Parent Alert – Fentanyl Abuse
Since 2014, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has encountered a dangerous trend – the convergence of the growing synthetic drug threat with the epidemic of opioid abuse currently affecting our nation. In this case, the consequences are deadly when clandestinely-manufactured Fentanyl and Fentanyl derivatives are being added to heroin or replacing heroin altogether on the street.
Possibly fueled by celebrity deaths related to opioid abuse, the media has recently focused increased attention upon the abuse of opioids. Infrequently reported, however, are the positive achievements of eradication, intervention, apprehension, and prevention efforts, such as those championed by D.A.R.E., in reducing the occurrence of youth abuse of opioids. As reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Despite the ongoing opioid overdose epidemic, past-year prescription opioid misuse (reported in the survey as ‘narcotics other than heroin’) continued to decline and heroin use is at the lowest rate since the MTF survey began¹.” While this progress offers encouragement, D.A.R.E. considers any level of use opioid abuse to be excessive.
Fentanyl is a narcotic pain medication intended to treat chronic pain in controlled medical settings. Fentanyl was introduced in 1968 by a Belgian pharmaceutical company as a synthetic narcotic to be used as an analgesic in surgical procedures because of its minimal effects on the heart. Fentanyl is particularly dangerous because it is 50 times more potent than heroin and can rapidly stop respiration. This effect is mitigated during surgical procedures because of monitoring, medical protocols and specialized equipment used to help patients breathe.
Fentanyl is not considered an addictive drug like cocaine, heroin, or alcohol because it does not produce the same compulsive drug-seeking behavior. However, like addictive drugs, Fentanyl produces greater tolerance in some users who take the drug repeatedly. These users must take higher doses to achieve the same results as they have had in the past.
Fentanyl has found acceptance in some quarters as an illicit recreational drug. Fentanyl can be purchased illicitly as the result of the unlawful diversion from legitimate use or as a substance produce in a criminal clandestine laboratory. Compounding the inherent dangers of the illicit non-medical use of Fentanyl, the product of clandestine laboratories can be tainted in innumerable ways including being mixed with other drugs or chemicals.
Like heroin, morphine, and other opioid drugs, fentanyl works by binding to the body’s opiate receptors, highly concentrated in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. When opiate drugs bind to these receptors, they can drive up dopamine levels in the brain’s reward areas, producing a state of euphoria and relaxation. Medications called opiate receptor antagonists act by blocking the effects of opiate drugs. Naloxone is one such antagonist. Overdoses of fentanyl should be treated immediately with an opiate antagonist.
There are many street names for Fentanyl which may be used in conversations and on social media. Per the Lancet (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(06)69181-2/fulltext) and the National Institutes on Drugs Abuse (https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/fentanyl) Fentanyl is sometimes referred to as:
Tango & Cash
Parents, all adults, talk to the kids in your life about your expectations for them not to become involved with drug misuse or illicit drug use – Help your child make good decisions to lead a safe and healthy life.
Additional information can be found at https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/fentanyl and https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/opioids-and-pain-relievers