"Within the last couple of decades, the powerful opioid drug fentanyl has captured headlines due to its growing popularity as both a powerful tool prescribed by doctors for the treatment of severe pain and as a widely available and dangerous street drug. In order to understand what makes fentanyl use and addiction so dangerous, it"s important to understand what the drug is and how it affects the people who use it.
An average of 5 Oregonians die every week from opioid overdose. While heroin contributes to a significant number of overdose deaths, illegal fentanyl-related deaths are beginning to increase sharply.
Unlike many other opioid drugs, fentanyl is a completely manmade opioid compound that was first created in 1960 by Belgian chemist Paul Janssen of Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Since the beginning, it was intended and marketed for the treatment of moderate to severe levels of pain. It"s one of only a few painkillers that are approved for the long-term treatment of pain and is primarily prescribed to people who suffer from chronic pain and also have a high tolerance to other opioids.
What Is the Drug Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is an incredibly potent drug and is a stronger opioid than both morphine and heroin. In fact, the drug has been determined to be 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Because of how powerful it is, over time fentanyl has shifted from an effective way to treat patients suffering from high levels of chronic pain to a widely available and commonly misused street drug.
As fentanyl"s popularity as a street drug continues to gain traction, it"s still prescribed and used as an effective medical tool under the brand names Actiq, Sublimaze, and Duragesic. When used in a legitimate medical setting, the drug is commonly administered in pill form, injected, or as an adhesive patch.
As an illicit street drug, fentanyl is sold and consumed in any number of different forms. Most commonly, it"s sold in powder form and even pressed into pills made to look like fake or counterfeit versions of other prescription opioids. The drug can also be dissolved and dropped onto paper tabs, similar to LSD, or mixed with or sold as fake heroin.
The biggest risk for overdose with fentanyl occurs when the drug is being sold as counterfeit versions of other known opioid drugs. Fentanyl is very commonly mixed with heroin to increase the heroin"s strength. Too often, consumers of these street-level opiates believe they"re consuming one drug, but in reality, it"s the much more potent, and cheaper, fentanyl. This situation commonly leads to overdose and death.