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Fentanyl: The Rising Opioid Crisis, and the Facts You Need to Know

Up to 40 times more powerful than heroin—and up to 100 times more powerful than morphine—fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, has steadily contributed to recent overdoses and overdose-related deaths across the US.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), fentanyl is a schedule II prescription drug, and is typically used to treat patients with severe, post-surgery pain. When abused, the  risks associated with fentanyl are astronomical; when mixed with other drugs, as it often is, fentanyl can be deadly. Its potency is strong and its effects are swift—and the crisis it has played such a significant role in shows no signs of slowing down.

When an individual uses fentanyl, the drug targets pain-related receptors in the brain. As the drug then takes effect, the individual experiences a euphoria-like sensation, and a numbness may spread over the body. The pain, for a period of time, subsides, and the potential to become addicted is high.

If fentanyl is abused, the associated side effects can include:

  • Confusion
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea and vomiting

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, increased by 73 percent from 2014 to 2015. A recent ABC News report on the subject states that law enforcement believes this increase to be closely related to fentanyl.

Even the smallest amount of fentanyl can kill. The ABC News report goes on to explain that Drug Enforcement Administration agents are required to wear protective suits in order to avoid contact with the drug when performing raids and making arrests.

The DEA also issued a warning directly addressing the fentanyl epidemic. ABC states the warning came from “two investigators from Atlantic County, NJ that accidentally ingested the drug after a seizure.”

After experiencing the harrowing effects of the drug firsthand, the investigators are working to educate the public on the dangers of fentanyl. It is a substance that has spread rapidly across the nation, with many users combining it with other potent drugs such as heroin or cocaine, often with fatal results.

As the epidemic swells, it is of the utmost importance that we continue to educate the public of fentanyl’s dangers, and that treatment be available for those who are in need.

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