Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used in medical practice and in a hospital setting as a pain medication and anesthetic. It is sold commercially under the brand names Duragesic, Actiq and Sublimaze.
It is also produced illegally and has been identified in the illicit drug market throughout Maryland and the US. In Somerset County, a high percentage of heroin overdoses include Fentanyl. In 2007, the number of overdoses in our state that included Fentanyl was 26; in 2015 it was 340 – and it continues to rise.
Here are five important things you should know about Fentanyl – you could save someone’s life, even your own.
- Pure Fentanyl is about 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine and can be toxic in small amounts. The drug is addicting, fast acting and short-lived – which can increase the desire for greater amounts of the drug and place a higher potential risk of overdose. It is also very dangerous when mixed with alcohol or other drugs. Show photo
- It is unlikely you would recognize the drug. Fentanyl can be mixed with and sold as heroin, cocaine, and other drugs, or pressed into fake prescription pills. Fentanyl is often unable to be detected by look, smell or taste. Show first chart, below.
- Overdoses of Fentanyl are common because the drug is much more toxic than the person who is buying and using it realizes. Overdoses involving fentanyl can occur more suddenly and may be more likely to result in death. In the first half of 2016, deaths related to fentanyl accounted for about half of all unintentional intoxication deaths in Maryland. Show second chart, below
- Narcan may work but you have to work fast. An overdose involving fentanyl may be reversed with naloxone and multiple doses may be necessary.
- You cannot be arrested for reporting an overdose. No matter when an opioid overdose is encountered, call 911 immediately. In Maryland, The Good Samaritan Law (GSL) protects you from arrest when reporting an overdose, whether you or others near you are using or carrying the drug. Show GSL slide from commercial. Link to commercial.