Fentanyl Overdose

man using fentanyl staring out window

Fentanyl, in its legal form, is a powerful drug used to relieve pain. However, the illicit use of fentanyl carries a high risk for overdose, sometimes with deadly consequences.

Fentanyl Overdose in America

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is much stronger than heroin. Stat News reports that while 30 milligrams of heroincan cause an overdose, just three milligrams can cause a fentanyl overdose in an adult. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that fentanyl can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine and is typically prescribed by doctors to lessen the pain of advanced cancer at the end of life.

Considering its well-publicized dangers, why does the rate of fentanyl overdoses continue to rise? One answer is that many people may not realize they are even taking fentanyl. The CDC says that fentanyl is now being cut, or mixed, with heroin or cocaine and sold on the street. People buying illegal drugs may be getting deadly fentanyl and not even know it until it is too late.

Chemically, what makes fentanyl so dangerous is how it is structured. Heroin, morphine, and fentanyl bind to the same opioid receptors in the brain, but fentanyl acts more quickly to release dopamine. Fentanyl works on the brain like other opioids, creating euphoria, but this drug binds more tightly to brain receptors. Fentanyl is much more potent and therefore more lethal in smaller doses. A small dose disguised in a hit of heroin can kill the person ingesting it.

While drug manufacturers make synthetic opioid pain relievers like fentanyl, there are also many illegal underground labs that produce these dangerous drugs. The CDC reports on the devastating effects of fentanyl overdose, citing data including:

  • In 2017, more than 28,000 fentanyl overdoses occurred resulting in deaths
  • The largest age group for fentanyl overdoses is in men ages 25 to 44
  • Approximately 23 states and the District of Columbia saw fentanyl overdose deaths increase from 2016 to 2017
  • West Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire had the highest number of deaths from fentanyl overdose during this timeframe

If you are buying street heroin, you are essentially playing Russian roulette with your health and safety.

Heroin and fentanyl look identical, so the risks are high when using illegal drugs. Fentanyl deaths are on the rise across the country. Buying drugs on the street is like playing Russian roulette; you simply do not know what you are getting without chemical testing.

In the hands of professionally trained doctors, fentanyl has therapeutic applications for both pain relief and as an anesthetic. Without laboratory equipment, and in the hands of drug dealers focused on making a profit, fentanyl has turned into one of the most dangerous street drugs of the last decade.

If you are dealing with a substance use disorder that has led you to use drugs illicitly, please reach out today to access addiction treatment that can be life-saving. Contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield to learn more about admissions today.

Fentanyl Addiction Resources

Fentanyl Addiction Overview
Fentanyl Side Effects
Fentanyl Detox
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment


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