Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid about 100 times more potent than morphine and roughly some 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin. It’s a legal pharmaceutical drug in the United States, but it’s in the very highest class of controlled substances, Schedule II, also called C-II. C-II drugs have legitimate medical uses but are also the most abusable of all such drugs. Other drug members of this class include barbiturates, such as secobarbital, amphetamine analogs like methylphenidate, and opioids, such as oxycodone, hydrodocone and methadone. This article will help to answer the following question: Why is fentanyl treatment so much more prevalent in drug and alcohol rehab centers today?
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl was originally developed to treat severe pain, such as that from cancer and extreme injuries. It’s very short-acting. Fentanyl is most commonly dispensed as a skin patch. This patch releases the drug at a certain rate over a period of about three days. It’s then replaced with a new patch. It’s also available as a type of lollipop. The fentanyl from the lollipop enters the body in small, steady amounts from the mouth tissues as the lollipop is slowly consumed.
Recent Problems with Fentanyl
Over the past few years in particular, the formerly mostly pharmaceutical face of fentanyl has changed. It has become much more of a street drug. This is due partly to rogue chemical labs, many in China, which smuggle the drug into the United States. Greedy street drug dealers then use the smuggled fentanyl to cut heroin and create look-alike pills pressed to look exactly like common pharmaceutical medications, especially oxycodone.
The average lethal dose for a person who doesn’t normally take opioids at all is very small. Just two to three milligrams is enough to kill. For someone with a tolerance to opioids, meaning someone who does take opioids on a regular basis, the lethal dose is higher, but fentanyl is still deadly in relatively small amounts. It’s unpredictable, and it doesn’t always respond well to rescue antidote medications like naloxone.
When you buy heroin, there is no way to know if it’s cut with fentanyl or not just by looking at it. However, much of the country’s illicit heroin supply is now cut with the drug, so you can assume that yours probably is. You can buy fentanyl test strips that will tell you if fentanyl is present or not, but the strips cannot tell you how much is in the sample. They also can’t detect other dangerous drugs, contaminants or other toxins that may be present. Your next dose of heroin could very well be your last, especially if you are alone at the time. Fentanyl incapacitates so quickly, especially when used intravenously, that you may not be conscious long enough to reach out for help.
It’s very difficult to cut fentanyl into another drug like heroin. This is because the relative potencies are so different. When a very small amount of powder is cut into a much larger amount of powder, for example, it’s nearly impossible to get an even mix throughout. The finished product will almost certainly have hot spots, or areas of concentrated drug that may easily be fatal. Other areas may have the correct amount of drug or none at all.
Counterfeit Opioid Pills
The problem of counterfeit opioid pills like oxycodone is even worse. Dealers use pill presses and special dyes to create look-alike pharmaceutical pills which aren’t legitimate at all. The pills are designed to fool users into thinking they are getting a well-known pharmaceutical pill. But they’re not. The pill might look like a certain logo oxycodone pill legally manufactured by a pharmaceutical company, but it’s not. It might contain any amount of fentanyl or something else entirely. The fentanyl content might be very low or very high. It might vary greatly from one batch of illicit piils to another, even from the same source. Much of the time, you can’t tell just by looking at the pill. Some of these fakes are very, very good. You can’t trust it, not when your life is on the line.
Help is Available
It’s all this illegal, black-market fentanyl that has led to such an increase in fentanyl drug treatment today. Actually, you can consider yourself lucky that you survived long enough to enter a drug treatment center at all. If you’re involved with using heroin or buying opioid prescription pills on the black market, you are at risk of fentanyl overdose and death. The good news is that there is help available. Our trained counselors are here to help you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Just call us at 833-820-2922. Our experienced staff will evaluate your needs and refer you to the best treatment facility for you.