The Real Dangers of Fentanyl

Anyone familiar with heroin and other opiates knows just how dangerous they are. Heroin and prescription opiate abuse has become prolific over the last decade and the numbers are only increasing. Those who use opiates try to get as close to the line between life and death as possible, and are usually willing to go to any lengths to achieve that goal. But now law enforcement is finding local heroin cut with the synthetic opiate fentanyl, a drug too potent to even touch.

What is Fentanyl?


Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate analgesic, typically used in a medical setting to treat patients with chronic or sever pain or pain management after surgery. It works the same way heroin does, binding to opiate receptors in the brain to help pump up dopamine and produce euphoria.

“The big thing with heroin users now is finding heroin laced with fentanyl,” explains Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Spokesperson Matthew Barden to Business Insider. “Fentanyl to the touch in its pure form will kill you by touching it.”

Hearing this may scare some, but to a true opiate addict, it sounds like a great high. This is what makes fentanyl such a problem.

The Dangers of Overdose and Fentanyl


A substantial number of opiate-related deaths in recent years have been specifically linked to fentanyl. Mexican cartels produce a variant of the drug and smuggle it into the United States for distribution, then drug dealers cut their heroin with the variant in order to drive up the potency of their product.

Fentanyl is anywhere between 30 and 50 times more portent than heroin and 80 to 100 times more than morphine. As with any opiate, an overdose of fentanyl involves the slowing of the respiratory system, resulting in respiratory failure. Due to its high potency and the fact that is is being used to lace already potent drugs such as heroin, the chance of overdose is extremely high.

Fentanyl, The Silent Killer


In order to combat the crisis, this past week Maine Gov. Paul LePage convened a summit to address the heroin crisis in his state, calling on the National Guard to aid in efforts to thwart drug traffickers.

“In July alone, we suspect that approximately one death a day in Maine was due to a drug overdose of some sort,” Maine Attorney General Janet Mills told NPR. “We are confirming this with laboratory testing, but a substantial number of those involved fentanyl.”

It may seem unbelievable, but even despite the fact that users are overdosing and dying, heroin users actively seek heroin laced with fentanyl. Because fentanyl has no specific taste or smell, it is next to impossible to tell if heroin is laced with it or not outside of a laboratory.


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