To the Point: The Fentanyl Crisis, Why Now, Why So Deadly? American University, Washington, DC

About half of that money has come from the federal government, which provides money for prevention, treatment and recovery services. The state has allocated $416 million from its own general fund, which has been primarily used for medication-assisted treatments for people with opioid use disorders and to purchase naloxone, according to the Department of Finance. Like other opioids, including oxycodone, fentanyl works by how long does fentanyl stay in your system affecting the area of the brain that controls pain and emotions as well as other parts of the body. When fentanyl binds to the brain’s opioid receptors, dopamine levels increase to produce an intense state of relaxation and euphoria. Unusually slow and ineffective breathing, known as respiratory depression, means less oxygen intake to the point where the brain may be starved of oxygen, leading to a state of hypoxia.

  • Physicians like me have seen a rise in unintentional fentanyl use from people buying prescription opioids and other drugs laced, or adulterated, with fentanyl.
  • In California, various public agencies and community-based groups distribute naloxone for free.
  • However, for it to be widely used, naloxone also has to be affordable and easily accessible.
  • Drug traffickers add fentanyl to white powder heroin to extend their supplies while still providing a strong product.

Prescription fentanyl is dosed in micrograms, designated by the abbreviation “mcg”. Most other drugs are dosed in milligrams (“mg”) — for example, 500 mg of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or 25 mg of diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Despite the evidence supporting these measures, however, local politics and funding priorities often limit whether communities are able to give them a try.

Manufacturing naloxone

Still, the risks are even more significant when mixing fentanyl with drugs that depress breathing or slow brain activity, such as benzodiazepines and alcohol. Opioids are a class of pain medications that include oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and heroin. While morphine and heroin are examples of natural opioids that are extracted from plants, synthetic opioids are manufactured in a laboratory. According to law enforcement officers and former drug dealers interviewed by ABC News, drug dealers often think they can mitigate the risk for their clients by measuring the fentanyl carefully. The opioid antidote naloxone (Narcan) may be able to reverse a fentanyl overdose and respiratory depression if administered in time and in a sufficient dose. Yes, fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance in the U.S. and is available by prescription only.

Long-term fentanyl use can cause many health problems, so quitting without treatment can result in relapse after returning to drug use, leading to overdose once again. There may still be remnants of fentanyl lingering in your body if you have used a drug containing this powerful opioid within the last couple of weeks, making any other drugs potentially unsafe to take together. Compared to other opioids, fentanyl is typically much more potent and, therefore, much more dangerous if misused or abused.

Why is fentanyl dangerous?

California will receive just over $2 billion of that through 2028, with the majority of the money going directly to cities and counties. To the Point provides insights from AU faculty experts on timely questions covering current events, politics, business, culture, science, health, sports, and more. Each week we ask one professor just one critical question about what’s on our minds. Schedule a call with us today and see how we can assist you on the road to recovery. Additionally, individuals will begin because fentanyl has the same effect on the brain as other opiates do.

  • Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 80 to 100 times more powerful than natural opioids such as morphine.
  • If you think it has cleared, and you decide it is okay to take another prescription medicine, it still may be in your system, which can cause serious harm to your body.

It is impossible to know just by looking at a drug if it has been tainted with fentanyl. That is why health experts and harm reduction advocates have been pushing for the wider distribution of fentanyl test strips, which can help users detect whether fentanyl is present in their supply. And while some states ban these test strips  —  based on the argument that this instigates drug use — California promotes and distributes them for free. Lawmakers focusing on this problem through a healthcare lens is significant. But the sheer scale of this epidemic is a reminder that these are the first of many ongoing steps. In the meantime, recovery options are also widely available for anyone suffering due to a fentanyl use disorder.

What are the overdose effects?

The fentanyl crisis continues to evolve as deaths from synthetic opioids continue to increase. As with other opioid addictions, fentanyl addiction often begins with a drug habit that escalates into drug abuse. When a person’s use becomes habitual, compulsive, and beyond their control, it becomes a substance use disorder. Continued use in spite of highly negative consequences is the hallmark of addiction. Since a doctor can prescribe fentanyl, it is sometimes prescribed in combination with other medications.

why is fentanyl so dangerous

Physicians like me have seen a rise in unintentional fentanyl use from people buying prescription opioids and other drugs laced, or adulterated, with fentanyl. Heroin users in my community in Massachusetts came to realize that fentanyl had entered the drug supply when overdose numbers exploded. In 2016, my colleagues and I found that patients who came to the emergency department reporting a heroin overdose often only had fentanyl present in their drug test results. When administered immediately, naloxone can reverse the effects of fentanyl.

Fentanyl: The New Talk Between Parents and Teens

Illicit fentanyl, primarily manufactured in foreign clandestine labs and smuggled into the United States through Mexico, is being distributed across the country and sold on the illegal drug market. Fentanyl is being mixed in with other illicit drugs to increase the potency of the drug, sold as powders and nasal sprays, and increasingly pressed into pills made to look like legitimate prescription opioids. Because there is no official oversight or quality control, these counterfeit pills often contain lethal doses of fentanyl, with none of the promised drug. The opioid crisis has only intensified as more illicit drugs have entered the market. Drug overdose deaths reached a record high in 2021, with more than 100,000 people lost to the continuing epidemic, fueled by the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl. The drug, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times that of morphine.

why is fentanyl so dangerous

Some opioids are made from the plant directly, and others, like fentanyl, are made by scientists in labs using the same chemical structure (semi-synthetic or synthetic). The drug can be bought online or sometimes taken from an individual who already had their prescription filled. Locally, Narcan is also available through the San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency’s Naloxone Distribution Program. You can order it for delivery to your home, pick it up at one of several San Diego locations, or even get it from one of 12 county vending machines.

How Can a Fentanyl Overdose Be Treated?

While fentanyl can be lethal, there are things you can do to help protect yourself and your friends. Here are some tips and strategies you can use to prevent accidental overdoses. Unfortunately, fentanyl’s high potency also means that even just a small amount can prove deadly. If the end user isn’t aware that the drug they bought has been adulterated, this could easily lead to an overdose.