Fentanyl is a highly addictive, synthetic opioid up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Here’s what you need to know about it:
- There is pharmaceutical fentanyl prescribed to treat pain and illicitly manufactured fentanyl.
- Illicit fentanyl can be found both as a white powder and a clear liquid. It is frequently mixed into drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine, or pressed into pills made to resemble other prescription opioids.
- Fentanyl is tasteless and odorless. The only way to determine whether it is in a drug is using fentanyl test strips.
- Smoking is the primary method used to deliberately consume illicit fentanyl. Fentanyl can be injected, but this poses a higher risk of overdose due to the drug’s potency.
- Illicit fentanyl is mainly manufactured in foreign labs and smuggled into the United States through Mexico.
- Illicit fentanyl first arrived in Los Angeles around 2016, but its use started increasing exponentially in 2019 and has continued growing ever since.
- Accidental fentanyl overdose deaths in LA County increased 1,280% from 109 in 2016 to 1,504 in 2021.
- On a national level, synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) were responsible for more than 70,000 deaths in 2021.
- Signs of overdose include pinpoint pupils, slow or no breathing, loss of consciousness, choking sounds, limp body and clammy skin. Overdoses can sometimes be reversed by administering Naloxone nasal spray.
- Fentanyl’s “high” is shorter compared to other opioids such as heroin. As a result people who use frequently may begin to feel withdrawal symptoms within just two to three hours of smoking the drug.
Sources: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Drug Enforcement Administration; Chelsea Shover, epidemiologist and health services researcher at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine; Los Angeles County Department of Public Health; Ricky Bluthenthal, professor of public health sciences at USC’s Keck School of Medicine.
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