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From 2020 to 2022, the rate of fentanyl-related overdose deaths tripled in Idaho.
What is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid—a painkiller in the same family as heroin and morphine often manufactured illegally.
Fentanyl is an opioid… but what does that mean?
Opioids are a family of drugs derived from opium that can be produced naturally or synthetically (in a lab). They reduce pain and are generally addictive. Fentanyl is an opioid, like morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, methadone, and heroin—but it's much more potent and, therefore, much easier to take a lethal dose. (DEA)
Where did fentanyl come from?
Fentanyl was developed in medical labs in the 1960s to treat severe pain and is often used in cancer and post-surgery treatment. In the correct dose, fentanyl reduces pain and works almost immediately, which is why it's so medically beneficial. (DrugBank)
However, even doctors have to be very careful with how much of any opioid they prescribe because:
- Patients can easily overdose on even prescription opioids, especially if they aren't used to taking them.
- Opioids are highly addictive, and people can develop opioid dependence in just three days. (JustPlainKillers)
What forms does fentanyl come in?
Every form: liquid, powder, lollipops, tablets that dissolve in your cheek/under your tongue, nasal and mouth sprays, eye drops, skin patches, powders, pills, and injectables. Fentanyl can be injected, snorted/sniffed, smoked, taken orally by pill or tablet, and spiked onto blotter paper. (DEA)
Without the buyer's knowledge, fentanyl is often mixed in with other drugs because it's potent and cheap to manufacture. It has been found in almost every drug, including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, molly/MDMA, and prescription opioid look-alike pills. (CDC)
Does fentanyl have other names?
Apache, China Girl, China Town, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfellas, Great Bear, He-Man, Jackpot, King Ivory, Murder 8, Tango & Cash. (DEA)
What effect does fentanyl have on the body?
Fentanyl produces an intense short-term high, temporary feelings of euphoria, slowed breathing, reduced blood pressure, and reduced pain (physical and emotional). When people overdose on fentanyl, their breathing slows so much that their brain doesn't get enough oxygen, which can cause coma, permanent brain damage, and death. (NIH)
Why is fentanyl so dangerous?
With other drugs, we worry about the potential danger of addiction. Though fentanyl is also highly addictive, it's so strong that it can easily kill you after a single use.
How can you tell if a drug has been laced with fentanyl?
If fentanyl is so dangerous, why do dealers sell it?
Illegal drug producers and dealers want to make more money. Because fentanyl is cheap and strong, it is mixed into other drugs to stretch the supply. This makes every dose a gamble because the people taking the drugs have no idea how much fentanyl they're getting. (AdCouncil)
Is fentanyl a problem in Idaho?
Yes. Fentanyl has become a much bigger problem in Idaho in recent years. From 2020 to 2022, the rate of fentanyl-related overdose deaths tripled in Idaho.
What are the signs of a fentanyl overdose?
- Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”
- Falling asleep or losing consciousness, slow, weak, or no breathing
- Choking or gurgling sounds
- Limp body
- Cold and/or clammy skin
- Discolored skin (especially in lips and nails)
What should you do if you think someone is overdosing?
- Call 911: Some people are afraid to call 911 for fear of implicating themselves, but Good Samaritan laws legally protect people trying to help someone in need.
- Administer Naloxone, the only safe and appropriate way to reverse an opioid overdose. (NIH)
- Try to keep the person awake and breathing. (CDC)
- Lay the person on their side to prevent choking. (CDC)
- Stay with the person until emergency assistance arrives. (CDC)
Where can I get Naloxone?
Individuals: In Idaho, you can access naloxone at your local pharmacy without a prescription. A co-pay may be required, but it is free for those with Medicaid. Community-based groups may also offer naloxone for free to individuals in need. Find a provider near you.
Organizations: Organizations can now request free 4mg Narcan® nasal spray kits (2 doses each) and free Narcan® nasal spray training kits from the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare. You can complete an online request form through either the Division of Behavioral Health or the Divisions of Public Health’s Drug Overdose Prevention Program webpages.
If you also want training on how to administer naloxone, you may indicate so on your request form, and Kootenai Country Fire & Rescue will coordinate with your local Health District to provide the training.
Can you die from touching fentanyl?
Illicit fentanyl cannot be absorbed through the skin or by touching an item or surface where it is present. (tn.gov)
What should you do if you believe you have been exposed to a substance that could be fentanyl?
- Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth
- Wash your hands with soap and water to remove any substance from your hands
- If you begin to experience any adverse medical symptoms, seek medical attention