Fentanyl

Over the last 30 to 35 years the use of fentanyl has grown as the ongoing opioid epidemic in the U.S. continues to spiral into greater numbers. Every day nearly 130 people die from opioid related overdoses in the U.S., and as a synthetic opioid itself, with a high abuse rate, fentanyl is one of the largest contributing overdose substances.

What is Fentanyl?

So what exactly is fentanyl? Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug normally used in medical settings to help reduce extreme pain. Normally 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, fentanyl is a highly potent substance–and like heroin–has a strong potential for misuse and abuse.

Developed in the late 1950s and distributed commercially for medical use in the early 1960s, it did not take long for the medication to be largely misused, reaching notable description and standard for “recreational” use as early as the 1970s. Fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II substance, as it is still used medically despite its high abuse potential and potency.

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What is Fentanyl Used For?

Prescription opioids like fentanyl have been used for years to to compact both chronic and traumatic pain in patients. Commonly fentanyl itself is used to help treat advanced cancer patients to manage their more severe pains, as the drug, even in medicinal form, is one of the most powerful and potent forms of synthetic opioid available. Yet, this potency has led to greater abuse and addiction patterns over the years, some of which have occurred unintentionally in patients looking to tame their pain became addicted to the other effects fentanyl often produces such as euphoria and an overall sense of well-being, much like heroin. Generally, fentanly has 2 standard uses outside of abuse:

  1. As an advanced pain reliever for patients with chronic or severe pain.
  2. As an injectable sedation medication during surgeries or painful medical procedures.

How Does Fentanyl Work?

Fentanyl synthetic opioid molecules selectivity bind and activate specific opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system that are associated with pain, emotions, speaking, and reward.

By binding to these opioid receptors, fentanyl is able to stimulate the transfer of chemicals associated with the “feel-good” feelings in the brain, thus producing it’s sensation of euphoria and well being. By binding to the opioid receptors, fentanyl also works to block the sensation of pain, thus also producing overall pain relief to users as well.

What is Fentanyl Made Of?

Unlike naturally occurring morphine that is derived from specific opium producing poppy plants, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are created entirely in laboratory settings, by combining specific sets of chemicals, where they are made to mimic the effects of naturally occurring opioids, but in stronger, longer lasting ways.

Typically pure fentanyl is produced in China, where once it has exited the laboratory, it is distributed to countries like Canada, and Mexico to be mixed with other drugs, smuggled into the U.S., and then sold illicitly for “recreational” use.

What is Fentanyl Cut With?

As a largely powdery synthetic opioid, fentanyl does not produce a specific taste, smell, or color when mixed with other illicit substances, making it easy to combine with other types of less expensive drugs, or other cutting substances, for better profit for the seller. Fentanyl has been known to but cut with:

What Does Fentanyl Look Like?

Fentanyl can come in many forms as both a medication, and an illicit substance. Oftentimes illegally manufactured fentanyl is made to mimic the look of the real medication, or other types of prescription drugs. The several most common ways fentanyl may look includes:

Typically when fentanyl is sold on the streets it is found in a powder form, as the light, flakey substances are much easier to transfer into different modes of consumption.

How is Fentanyl Used?

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Like its variety of looks, fentanyl also has a variety of different ways in which it can be used. As a drug that can either be fast-acting or slow release in affecting nature, dependent on the way it is used and consumed, some of these methods are more popular than others. The most common ways fentanyl is used includes:

  • Injecting
  • Ingesting
  • Snorting
  • Smoking

Fentanyl Street Names

Fentanyl is known by many names, in both medical and non-medical settings. In medical settings brand names are used to differentiate between different types of fentanyl, whether they were produced for different purposes, or in different methods, and whether or not they were produced by different manufacturers. Street names for fentanyl work to help disguise the drug, drug dealers, and dealings in public. Fentanyl street names include:

  • Apache
  • Blue Diamond
  • Blue Dolphin
  • Blues
  • Butter
  • China Girl
  • China
  • China Town
  • China White
  • Chinese
  • Chinese Buffet
  • Chinese Food
  • Crazy
  • Birria (fentanyl mixed with heroin)
  • Crazy One
  • Dance Fever
  • Dragon
  • Dragon’s Breath
  • Food
  • Freddy
  • Fuf (fentanyl furanyl)
  • Facebook (fentanyl mixed with heroin in pill form)
  • Fent
  • Fenty
  • Fire
  • Friend
  • Girl
  • Goodfellas
  • Great Bear
  • Gray Stuff
  • He-Man
  • Heineken
  • Humid
  • Huerfanito
  • Jackpot
  • King Ivory
  • Lollipop
  • Murder 8
  • Nal
  • Nil
  • Nyl
  • Opes
  • Pharmacy
  • Poison
  • Shoes
  • Snowflake
  • Tango
  • Cash
  • TNT
  • Toe Tag Dope
  • Tango and Cash
  • White Girl
  • White Ladies

Fentanyl Side Effects

Whether it is used for medicinal purposes or for “recreation” fentanyl can cause side effects, other than pain relief, that range from mild to severe, in even first time users. Fentanyl is a highly potent synthetic opioid, and as such can have major effects on individuals, even with the slightest dose. Fentanyl side effects can occur in both short-term and long-term periods. Typical side effects associated with short-term fentanyl use symptoms include:

  • Euphoria
  • Pain relief
  • Feelings of well-being
  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation
  • Slowed reactions
  • Impaired coordination
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Gas
  • Stomach pain
  • Heartburn
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sudden coma
  • Nausea
  • Overdose
  • Withdrawal Symptoms
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • High blood pressure
  • Fast heart rate
  • Fever
  • Cold flashes
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Changes in vision
  • Depression
  • Unusual thinking
  • Strange dreams
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Bone pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Weakness
  • Reddening of face, neck, and / or hands
  • Severe itching
  • Skin sores (especially around the mouth)
  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Risk of seizure
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Fainting
  • Sweats
  • Chills
  • Goosebumps
  • Shakiness
  • Mood swings
  • Slurred Speech

How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your System?

Like other types of fast-acting opioid, fentanyl does not remain in the human system for long. The approximate half-life for the drug is about 219 minutes, which is the amount of time a healthy human system would burn out half of the drug. What this also means is that the amount of time fentanyl can be detected in the body can range heavily, depending not only on the dose of the drug, but also on the individual being tested, and the type of laboratory test being conducted. Typically individual human factors that can influence the amount of time fentanyl remains in the system include:

  • Age
  • Genetic background
  • Gender
  • Overall health
  • Dose used
  • Metabolism
  • Weight
  • Hydration
  • Frequency of use

There are a few different ways to test for the presence of fentanyl in the human system, including blood, urine, salvia, hair, and breast milk tests. But, since fentanyl remains in the system for such a short time, some of these tests are more reliable, and thus more frequently used than others. So, how long does fentanyl stay in your:

Blood

Due to the rapid metabolization and elimination of fentanyl from the body, blood tests are rarely ever used for drug detection, even though they can produce the fastest overall results reading of a few minutes to a couple of hours. Typically, fentanyl does not remain traceable in the blood after 12 hours following the last dosage or use.

Urine

Used as a more common form of fentanyl detection, urine tests can detect use of the synthetic opioid anywhere from 2 to 3 days after the last use. And as it is both easier to collect, and detect for longer periods of time, urine testing for fentanyl use is more frequently used than blood testing.

Hair

As surprising as it may seem, hair follicle testing is one of the most reliable ways to get an accurate fentanyl–and other opioid–use read for a more substantial amount of time. This method of testing takes longer to detect the use of fentanyl initially, as the hair is one of the last places affected by the drug, but allows for the longest detection rate after use, culminating at nearly 90 days after the last dose.

Breastmilk

Although still largely unstudied, research has shown that women who use fentanyl and breastfeed their babies have the chance of passing on the drug to their infants. But the effects are not always immediate. It can take 45 minutes for a fentanyl dose to fully appear in breastmilk, and have lasting detection up to 10 hours after use. Once fentanyl is in an infants system, the drug can be detected in the baby’s plasma up to 24 hours after feeding. Breastmilk is not a common method of fentanyl drug testing.

Is Fentanyl Addictive?

Yes. Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opioid drug, that has a high risk for abuse potential in even medical use settings. Nearly 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine itself, fentanyl is easy to get a hold of, cheap, and has many methods of use, which make it all the more dangerous. As one of the number one opioids contributing to the on-going opioid epidemic in the U.S., fentanyl is surprisingly still frequently used as a prescription medication, and many people do not even know they are taking it. Since fentanyl is so dangerous, it is important to try and avoid having