Fentanyl’s role in South Carolina’s opioid epidemic is complex and often misunderstood. Let’s take a look at why fentanyl is so dangerous and how addiction treatment can help put you or your loved one on the path to a brighter future.
Fentanyl Is More Potent Than Heroin
Fentanyl is estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and about 50 times more potent than heroin. However, it’s important to remember that illicitly manufactured fentanyl can vary widely in potency and purity. This means that people who use these substances may encounter unpredictably strong or weak doses.
Fentanyl Contamination Is a Major Concern for Users of Street Drugs
Several street drugs are commonly contaminated with fentanyl. The main reason for this contamination is the potential for drug dealers and manufacturers to increase profits and create more potent products by mixing or cutting other drugs with fentanyl. Here are some of the street drugs that are often contaminated with fentanyl:
- Heroin. Fentanyl is frequently mixed with or sold as heroin. Users may not be aware that their heroin contains fentanyl, which significantly increases the risk of overdose.
- Cocaine. Fentanyl has been found in cocaine supplies. The presence of fentanyl in cocaine can be especially dangerous because cocaine is a stimulant, while fentanyl is a depressant.
- Counterfeit prescription pills. Drug dealers may press counterfeit pills that resemble legitimate prescription medications, such as oxycodone (an opioid painkiller) or Xanax (a benzodiazepine). These counterfeit pills are often made with fentanyl or its analogs, and users may believe they are taking a safe prescription medication.
- Methamphetamine. In some cases, fentanyl has been found mixed with methamphetamine. This combination can be particularly risky because it combines the stimulating effects of meth with the depressant effects of fentanyl, potentially masking the signs of overdose.
There Is No 100% Accurate Way to Identify Fentanyl
Fentanyl is odorless and tasteless. Some people claim that smoking or burning fentanyl always produces a popcorn-like smell or that fentanyl-laced heroin always has a sweet taste, but this is not true. Users of illegal street drugs can’t identify fentanyl-laced products by relying on taste or smell.
Fentanyl test strips have become increasingly popular as a harm reduction tool. Here’s how they typically work:
- A small amount of the substance in question is dissolved or mixed with a liquid provided in the test kit.
- The test strip is dipped or immersed into the liquid containing the substance.
- The user waits for a specified amount of time, usually a few minutes, to allow the test strip to react with any fentanyl present in the sample.
- The test strip is examined. A positive result typically appears as a visible line or color change on the strip.
Although fentanyl test strips are more accurate than relying on taste or smell, they are not 100% reliable. The CDC reports that test strips might not detect more potent fentanyl-like drugs, such as carfentanil.
Fentanyl Overdoses Can Be Difficult to Reverse
Fentanyl overdoses can be life-threatening due to the drug’s potency. Signs of an overdose may include:
- Slow or shallow breathing
- Pinpoint pupils
- Extreme drowsiness or unconsciousness
- Blue or pale skin, lips, or nails
- Confusion or mental impairment
- Slurred speech
- Cold or clammy skin
- Weak pulse
- Floppy limbs
While opioid overdoses can often be reversed using naloxone (Narcan), fentanyl overdoses may require higher doses of naloxone or multiple administrations due to its potency. The doses must be administered quickly to prevent fatal respiratory depression.
If you think a friend or family member has experienced an overdose, call 911. Administer naloxone, if available. Lay the person on their side to reduce the risk of choking and try to keep them awake until help arrives.
Treatment Saves Lives
Fentanyl addiction, just like other types of substance use disorders, is treated using a combination of medical, psychological, and behavioral interventions. Here are the key components of Waypoint Recovery Center’s South Carolina residential addiction treatment program:
- Intake assessment. This assessment helps determine the extent of fentanyl use, any physical health issues, and any co-occurring mental health conditions.
- Withdrawal management. Medications can be administered to manage withdrawal symptoms and make the process safer and more comfortable.
- Medication-assisted treatment. Common medications used for fentanyl addiction include buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone.
- Counseling and therapy. Individual and group counseling sessions are used to address the psychological aspects of addiction, develop coping skills, and identify and address underlying issues contributing to addiction. Family therapy is also recommended to provide education about the nature of addiction and strengthen the support system after residential treatment is complete.
- Healthy lifestyle habits. Positive lifestyle changes, including exercise, nutrition, and stress management, can play a role in long-term recovery.
- Aftercare and relapse prevention. Learning to identify triggers and develop a plan to transition back to independent living sets the stage for long-term sobriety.
Would you like to learn about how our services can help you or your loved one take the first steps toward a future free from fentanyl? Contact our admissions representatives today