Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s similar to morphine, but over 50 times stronger.
It can be pharmaceutically or illicitly manufactured and is extremely addictive and dangerous in either form. While there’s been an opioid epidemic in the United States for several decades now, fentanyl specifically has become one of the most commonly abused opioids in the world.
In recent years, there’s been an alarming spike in fentanyl abuse cases, overdoses and deaths. While some of these cases have stemmed from the increase in legitimate prescriptions, the majority of them are sourced back to illicitly obtained fentanyl, or fentanyl-laced drugs.
Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the fentanyl epidemic and the primary reasons there has been a recent spike in fentanyl distribution.
Why do people abuse fentanyl?
There is no one reason why people abuse fentanyl; sometimes abuse occurs with willful intention, and other times the substance use disorder develops unintentionally.
It’s possible that a legitimate prescription turns into accidental abuse when a person ups their dosage — without their doctor’s approval — to better combat their pain. Sometimes a person intentionally seeks out illicit fentanyl because their depression is too much to bear and they don’t want to, or feel as if they can’t seek professional help.
The reasons that lead an individual to begin using fentanyl vary dramatically, but ultimately, what keeps drawing a person back to abusing the drug is how highly addictive it is.
What are the effects of fentanyl?
Fentanyl is considered to be one of the most toxic recreational drugs in the world, being up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Less than two milligrams of fentanyl results in certain death, and it is included in more than half of all overdose deaths.
In addition to developing a physical dependence or addiction to fentanyl, a person can develop psychological dependence, too. This occurs most commonly in cases where an individual consciously sought out the pleasurable effects of fentanyl as a coping mechanism.
Fentanyl in and of itself can produce euphoric sensations in the body and mind, but these rarely occur without the accompaniment of their negative counterparts—nausea and vomiting, dizziness, chest palpitations, anxiety and more.
When fentanyl is laced with another drug the effects can be even more unpleasant and severe.
Why are drugs laced with fentanyl?
Fentanyl is one of the most common substances used to lace other drugs and is often done so in a way that is nearly impossible to see, taste or smell.
Fentanyl is surfacing in:
- illicitly distributed marijuana
- pain pills (i.e. Percocet)
- anxiety medications (i.e. Xanax)
- Almost all street drugs
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), two out of every five pills contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.
The reason why already-potent drugs are laced with fentanyl can be for a variety of reasons but is ultimately because the drug trade is centered around making as much money as possible. When it comes to the street drug side of things, adding fentanyl is a way of “cutting” it into the substances being sold.
Where is all of the fentanyl coming from?
When the presence of fentanyl first began increasing in the United States around 2014, China was the primary source of illicit drugs coming into the country. It was illegally shipped directly through the postal system, and most commonly in the form of counterfeit prescription pills.
Currently, the majority of all illicit fentanyl in the United States has been smuggled across the southern border from Mexico.
In the first nine months of 2022 alone, U.S. Customs and Border Protection law enforcement seized over 5,000 pounds of fentanyl at the southern California border, which accounted for 60 percent of the total amount of fentanyl seized across the country that year.
Fentanyl abuse and addiction are no longer a rarity. Since 2020, it has resulted in over 50,000 overdose deaths per year and is only continuing to increase. If you or someone you love is struggling with fentanyl abuse, reach out to us to learn about your recovery options.
Be supported today
At October Road, we specialize in providing behavioral health and substance use treatment to adults ready to reclaim their health so they can build their most fulfilling lives. Our methadone program will help to get your life back on track from opioid dependence.
We offer a variety of different programs to be able to meet you wherever you’re in your journey. We will work closely with you and your family from day one to ensure your safety, comfort and long-term recovery.
Send us a message or give us a call today to get started.