WHAT IS FENTANYL?
Fentanyl is a man-made, synthetic opioid (as opposed to heroin and morphine which come from the poppy plant) that’s about 100 times more powerful than morphine. Because it’s made in a lab, fentanyl was designed to be far stronger than other pain-killing alternatives, which makes it an attractive way for drug dealers to extend their supply. While cutting street drugs like heroin with fentanyl will make selling drugs more profitable, it can—and often does—carry an extreme risk of overdose, and is fentanyl is quickly becoming the deadliest drug in America. If you’re asking, “but what does fentanyl look like?” we’ll get to that, but first you need to know some facts about the drug.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, For the 12 months ending in April 2021, the United States topped more than 100,000 overdose deaths, an increase of almost 30% over the previous year. Colorado saw an increase of about 40% along with Virginia, Washington State, Minnesota, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska, Nebraska, and the Carolinas. The new data shows more fentanyl-related overdoses than total drug overdoses in 2016. To learn how to spot fentanyl overdose symptoms, there’s more in the Recovery Blog about that topic.
WHAT IS FENTANYL USED FOR?
Despite the negative attention the drug received as of late, fentanyl is a valuable tool for licensed health care providers. It’s used to treat pain following surgery, with breakthrough pain, and to treat people who’ve developed a tolerance to other pain medication. Now that’s you’re familiar with the risks and proper use of fentanyl, you might be wondering what does fentanyl look like?
WHAT DOES FENTANYL LOOK LIKE?
There are two types of fentanyl: pharmaceutical fentanyl and illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Pharmaceutical fentanyl can be dispensed in several different forms. It’s made in liquid form for intravenous injection, as a lollypop (Actiq), a buccal (placed between the gum and cheek), a dissolvable tablet (Fentora) a sublingual (under the tongue) tablet (Abstral), and a patch (Onsolis).
The illegally manufactured fentanyl (IMF) comes in two forms: liquid and powder. The powdered version looks a lot like other street drugs and is commonly mixed with heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine and made into counterfeit pills that resemble other prescription opioids like OxyContin. In liquid form, IMF can be found in eye drops, nasal sprays, and even and dropped onto candy or paper hits. Fentanyl-laced drugs are exceedingly dangerous, and many people are unaware their drugs are laced with fentanyl.
If you are wondering if the substance you have may contain fentanyl, there are two options to try and identify it.
- Check the color. Drugs like cocaine and meth are generally pure white in their powder forms. What does fentanyl look like? Typically, fentanyl-laced drugs will have brown spots. This is by no means a safe and effective way to identify fentanyl but he may tip you off that something isn’t right.
- Fentanyl Test Strips. Testing strips are widely available from online retails and are relatively cheap. They can be used to test powder and liquid forms and can save lives. Cities like Chicago have even so go far as to distribute free test strips to people in order to reduce overdose deaths.
SHOULD I TEST FOR FENTANYL?
Fentanyl test strips are not 100% accurate because of user error and low concentrations of the drug. You might be wondering if it’s necessary to test for fentanyl if you aren’t planning on taking an opiate. It is.
Some drug dealers mix fentanyl with other drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA (molly or ecstasy). The drug is extremely powerful, and a very small amount can produce a high. This makes a much cheaper alternative for dealers to increase the potency and volume of their supply. This is highly dangerous for people taking drugs that they don’t realize may contain fentanyl. Even if the user has developed a tolerance to opioids, the strength of fentanyl may be far more their bodies are accustomed to and makes them at a much higher risk of overdose. To learn more about fentanyl-laced drugs, visit the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Drug Facts on fentanyl.
An employee at AspenRidge Recovery brought a box of test strips to a concert at the famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre here in Colorado. Of the 20 substances they tested, 16 tested positive for fentanyl. And they didn’t test any opiates! Much to the surprise of the people who just thought they would have a good time at an EMD show, they found cocaine, molly, and meth were also laced with fentanyl.
Fentanyl pills have also begun to appear nationwide. These counterfeit pills appear to be Xanax, Oxycodone, or other medications but are in fact laced with fentanyl. Sometimes pills often appear indistinguishable from the legal, pharmaceutical company manufactured versions, making the risk of overdose even more extreme. In other cases, the brand or pill identifiers may be slightly off or of a slightly different color.
If you’re unsure if the substance you want to take is laced with fentanyl, don’t take it. The risk of overdose is high and can be fatal. If you do choose to still ingest the substance, you’ll want to have NARCAN available. While not a foolproof method of reversing an overdose, NARCAN and other similar medications save lives every day. They are available without a prescription and available at most major drug stores. Your local public health department may even offer them to members of the community free of charge. If you plan on taking any drug that wasn’t prescribed by a doctor and dispensed by a reputable pharmacy, you run the risk of inadvertently ingesting and overdosing from fentanyl.
TALK TO SOMEONE AND GET HELP
Our addiction specialists are here to help 24/7. Give us a call and we can help find the right treatment program for you or your loved one–even if it’s not ours! We are here to help. Prospective clients may contact AspenRidge Recovery Centers to discuss Opioid Addiction Treatment Program at (855) 678-3144.