioid. It is more than 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. It can be snorted/sniffed, smoked, taken orally as a pill or tablet, or inhaled through a patch. It can also be found in counterfeit pills that look like prescription pain medication and is used in combination with heroin and other drugs to produce powerful, deadly effects.
The structure of fentanyl makes it susceptible to metabolic transformations, and several metabolites have been identified. In one study, a metabolite of fentanyl (N-phenyl-N-(2-phenethyl)-4-piperidinepropionylamide) had pharmacological activity similar to morphine and was less potent than fentanyl in the guinea pig ileum assay. Oxidation of the phenylethyl and propionylamide moieties generates tertiary amine oxides, and aromatic rings are more prone to oxidation to phenolic derivatives.
As a result, it can be difficult to identify and test for this drug in forensic samples. However, advanced laboratory equipment and sophisticated techniques can help. This includes gas chromatography mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry.
Uses of Fentanyl
Fentanyl is a pharmaceutical opioid that is prescribed in the form of transdermal patches to treat severe pain, most commonly cancer-related pain. However, illicitly made fentanyl is increasingly being found in counterfeit pills purchased on the street or online that are sold as oxycodone, heroin, methamphetamines, or MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy or molly). Because fentanyl is so much more potent than those drugs, even a tiny amount can cause life-threatening breathing problems and death.
Fentanyl and its related compounds, called analogues, are also being used as adulterants in the illicit drug supply. The potency of fentanyl and its analogs allows dealers to cut larger quantities of drugs while maintaining the drug effects buyers expect, making it cheaper for them to traffic.
Illicitly made fentanyl is often mixed with other substances like powdered cocaine, methamphetamines, and even marijuana. This can be dangerous because it can cause people to think they are taking a less-potent opioid when they actually are taking a very strong one that could be deadly. In addition, if the other substances are not properly dissolved and mixed in with the fentanyl, it can be difficult for users to judge the correct dose and can have adverse side effects including confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, or nausea, vomiting, rashes or itching.
Effects of Fentanyl
Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller that can be used to treat moderate and severe pain. It can cause side effects such as nausea, drowsiness, constipation, sedation, confusion and it may increase the risk of seizures in some people. It can also increase the risk of HIV infection if someone injects it with nonsterile needles.
Fentanyl overdose can be fatal. It is up to 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Drug dealers often add fentanyl to other drugs like cocaine and heroin to make them stronger and cheaper. It is hard to tell if a powder or pill contains fentanyl, so it is important for users to understand the risks and seek emergency medical help immediately if they experience any of the symptoms of an overdose such as extreme sleepiness, slow or shallow breathing, or unconsciousness.
Illegal fentanyl is also being mixed in with counterfeit pills and sold to people who believe they are taking prescription opioids. This increases the risk of overdose and death because the doses are usually much higher than prescribed.