The Northern Colorado Drug Task Force reported that it is seeing more fentanyl this year than it has previously. It also reported that the task force is working to get major heroin and fentanyl dealers off the street and restrict the supply of this dangerous synthetic opioid. The Colorado Springs area also reported an increase in fentanyl overdoses that would seem to indicate that the drug is being misused more often in the area.
Fentanyl is prescribed as a painkiller for cancer patients and others with chronic pain, but it is so potent — 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine — that even a small amount can be fatal. To make it safe to use as prescribed, it is often made into a patch and absorbed through the skin. Illegal fentanyl in powder form cannot be regulated and carry much higher risks than does the traditional form.
On the street, some dealers cut their heroin with fentanyl, making its use increasingly more likely to lead to overdose. Adding fentanyl to heroin allows dealers to claim that it is stronger, and it lowers the dealer’s cost. In some cases, the dealer may not even know exactly how strong the mixture can be.
Accidental Fentanyl Exposure Can Be Fatal
One scary reality of fentanyl is that even trace amounts, in pure form, can cause an overdose through skin contact alone. A few police officers around the country have been exposed to fentanyl by touching the powder and have been hospitalized or even killed because of its potency. First responders are being advised to wear gloves and wash down surfaces where possible to prevent exposure and overdoses.
“If you have skin contact with fentanyl, you can have effects,” El Paso County Deputy Coroner Leon Kelly told the Colorado Springs Independent. “Small amounts within seconds get into your bloodstream, and over the course of several minutes, you can become comatose.”
Why Fentanyl Addiction Is So Dangerous
Even for those who misuse fentanyl regularly, the drug can cause a dangerous addiction because the body develops a tolerance to the opioid and more of it is required to get the same high. Eventually, the amount needed is close to the limit of what the body can take, and just a few grains can be the difference between a high and an overdose.
Synthetic opioids like fentanyl were responsible for about one-third of the 66,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2016. In large part, this is because of their potency and the unpredictable nature of their manufacture and use. Seeking treatment for fentanyl addiction is not only beneficial to your quality of life but can also save you from an accidental overdose in many cases.