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Cayuga County Health Professionals Keeping Close Eye on Fentanyl Abuse

What is Fentanyl and why do I keep hearing about it? This is a common question that is asked of me from parents and teachers. Fentanyl is an opioid medication that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is most commonly seen in the form of a patch but is also available in other forms such as a pill. Fentanyl is approximately 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine and roughly 15-20 times more potent than heroin. This is why the drug is becoming more and more abused.

The two most popular prescription painkillers that are abused are Oxycodone and Hydrocodone. The demand and popularity of these two medications has caused the price to skyrocket on the black market. Many times when addicts can't find their opiate of choice, they will switch to other opioids or heroin. Also when opiate addicts tolerance builds and they need more and more of their normal opiates to get a high, they will switch to something more powerful such as Fentanyl.

Fentanyl is extremely dangerous because the medication packs a very strong punch and when it is administered, it is very commonly used in extended release forms. These extended release forms provide the body a small amount of the drug over a long period of time. When extended release medications are tampered with or altered, it provides the abuser with immediate release. This is what causes many deadly overdoses because the abuser is not used to this medication and have no idea what their tolerance is.

Law enforcement is all too familiar with the drug Fentanyl. It is becoming infamous for being the reason for many deadly overdoses connected to heroin. When toxicology reports are done on victims of heroin overdoses, it is becoming very common to find that Fentanyl is in the victim's system. Heroin dealers are cutting (mixing) their heroin with Fentanyl to add potency and weight to the heroin. “Cutting” is when a drug dealer adds something to the main drug to increase profit, strength of drug and overall appearance. When the heroin is already pure and Fentanyl is added to it, it is a ticking time bomb of death. A seasoned heroin addict that is certain of their tolerance can easily be killed when Fentanyl is added to their drug.

“Drug incidents and overdoses related to Fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States and represent a significant threat to public health and safety,” said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart in the release. “Often laced in heroin, Fentanyl and Fentanyl analogues produced in illicit clandestine labs are up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30-50 times more powerful than heroin.

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