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Friday, September 11, 2015

Fentanyl Makes Heroin Deadlier

If you have ever undergone surgery, then there is a good chance that you were given a powerful opioid analgesic called fentanyl. The drug is highly effective at combating severe pain, and is reported to be 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl is primarily used in hospital settings, but it is also available in transdermal patches for home use. Naturally, the drugs potency makes it an ideal drug for opioid addicts, but it comes with a heightened risk of overdose.

As opioid overdose rates continue to climb all over the country, the result of prescription painkiller and heroin abuse, it is hard to imagine that heroin dealers have been lacing heroin with fentanyl. The mixing of the two drugs is amplifying the overdose crisis, NPR reports.

Dealers are lacing heroin with fentanyl because diluted batches of heroin often lack the potency that users require. Fentanyl exponentially increases the potency of heroin. If an IV heroin user is unaware that fentanyl is present, they are at an increased risk of overdose and potential death.

Between late 2013 through 2014, federal officials report that there were at least 700 fentanyl-related deaths, according to the article. It is likely that the death toll will continue to rise because a form of fentanyl, known as acetyl fentanyl, can be synthesized relatively easily by Mexican cartels. Federal agents report that the cartels have increased production and are smuggling the powerful drug across the border along with heroin.

“Heroin is bad enough, but when you lace it with fentanyl, it’s like dropping a nuclear bomb on the situation,” Mary Lou Leary, a deputy director in the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, told NPR. “It’s so, so much more dangerous.”

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