Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid, and pharmaceutical fentanyl is typically prescribed by a doctor and used to treat severe pain. In recent years, however, illegal fentanyl production has increased dramatically. It is now responsible for thousands of fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the U.S. Fentanyl greatly increases the risk of overdose deaths, but many people don’t recognize what fentanyl is, what it looks like and what effect it can have.
Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a white powder and is often applied through a patch. Illicit fentanyl can look similar, though it can also be gray, tan or off-white. It’s usually found in counterfeit pills, though adding it to liquids like nasal sprays and eye drops is common.
Illicit drug manufacturers will lace various drugs with fentanyl to make them cheaper, more powerful and more addictive. Most pills sold on the street are likely to contain fentanyl, whether those buying them realize it or not, often leading to accidental overdoses.
Fentanyl can look like any other drug, making it extremely dangerous. Without a particular color, taste or smell, it’s difficult to detect without testing.
Fentanyl’s effects are highly dangerous because even a small amount can lead to overdose when not prescribed and monitored by a doctor. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.
The effects of fentanyl are similar to other opioid analgesics. While it can cause relaxation, euphoria and pain relief, it also has a long list of negative effects, including:
- Confusion and disorientation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Urinary retention
- Breathing difficulty
- Nervous system depression
If you notice someone has stopped breathing, lost consciousness or has discolored skin, call 911 immediately. This person could be experiencing a fentanyl overdose. Naloxone can be used to treat those suffering from a fentanyl overdose, but it must be administered immediately.
How to Protect Yourself and Others From Fentanyl
There is no perfect way to protect yourself or others from a fentanyl overdose. The opioid is commonly mixed with heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, but many drugs sold on the street are laced with it. Fentanyl is unpredictable and difficult to detect in unregulated drugs. One way to reduce your chance of overdose is to use fentanyl test strips.
Fentanyl Test Strips
Fentanyl test strips can identify the presence of fentanyl in other substances. They are inexpensive and work within minutes, which could save a life. They are generally accurate and have decreased the risk of overdose nationwide but are not a perfect solution. Test strips do not measure quantity or potency, two factors that affect the chances of a fentanyl overdose.
Find Treatment for Fentanyl Abuse
If you or a loved one struggles with fentanyl use, please reach out to DreamLife Recovery. We are dedicated to helping individuals overcome the addictions that hold them back from living the lives they want to live. Recovery is possible.