Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used as a powerful painkiller. It was developed to treat cancer patients and patients with severe pain post-surgery. Fentanyl is up to 100 times stronger than morphine and is a Schedule II Narcotic in the United States.
The past decade has seen a dramatic spike in illegal fentanyl abuse, production, and distribution. 2,666 overdose deaths related to fentanyl and related synthetic opioids were recorded in 2011, compared to 31,335 overdose deaths in 2018.
Fentanyl is used in a similar manner as other opiates, including heroin. It produces a strong, rapid-onset dissociative high, marked by blissful detachment from the world in a semiconscious state. Many people take fentanyl the same way they would take heroin, not knowing how much stronger it is than what their body may be used to.
Fentanyl is one of the top drugs in existence for the number of variant forms it can take. When used intentionally, fentanyl can be injected, snorted, smoked, taken by mouth as a pill or lozenge, or taken in liquid form as a nasal spray or in eyedrops. Less commonly, it is put onto blotter paper. Some users acquire fentanyl in patch form and abuse it by taking the contents of the patches orally.
Many users, however, take fentanyl inadvertently when drug dealers mix it in powder form into other drugs in order to create a much cheaper, more powerful substance. Because the effects of fentanyl are similar to heroin and morphine, only much stronger, it is most commonly mixed into or substituted for heroin and other opiates; however, fentanyl is also found mixed into drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamines. When mixed with heroin or other drugs, fentanyl is virtually impossible to detect to the untrained eye. Fentanyl has also been found to be produced to mimic other pharmaceuticals, like oxycodone and codeine.
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