What is Fentanyl?  Why is it soooo Deadly?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s approved for treating severe pain such as advanced cancer pain.  It is also used as an anaesthetic.  If you have ever had a colonoscopy most likely, you were given fentanyl along with sedatives such as temazepam and alprazolam.

When a doctor prescribes it, it can be given as a shot, a skin patch or a lozenge.  In prescription form, fentanyl is known by such names as Actiq, Duragesic and Sublimaze.

Illegally, it can be sold as a powder, dropped on a blotter paper, put in eye droppers or nasal sprays or made into pills that look like real prescription opioids.

Fentanyl works by binding to the body’s receptors that control pain and emotion.  When the opioid drugs bind to these receptors in the brain’s reward areas, they drive up the dopamine (“feel good”) levels, producing a state of euphoria and relaxation.  It is 100 times stronger than morphine!

Increase in Overdoses from Fentanyl

Overdose deaths, from synthetic opioids were nearly 12 times higher in 2019, than 2013.  There were 81,000 drug overdoses in twelve months in the time period that ended May 20.  The Covid-19 pandemic is partially responsible for this staggering spike in deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control report that the most recent cases of fentanyl related harm result because of a mix of fentanyl with heroin and/or cocaine to increase euphoric effects.

The #1 Age Group for Fentanyl Abuse

Of course, any age group can abuse fentanyl, but a rehab in Escondido, California found that the #1 age group of people who overdose on fentanyl are ages 25-35.

Fentanyl, a popular party drug, especially when it is “laced” with cocaine, goes under these street names:

  • Dance Fever
  • Apace
  • Tango and Cash
  • Great Bear
  • China White
  • He-Man
  • China Girl
  • Good Fellas
  • China Town
  • Jackpot
  • Murder 8
  • Friend

When cheaper synthetic fentanyl is mixed with heroin, cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamines, it can trigger dangerous bodily reactions such as:

  • Tachycardia (increased heart rate)
  • Severe hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Sedation
  • Extreme happiness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
  • Death

According to the Escondido rehab, a few grains will kill an adolescent.  This is probably what happened to OWN’s Host, Dr. Laura Berman’s son, “Sammy,” a straight A student in high school on February 7th.

Bored at home, Sammy, who had just been drug tested the day before by his parents because of his past experience with marijuana, ordered, through a sales sheet on Snapchat, Xanax, a tranquilizer or Percocet, a pain reliever.  However, he received more than he bargained for: the drug dealer sent the sixteen year-old his order, but combined it with Fentanyl and Sammy suddenly died. (See the story on my post dated February 11, 2021.)

As the tragic experience attests, you don’t know what you are actually getting when you buy illegal drugs.  What Sammy received is highly addictive fentanyl, but he wouldn’t have known.

Ubiquitous Entertainers

Tom Petty, the talented guitarist and singer, died of a fentanyl overdose.  On January 2018, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner announced that Petty had died accidentally from mixed drug toxicity: a combination of fentanyl, oxycodone, acetyl fentanyl and despropionyl fentanyl (all opioids) along with temazepam and alprazolam (both sedatives) and citalopram (an antidepressant). In 2016, a year earlier, Prince died by a fentanyl overdose, supposedly accidentally.

More recently, a family in Arizona bought a Gloworm doll from a thrift store in El Mirage, Arizona.  The parents were cleaning the doll when they found a sandwich bag filled with 5,000 pills of fentanyl inside the toy. The fentanyl was turned over to the police. The doll must have been a “mule” for the fentanyl.

Have fentanyl will travel! Even to your mailbox.  Be wary!

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting. Currently, she is targeting her writing about recovery to parents whose children have substance abuse disorders.

1 Comment

  1. B Eager on February 25, 2021 at 4:08 pm

    Excellent write up …. thanks for shedding light and information on this deadly drug

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