Fentanyl has been making waves across the news within the last few years. Although the drug is not anything new (first developed in 1959), drug dealers have recently been lacing them with other drugs to induce a more euphoric high.
This has led to an increase in fentanyl addiction and an ‘opioid crisis’ in America, where overdose deaths in the U.S. have exceeded 100,000, fueled by the rise of synthetic opioids, a significant number of which is fentanyl.
In Australia, there has already been an increase in the rate of deaths attributed to synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, from 0.11 deaths per 100,000 in 2007 to 1.3 deaths per 100,000 in 2016.
Although authorities have intercepted a rising number of illicit fentanyl being shipped to Australia, the public should be made aware of the dangers of the drug, what it does and how it effects the human body.
What is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a dangerous, potent synthetic drug from the opioid family that was developed for medical use to relieve severe pain during surgery, bodily injury, and even cancer treatment. Simply put, fentanyl is an opioid painkiller. Cancer Research UK has stated that fentanyl can help control breakthrough cancer pain.
How is fentanyl consumed?
Fentanyl is consumed or administered through a shot, a patch on the skin or as a lozenge, similar to cough drops when used under medical supervision or as a prescription. However, illicit fentanyl that is manufactured in labs is created and sold illegally as a powder or made into pills that resemble other prescription opioids.
Fentanyl can also be smoked or injected.
Fentanyl laced drugs
Some drug dealers will mix fentanyl with other drugs such as heroin, cocaine or methamphetamines because the addition of the opioid will cause a more euphoric high, allowing for cost-cutting.
This foul play is further worsened by the fact that those buying the drugs are likely to be unaware of the addition of this dangerous drug that is known to be highly addictive. This increases the chances of overdose, as has been seen in America over the last decade.
What are the effects of fentanyl?
Being a painkiller, fentanyl works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord to effectively block pain signals. This can also lead to side effects like euphoria, drowsiness and respiratory depression.
Respiratory depression is one of the most significant risks associated with fentanyl and other opioids. What makes fentanyl more dangerous than other opioids and painkillers like morphine is its potency (fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine).
In a nutshell, the effects of fentanyl are below:
- Pain relief
- Euphoria and relaxation
- Side effects like dizziness, drowsiness, nausea
How addictive is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is highly addictive due to several factors such as its potency, rapid onset, quick tolerance development and ease of accessibility. A breakdown of these characteristics can be seen below:
Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than many other opioids, including morphine and heroin. This means that even a small amount of the drug can lead to high levels of euphoria. This makes individuals seek out the drug to feel high and consume higher doses to feel better. Unfortunately, the higher doses could be their downfall as it could lead to death via overdose.
The drug acts quickly when ingested, providing a near-instantaneous onset of its high and relaxing effects. This quick action contributes to its addictive potential.
Quick tolerance development
If used repeatedly, individuals can quickly develop tolerance to smaller doses of fentanyl, meaning that they would need to consume a higher dose to achieve the desired effects. This will drive individuals to consume higher doses of the drug, which, in turn, increases the risks of addiction and also increases the risk of overdosing on the drug.
Ease of access
With fentanyl being much cheaper to make than other opioids, it has become a more friendly alternative to other addictive drugs. This factor adds to how often people can seek and consume the drug.
How does fentanyl kill?
Like most other street drugs, fentanyl causes death when overdosed.
This happens through one of the effects of fentanyl discussed, which was respiratory depression. This means that the drug causes breathing to be slow and shallow, ultimately leading to respiratory failure if the drug is consumed in dangerous amounts.
Note that many drug dealers lace other substances like methamphetamines, heroin and other drugs with fentanyl, which also amplifies the effects and increases the risk of overdose.
How to detect fentanyl use?
Fentanyl use can be easily detected through the use of drug test kits, both urine and saliva. However, keep in mind that in order for drug test kits to be able to detect the use of the drug, they need to be able to detect the drug group (opioids).
All Andatech drug test kits are able to detect opioid use, making it the ideal drug test kit for fentanyl and other opioid use.
LEARN MORE: What can a saliva drug test detect?
A total of 15 different major drug groups can be detected using drug test kits from Andatech. Saliva drug test kits are generally easier to administer and can detect up to eight major drug groups whereas urine drug test kits are able to detect up to 15.
Browse through Andatech’s wide selection of both urine and saliva drug test kits to find the perfect unit to suit your drug testing needs.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your business’s needs.
Written by Andatech Pty Ltd