Acetyl Fentanyl New Potent Drug Sold as Heroin

A number of recent overdose deaths have been blamed on a new street drug called acetyl fentanyl. The drug is technically legal and up to 15 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Unsuspecting heroin users are being sold packages of what they are told is heroin but in reality is either acetyl fentanyl or a mixture of the two drugs. The results are deadly, and only with education and awareness will the overdose deaths stop.

Fentanyl is a legal, though highly controlled, substance. It is an opioid painkiller and is related to other narcotic painkillers and to heroin. The prescription drug is used only for serious and chronic pain and is often given to terminal patients. Acetyl fentanyl is a different substance, although it is related to fentanyl. It is not illegal because it has been classified as having no medical use. This means that as long as the drug is labeled as “not for human consumption,” it is legal to possess and sell.

Anyone who misuses acetyl fentanyl is at serious risk for an overdose. The same quantity of heroin that is enough to get a user high can kill if it is pure acetyl fentanyl, or even a mixture of the two drugs. Acetyl fentanyl can be used just like heroin and injected intravenously. As an opioid, it produces a similar high.

Heroin and Acetyl Fentanyl 

A recent upswing in the number of overdose deaths has been blamed on this gray-area substance, acetyl fentanyl. A number of what appeared to be heroin overdoses turned out to be caused by acetyl fentanyl. What happens is that the drug gets mixed into heroin, or sold as heroin, and the person buying and using it thinks he is getting only heroin. As acetyl fentanyl is a much more potent opioid than heroin, a user may take too much at once and end up overdosing.

To complicate matters further, when a person experiencing an overdose is taken to an emergency room or treated by emergency responders, the medical professionals have no way of knowing which drug the person has used. A standard dose of the heroin overdose antidote, naloxone, is not enough to stop an overdose from acetyl fentanyl. People are dying because they are not getting enough of the antidote.

Acetyl fentanyl is another in a long line of designer drugs wreaking havoc in the U.S. A designer drug is one that is manufactured in a lab and which is often not illegal, at least not initially. Acetyl fentanyl is so new that most experts have very limited information about it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a statement warning states about the new drug. The statement asks officials to be aware of any increases in overdose deaths and to test heroin samples and victims for the presence of acetyl fentanyl. The CDC also recommend that emergency room workers and first responders increase the standard dose of naloxone for overdose victims to account for the possible presence of acetyl fentanyl.

Designer drugs may never go away. Clever drug makers will always come up with something new and dangerous. The rest of us can fight back with awareness and education. Learning about new designer drugs and being aware of what is on the illicit market can help save lives. Harm reduction programs that distribute the overdose antidote also help to save the unsuspecting victims of acetyl fentanyl.

Posted on November 18th, 2014
Posted in Drug Addiction

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