Dangers of Fentanyl | Natural Health Blog

Date: 01/25/2018    Written by: Hiyaguha Cohen

Smoking Fentanyl

While the media focuses attention on the prevalence of oxycodone addictions, another equally pernicious addiction related to pharmaceuticals has been catching on, mostly unnoticed and unknown. People have been smoking Fentanyl pain patches, many times with deadly consequences.

Fentanyl is the most potent opioid painkilling drug presently available. It produces effects similar to those of heroin, but it’s 30 to 50 times stronger and up to 100 times more potent than pure morphine.1 Why would someone need such a strong drug? It’s mostly used after surgery to reduce severe pain, but also is prescribed to cancer patients and to those who’ve developed tolerance to less powerful opioids. In other words, post-surgical patients who’ve gotten hooked on oxycodone may no longer get the same degree of relief from their prescription-level pills, and so they get a Fentanyl patch as a supplement. It happens all the time. In fact, a friend of ours was given oxycodone after back surgery and three years later was still taking oxycodone, plus, his VA doctor added a fentanyl patch and some other goodies to his arsenal of drugs.

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The problem with all those fentanyl prescriptions out there is that they open the door to an enormous abuse problem. The prescription patches and pills end up in the hands of the wrong people, same as with oxycodone pills and the like, but again, fentanyl is a lot more potent and therefore a lot more dangerous. To complicate the issue, dealers have figured out how to manufacture fentanyl themselves, and now there’s fentanyl on the streets that isn’t pharmaceutical at all, but rather, is manufactured by illegal labs. Unfortunately, recreational abuse of both prescription fentanyl and the illegally manufactured stuff is fast becoming a desperate problem. Drug overdoses in 2016 numbered 64,000, most of them from fentanyl.2 This number represents a 540-percent increase over just a three-year period. Astoundingly, drugs kill more people under the age of 50 than any other cause.

The illegally manufactured “street” fentanyl comes in a wider array of forms than the prescription drug— gel tabs, nasal sprays, various types of pills and powders for snorting or mixed in with heroin. It’s street fentanyl that killed the musician Prince, drawing attention to the phenomenon. But deadly as street fentanyl may be, the prescription patches may be equally as dangerous.

The thing about the patches is that they’re designed to be time-release, which means that patches typically have a three-day supply of the narcotic in them. To exceed that dosage can lead to depressed respiration, dizziness, coma, confusion, seizures, and death—and given the extraordinary potency, it can do so quickly, without even allowing the user enough time to experience the hoped-for high.3 According to Rusty Paine of the Drug Enforcement Agency, “It is so potent and so deadly that even a microgram amount can kill someone.” The patches are designed to deliver anywhere from 25 to 100 micrograms per hour to users, but only to those who already have developed a tolerance to lesser-strength opiates. In other words, they deliver a potentially lethal dose to those who haven’t built up such tolerance.

Nevertheless, plenty of people are abusing the patches by either stripping off the narcotic gel or just lighting up the patch and smoking it. In fact, there’s a shocking amount of discourse on the internet about how to smoke fentanyl, offering advice and hot tips to hopeful users. Here are instructions from a Reddit contributor: 4

“When you have the fentanyl patch cut in into strips the size of your finger nail …. After u do that now it's time to get your smoke on with ur Bic hollowed pen and the lighter flame under the foil it will start smoking and ENJOY THE HIGH.”

I “elipsised” out some of the key details so this article can’t serve as an instruction sheet for smoking fentanyl. And it’s worth keeping in mind that “tutorial” may well land readers in the hospital, because the concentration of fentanyl varies by location on the patch. The peak concentration is designed to be released between 24 and 72 hours after treatment begins, and so smoking the part of the patch with the strongest concentration of fentanyl easily can lead to an overdose.5 Of course, smoking any part of the patch can lead to overdose given that the patch was not designed for use in a single session, nor for people who have not already developed a tolerance.

Those who don’t like to smoke have found other potentially deadly methods of abusing the patches, including boiling them and then cutting them open to extract the liquid inside for injection, drinking the water they were boiled in, or just chewing the patches, making for a potentially fatal snack. Again, the amount extracted far exceeds the amount many people are able to tolerate without losing the ability to breathe.

People have been looking for ways to get high and to zone out from the pressures of life since ancient times, and so the quest to find a little something to take the sting out of existence is likely to continue ad infinitum. For many, an occasional glass of wine will do, but for so many people these days the pressures are too many and the needs too great, and as long as numbing drugs are available, there will likely be a hungry audience for them. But let’s get real here. The primary reasons for the current opioid epidemic are not “getting high” but grossly unethical misrepresentations from pharmaceutical companies and unconscionable over-prescription from the medical community. This is what created the nationwide addiction crisis that is now overwhelming the country.  The good news is that drug companies say they’re hot on the trail of developing opioids that will numb pain and create that feel-good effect without suppressing breathing or leading to other fatal side-effects, though it may take a few years for these drugs to make it to market.6 But before you get too excited, it should be noted, that any “new” opioid medication is likely to be just as addictive as all the versions that have come before.

  • 1. Zalkind, Susan. “What is Fentanyl? The little-known but deadly drug that killed Prince.” 3 June 2016. The Guardian. 11 January 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/03/what-is-fentanyl-prince-deadly-overdose
  • 2. Katz, Josh. “The First Count of Fentanyl Deaths in 2016: Up 540% in Three Years.” 2 September 2017. New York Times. 15 January 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/02/upshot/fentanyl-drug-overdose-deaths.html
  • 3. “The Dangers of Abusing Fentanyl Patches.” American Addiction Centers. 15 January 2018. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/fentanyl-treatment/dangers-of-abuse/
  • 4. https://www.reddit.com/r/opiates/comments/1swzjs/the_tutorial_smoking_fentanyl/
  • 5. https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/archives/fdaDrugInfo.cfm?archiveid=49245
  • 6. “Safer opioid drugs could relieve pain and save lives.” 5 December 2017. Science Daily. 15 January 2018. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171205091537.htm

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    Submitted by Linda Richardson on
    February 10, 2018 - 6:33am
    Shepherdsville , Kentucky

    Would like to know the best way to get off pain meds now that I seem to be addicted to them for my pain! What other meds could I use that won’t make me addicted?

    Submitted by Bruce Stewart on
    February 10, 2018 - 2:27pm

    Excellent article that exposes the sad state of modern medicine. It used to be the abuse of antibiotics that upset me so much but the medical community’s abuse of pain killers is as you say unconscionable! Aren’t I a good doctor? I made your pain go away! Tell your friends to come see me.

    Submitted by Rapunzel on
    February 24, 2018 - 12:04am
    Citrus Heights , California

    Excellent informative article. But heres my thoughts: the author is unwilling to supply directions fpr the individual who is seeking to use that patch he possesses, whether he/she obtains instructions or not! Why not err on the side of caution and supply those instructions, with the hopes that the knowledge keeps that individual from overdosing. Instructions or not, the hell bent addict will find one way or another to indulge. Why not help them do it as safely as possible? Just a thought! Theyre ARE going to INDULGE!

    Submitted by Kathy on
    March 16, 2018 - 11:03am
    act , Delaware

    Agree with Rapunzul that those who want or need to get high - will find a way....especially someone that is addicted. And if once addicted and turning to heroin that may be laced with deadly Fentanyl....why don’t we iust keep giving them oxycodone while they are waiting for an opening in rehab?

    Attempting to understand the opioid “crisis” & the actions of local agencies in their effort to respond, I looked up some of the companies that manufacture Percocet, OxyContin, Naloxalone, Methadone. It seems in 2006 the makers of OxyContin were ordered to stop encouraging doctors to prescribe it to anyone other than for what it was approved for-to treat the pain of advanced cancer patients. They did not & subsequently were fined 6million$ but that was pennies compared to profits!
    Curious where fine money went-should have went directly to funding rehabilitation centers since government and doctors were well aware of its addictive properties. And the drug used to counter overdose has been steadily increasing in price not to mention it is a waste of funds unless you can offer a bed in detox then rehabilitation services, and the same company that makes the opioid will profit again for the rescue drug!

    Guess what? Methadone, a synthetic drug made from a WWII German recipe has 2 times the withdrawal period than the Oxy!
    And the current rehabs with sporadic availability that will accept Medicaid or people without any insurance are located in inner cities where addicts have to deal with their issues in the midst of everyone living in close quarters, families separated, often dismembered & no semblance of normal life, and drugs just outside the doors. This is where they learn to wait in line for the daily cup of juice and it will keep them in line, literally outside, everyday, wasting again a chance of normalcy, employment, attaining tools to reunite their family. It’s when they first leave rehab that the chance of overdose increases. I think they were better off on the opioid until treatment secured. And, guess who manufactures Methadone?

    Medicinal marijuana would be great alternative but US government and some medical community dont promote natural medications, only the ones that give kickbacks to subscribers & make the manufacturing companies very, very wealthy. Trump wants to pass bill asking for the death penalty to the dealers of opioids, wonder if he means the profiting manufacuter, or drug reps & or the doctors who created this crisis?

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