(CNN Spanish) — Fentanyl is one of the biggest health concerns for the United States today, as it is a drug that is seriously fueling the country’s overdose epidemic.
Overdose deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids hit another record in the United States. According to data from the health authorities, between February 2021 and February 2022, almost 109,000 people lost their lives for this reason.
This takes the overdose epidemic in the United States to an unprecedented level: one fatality occurs every five minutes.
Likewise, the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA for its acronym in English), Anne Milgram, said in December the US government seized enough fentanyl in 2021 to give each American a lethal dose.
Faced with this serious health crisis, here are some important points so that you know what fentalin is.
What is fentanyl?
- According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that resembles morphine, except that it is up to 100 times more potent.
- Fentanyl is a prescription drug for patients with severe or chronic pain who “have physical tolerance to other opioids,” the NIDA notes.
- When fentanyl is sold illegally, it leads to drug addiction problems. According to the US government, fentanyl is illegally sold under the following common names: “Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfellas, Jackpot, Murder 8, and Tango & Cash.”
- In contrast, “in its prescription (legal) form, fentanyl is known as Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze®,” the institute says.
- As mentioned, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. To understand this, one must first know that opioids are drugs that “are found naturally in the opium poppy plant.” When the chemical structure of these drugs is replicated in laboratories, we speak of the manufacture of synthetic or semi-synthetic opioids.
- Legally, fentanyl can be consumed, with a prescription, in pills, skin patches or by injection. Illegally, it is sold “in powder form; dropped onto blotting paper; in eye drop or nasal spray containers; or in pill form resembling other prescription opioids,” according to NIDA.
- Fentanyl is made more dangerous by what some drug dealers do: Combine it at the time of manufacture with other drugs (such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA, NIDA says) to make it cheaper.
- The American institute explains that, when consumed, fentanyl binds to opioid receptors in the brain that control pain and emotions.
- According to the NIDA, these are some of the effects of fentanyl: extreme happiness, drowsiness, nausea, confusion, constipation, sedation, trouble breathing, and loss of consciousness.
- If you suspect someone is overdosing, immediately call 911. Paramedics will arrive to quickly decide if the person has taken an opioid drug (such as fentanyl) and then administer naloxone, which is “a medication that can be used to counteract an overdose of fentanyl.” if given immediately,” says NIDA.
With information from Fernando Almanzar*