Fentanyl — The New Epidemic

It’s no secret that fentanyl has become increasingly prevalent throughout the U.S. and impacts everyone’s life — not just those who manufacture, distribute, and use it.

Parents are concerned about their children accidentally taking fentanyl-laced medications. Healthcare professionals have concerns about opioid use disorder and the spread of blood-borne diseases through shared injection needles. Governments are concerned about opioid overdose deaths, addiction, and high crime rates.

Fentanyl isn’t just a problem in the United States. It’s an epidemic.

Raising awareness about synthetic opioids and substance use disorder has never been more important. Knowledge is the key to public health maintenance and overdose death prevention. In this article, our team at Southern Bail Bonds covers various questions you might have about fentanyl and how bonds work for fentanyl-related cases.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid often compared to morphine, only 50–100 times more potent. Because of its potency, fentanyl use can easily turn into addiction and substance use disorder. Substance use disorders keep users coming back even if it causes serious health problems, financial hardship, relational turmoil, and risk of death.

Doctors have been using fentanyl since the 1960s as treatment for various medical conditions. However, people soon learned about the drug’s euphoric effects and found ways to manufacture it like other illicit drugs. Using doctor-prescribed fentanyl analogs, according to a physician’s recommendations, is safe, but using illegal or illicitly manufactured fentanyl analogs is dangerous and leads to many unique challenges.

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF) comes in several different forms, the most common being the following:

• Liquid: Synthetic opioid manufacturers can make IMF in liquid form and put it in substances like eye drops, nasal sprays, and small candies.
• Powder: IMF powder looks like other drugs, and people often mix it with cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. The scary thing is drug manufacturers can use powdered IMF to create fentanyl-laced pills that many individuals mistake for prescription medications.

While pharmaceutical fentanyl can help patients achieve a higher quality of life, illicitly manufactured fentanyl can take it all away. Over 56,000 people died from synthetic opioids like fentanyl in the U.S. in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How Does Fentanyl Affect the Body?

Fentanyl can affect the body in numerous ways. Medical professionals have used it and benzodiazepines for decades as treatment for issues like advanced cancer pain. Taking fentanyl can give your body much-needed relief and relaxation, but it can also cause side effects like the following:
• Nausea and vomiting
• Dizziness
• Drowsiness
• Confusion
• Pupillary constriction
• Urinary retention
• Respiratory depression

The “high” sensation you get from using fentanyl is what makes this synthetic opioid so highly sought-after and addictive. People crave that feeling of euphoria, especially amid the rise of unique challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Overdose

Overdosing on fentanyl, heroin, and other synthetic opioids is an all-too-common problem that may lead to numerous health risks and, ultimately, death.

Here are some common side effects of a fentanyl overdose:
• Stupor
• Pupillary size changes
• Cold, clammy skin
• Blue-colored skin (cyanosis)
• Coma
• Respiratory failure
• Opioid use disorder

The following additional information about fentanyl overdose symptoms was gathered directly from The American Addiction Centers:

Symptoms of Fentanyl Overdose

Overdose on fentanyl is extremely dangerous. If you believe someone is overdosing on fentanyl or any other drug, call 911 immediately as this is a medical emergency.

Symptoms of opioid overdose, including fentanyl overdose include:

  • Constricted (very small) pupils.
  • Severe respiratory depression, such as slow or shallow breathing.
  • Cold, clammy skin.
  • Gray, blue, or pale skin.
  • Blue or purple lips and nails.
  • Respiratory arrest, or altogether stopped breathing.
  • Extreme decreases in the level of consciousness.
  • Limp or flimsy arms and legs.
  • Slurred speech or inability to speak.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Unresponsiveness.
  • Vomiting.
  • Making choking or gurgling sounds.
  • Where Does Fentanyl Come From?

Although illegal fentanyl substances have invaded communities across the United States, they don’t actually come from this nation. The essential ingredients in this synthetic opioid contain precursor chemicals that come from a foreign nation. America isn’t the starting point — it’s the destination.

Manufacturers ship the precursor chemicals from China to Mexico, where they complete the manufacturing process. Then, the synthetic opioids travel into California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas for distribution. From there, fentanyl passes to thousands of people and communities and creates dependence to restart the process.

China isn’t the only birthplace of the fentanyl epidemic. India has emerged as one of the leading suppliers for fentanyl and other opioids. As governments and law enforcement throughout the nation continue to crack down on opioids, the list of suppliers will likely grow, along with distribution.

Statistics From the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has tracked the production, distribution, consumption, and prevention of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids in communities since the 1970s. They understand our nation’s drug problem better than anyone and have worked tirelessly to cut the opioid supply chain.

Despite the vigilance of law enforcement, illicit drugs continue to flow into America. Here are some DEA statistics showing why the opioid epidemic is a source of such major concern:
• 42% of fentanyl pills contain at least two milligrams of fentanyl, a high enough dose to be fatal.
• Distributors typically sell fentanyl by the kilogram, one of which could kill about 500,000 people.
• Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are the leading cause of overdose deaths in the U.S.

Opioid Overdose Deaths in the U.S.

Substance use disorders, overdoses, and deaths involving synthetic opioids have been on the rise for the past few years. The Drug Enforcement Administration reports that opioid-related overdose deaths increased by 38.1% between January 2020 and January 2021. Synthetic opioid overdose deaths, on the other hand, increased by 55.6% in that same timeframe.

As a Texas-based company, we at Southern Bail Bonds have felt the effects of fentanyl drug overdoses in our communities. We’ve recently seen a third fentanyl drug overdose death in the same school district and many parents struggling to move on with life after losing their child to a substance use disorder.

Can You Get Fentanyl Legally?

Fentanyl treatment is available for patients with certain medical conditions through public health centers. It is not an over-the-counter drug, so you’ll need to get a prescription and have it fulfilled at a local pharmacy. You should never purchase fentanyl from a friend, family member, or anyone claiming to offer fentanyl substances without a prescription.

Pharmaceutical opioids come in various forms. While one form isn’t necessarily better than the next, one might work better for your situation. Methods of taking prescription opioids include the following:

• Transdermal patches: Transdermal fentanyl patches go directly on your skin and allow your body to absorb the opioid substance. Patches are an excellent option if you don’t feel comfortable taking medicine orally or want treatment for an isolated area.
• Edibles: Oral ingestion is the most common method of consuming medications, including fentanyl. You can find it in lozenges, lollipops, and small candies.
• Tablets: Fentanyl pharmaceutical tablets enable you to ingest your medication sublingually. In other words, you place them under the tongue and allow them to dissolve in your mouth.
• Injectable formulas: Injection is the fastest, most effective way to get medicinal fentanyl into your system. You can receive treatment at a healthcare center and not have to worry about potentially dangerous medications lying around at home.

Why Are Fentanyl and Synthetic Opioids Such a Problem?

Facts and figures are helpful, but they don’t tell the whole story of why fentanyl is a major problem. On top of fentanyl being the primary driver of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids in the U.S., there are four reasons to take the drug epidemic seriously.

1. Fentanyl Is More Potent

The most obvious reason why fentanyl is such a concern for law enforcement has to do with its potency. Research indicates that this drug is 50 times more potent than heroin and can quickly lead to an opioid use disorder.

Fentanyl’s potency is both a blessing and a curse. For many patients looking to relieve ongoing pain and discomfort, it offers a quick solution. On the flip side, such high potency means users can easily grow addicted to it and suffer from substance use disorde