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Fentanyl: Making Heroin Even More Deadly

Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller that is often prescribed by doctors for the immediate relief of intense pain as well as for chronic pain. For many years this drug was only available in a shot and administered by doctors in more hospital settings. However, in more recent times, drug manufacturers have released fentanyl in patches, pills and lozenges, all for take-home use.

The scariest part about fentanyl is its potency – it is up to 100 times stronger than morphine. Due to its strength, it doesn’t take a large amount to have an effect on someone. Given its wider availability, it’s no wonder that it is making its way onto the streets.

“In the ER, I would prescribe [fentanyl] to someone who had just been in a terrible car accident and their hip is out of joint and they’re screaming in pain. If somebody is using heroin and they don’t know that fentanyl is now mixed in it, they’re going to overdose and die, which we’re seeing nationwide,” explained Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen.

Drugs like fentanyl end up in heroin for two reasons. The first reason is that when heroin is purchased, dealers add things to it so that their investment can be stretched further. Sometimes dealers will cut it with starch, powdered milk, flour or chalk to the drug. Fentanyl can be added to this list as well, and it is becoming more common. When dealers add fentanyl to heroin they dramatically increase the potency of it, and as Dr. Wen exclaimed, when addicts unknowingly use heroin cut with the drug, there is a strong possibility that they will overdose.

In fact, the overdose rate is so high for fentanyl-laced heroin that public service announcements in Baltimore are aimed at teaching heroin addicts how to not overdose. As a way of fighting against the rise in heroin overdose deaths, many states have implemented the wider use of naloxone. Naloxone is a drug that can be administered to a person in the midst of an opiate overdose in order to prevent them from dying. A recent announcement from the White House included multiple measures for combating opioid addition, including expanding access to naloxone.

As the focus continues to remain on the prescription painkiller and heroin crisis in this country, it is important that officials promote effective treatment and prevention measures in addition to their harm reduction tactics. If you know someone who is addicted to heroin or any other drug, contact Acceptance Recovery Center today to learn more about how we can help.