Fatal Fentanyl: What to know about this deadly opioid

Fentanyl: America's Grim New Opioid Addiction



So far, 2016 has seen an alarming number of Fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths. Fentanyl is a potent and fast-acting opioid painkiller — an often deadly combination of traits. Some illicit users who overdose are even found with needles still in their arms.

Though Fentanyl doesn't quite yet have the bad-boy reputation of heroin or meth, it's not new and shouldn't be ignored.

SEE ALSO: Opioid prescribing drops for first time in 2 decades

Using data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, OpenFDA and recent news events, HealthGrove compiled important information you should know about this drug.

Death and Other Adverse Reactions by Fentanyl

Even when prescribed by a doctor, some people still experience serious adverse side effects from Fentanyl. The New York Times referred to it as heroin's deadly cousin, an apt description given recent trends.

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Fatal Fentanyl: What to know about this deadly opioid
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Fentanyl is up to 50 times more potent than morphine and dealers cut it into other drugs to sell to unsuspecting buyers. This cheap tactic gives a stronger high and keeps addicts coming back. U.S. law enforcement officials believe that much of the supply crosses the border from labs in Mexico or via mail-orders from factories in China.

In the case of prescribed usage, from Jan. 1, 2000 to Jan. 1, 2016, Fentanyl, under any and all of its brand name derivatives, has been included in 44,284 adverse reaction reports, of which 32,389 were reported as serious, according to OpenFDA. Of those, Fentanyl was the primary suspect in 17,169 of the reports.

Though some states may have larger senior populations, which could influence whether doctor prescription rates fall above or below the mean, the CDC notes that painful health conditions do not vary much from state to state. This means other factors play into the prescription rate discrepancies.

Potential factors include a lack of physician agreement on when to prescribe opioid pain medications, increased demand from patients who use opioids for non-medical purposes and the presence of pain clinics that prescribe large quantities to people who might not actually need them (often referred to as "pill mills").

The Future of Fentanyl

Fentanyl has already taken lives across the United States — from Maine to California, its effects reach far and wide. Recently, it has shown up cut into illicitly-obtained Norco in the Bay Area. Though drug enforcement authorities are starting to take note, Fentanyl has already taken hold of many illicit drug users and shows no sign of loosening its deadly grip.

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