Reports of opiate overdoses are on the rise, and many are asking why. One of the reasons is the drug Fentanyl, which has been appearing in street drugs more and more frequently. With this trend showing no signs of slowing down, it’s important to understand what fentanyl is, and why it’s being used to cut street drugs- such as heroin and prescription painkillers.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that was originally synthesized to treat pain in the terminally ill. The drug is up to 100 times more potent than morphine, meaning that when administered correctly, the recipient receives a very small dose in order to manage pain. Eventually the drug was made into lozenges and patches, allowing the drug to reach the streets.
So why add Fentanyl to street drugs? Simply, because its strong. “Cutting” a drug refers to adding substances to a drugs pure form in order to increase the amount of product a dealer can sell, therefore increasing profits. Fentanyl increases the potency of heroin, is easy to make, and is cheaper than heroin itself, therefore making it an ideal additive- in theory. The danger comes from unknowledgeable people mixing deadly amounts into other drugs, and then selling it to unknowing users, creating a situation in which risk of overdose is incredibly high.
Officials say that while the use of Fentanyl can be hard to spot, one way may be by examining the color of the drug, due to the fact that Fentanyl is a bright white powder.
Whitehead, Nadia. “How The Prescription Painkiller Fentanyl Became A Street Drug.” NPR, NPR, 26 Aug. 2015, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/08/26/434867357/how-the-prescription-painkiller-fentanyl-became-a-street-drug.