United States

What is Fentanyl? A deadly drug 50 times more powerful than heroin

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin, has a deadly impact killing thousands of people every year in US

Danger of fentanyl-laced drugs.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, has emerged as a devastating force in the US opioid crisis. It contributes significantly to both fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the United States. This potent drug is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and a staggering 100 times more potent than morphine. Its use, whether through legitimate pharmaceutical prescriptions or illicit channels, has far-reaching consequences.

Two Faces of Fentanyl

There exist two primary categories of fentanyl: pharmaceutical and illegally made. While both fall under the umbrella of synthetic opioids, their purposes and pathways differ significantly. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is legally prescribed by medical professionals to manage severe pain, particularly in cases such as post-surgical recovery or advanced-stage cancer treatment.

 Illegally Made Fentanyl (IMF)

However, the recent surge in fentanyl-related overdoses primarily stems from illegally made fentanyl, known as IMF. This clandestine fentanyl variant infiltrates illegal drug markets, often masquerading as heroin due to its heroin-like effects. The driving force behind its illicit use is its unparalleled potency, which not only intensifies the drug's effects but also makes it more economical for manufacturers. Unfortunately, this also renders it more addictive and, most alarmingly, highly perilous.

IMF in Different Guises

Illegally made fentanyl is accessible in various forms, making it even harder to detect. In powdered form, it closely resembles many other drugs, creating opportunities for mixing with substances like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Some unscrupulous manufacturers even mold it into counterfeit pills, designed to mimic legitimate prescription opioids. Tragically, individuals purchasing these counterfeit drugs may remain oblivious to the lethal presence of fentanyl.

In its liquid state, IMF can be found in nasal sprays, eye drops, or infused onto various materials such as paper or candies, further complicating its identification.

Fentanyl's Deadly Impact

Fentanyl, along with other synthetic opioids, now constitutes a significant portion of drug-related overdose deaths. Even minuscule doses of this substance can prove fatal. Shockingly, over 150 individuals succumb to overdoses linked to synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, every day.

A particularly alarming aspect of fentanyl is that it can be seamlessly incorporated into various drugs without any discernible signs. It is tasteless, odorless, and nearly invisible, making visual identification impossible. To complicate matters further, more potent fentanyl analogs, like carfentanil, may not be detected by standard fentanyl test strips.