Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic narcotic painkiller has been named a chief culprit in the nation’s opioid crisis, a new study finds. Deadly synthetic opioids like fentanyl are now the main drivers of drug overdose deaths in the United States.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid approved by the FDA for use as a painkiller and anesthetic. It is 100 times stronger than morphine. It works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, but it does so faster, and in smaller doses, than morphine or heroin. Like other opioids, it boosts levels of the chemical dopamine, which controls feelings of reward, pleasure, euphoria, and relaxation.
Fentanyl: Some History
It is about 50-100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than many forms of heroin. As a result, it can be dangerous and deadly if misused. When abused, it is typically swallowed, snorted, or injected.
Fentanyl: Why The Abuse?
Despite the relatively low rate of prescriptions, it is a major player in the opioid epidemic. Illegal versions were responsible for the tripling of overdose deaths from synthetic opioids in just 2 years, from 3,105 in 2013 to 9,580 in 2015, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Fentanyl: Current Law Enforcement
Fentanyl is a serious problem for law enforcement. Since it is a legal prescription drug, it didn’t fall under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which would have made it illegal. In response to this problem, the Drug Enforcement Administration in February issued a temporary order to place all fentanyl-related substances that are not already regulated by the CSA into Schedule I.
Criminal penalties will now apply to anyone who illegally makes, distributes, imports, exports, or possesses fentanyl-related substances. The order is effective for 2 years, with a possible 1-year extension. This will make it easier for law enforcement to deal with the explosion in trafficking and overdose deaths.