Drug overdoses are a tragic epidemic that has been sweeping across the country and affecting the lives of many for years now. Currently, a dangerous drug known as fentanyl has been found being laced with a variety of common illegal drugs that are often bought and sold without regulation, contributing to a massive increase in the number of drug overdoses and resulting in deaths from them.
Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid that cannot often be identified by those who may be buying it off the street, which is why so many people are unaware if and when they have taken it. According to the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, fentanyl deaths have increased 540% in three years, making it one of the largest causes of death in America.
Because this drug is such a prominent threat to the lives of people across the country, there has been a large push to create methods that can help to identify this dangerous substance and combat fentanyl drug overdoses. One of the biggest problems with fentanyl right now is that it is being mixed in with other already dangerous substances. Fentanyl test strips are one new method of helping fight the dangers of fentanyl in unregulated drugs. These test strips are an accurate, inexpensive method of testing any substance for any trace of fentanyl, which ultimately helps to avoid overdoses from it.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that was originally created as a form of prescription pain medication. Though it is now created illegally, which led to its dangerous qualities being heightened. Fentanyl is drastically stronger than morphine, making it not only extremely addicting, but it has now become one of the leading causes of fatal drug overdoses across the country.
Similar to other opioids and pain medications, fentanyl binds to the opioid receptors of its users and is able to cause feelings of extreme happiness and less awareness of pain. This is because these opioid receptors are found in the area of the brain that controls feelings such as happiness as well as many of your other emotions. Any drug that can control these aspects has the potential to be dangerous.
The Dangers of Fentanyl
Fentanyl can be dangerous for a multitude of reasons:
The potency of fentanyl is one of its most dangerous qualities as it can lead to a dependency quite quickly or even an overdose. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fentanyl is 50-100 times stronger than morphine. In terms of developing a dependency on any drug, it is much more likely to happen when the substance is more powerful because your body will begin to crave the effects of it quickly while also building a tolerance to it. Because fentanyl was created to treat severe pain, it is strikingly potent and often leads to a dependency rapidly.
The potency of fentanyl is also a large contributor to why the drug causes so many overdoses. Unfortunately, if a drug of this strength is misused, it can often result in an overdose or even death. Many people accidentally misuse fentanyl, too, which can lead to tragic consequences. But whether it is someone’s first time using it or they’ve developed a dependency and tried taking too much, many people end up overdosing from the drug, making it extremely dangerous.
Another reason that fentanyl is so dangerous is because of its ability to blend in with other substances. Currently, a variety of common drugs that are sold on the street such as heroin, ecstasy, and cocaine, are being laced with potentially deadly amounts of fentanyl without the users’ knowledge. But, because these substances are not regulated, there is no way for the user to know if it has been mixed in with what they thought they were getting. Fentanyl can come in multiple different forms, allowing those who are creating other drugs to mix them together in whatever way they want, such as pill or powder form, where it is unidentifiable to the buyer.
This is dangerous for multiple reasons. One is that the buyer can be completely unaware that fentanyl is in the substance they take and have an adverse reaction or overdose. Another problem being that fentanyl should not be mixed with any other substances in the first place, especially drugs or alcohol. So, if fentanyl is already mixed in with the original substance and then the user drinks or ingests other drugs, the results can be fatal.
Fentanyl is also dangerous because of the way it works as a synthetic opioid. Opioids target the opioid receptors in your brain, affecting your emotions such as happiness and the way you might perceive pain. This is a feeling many people want to continue to chase, but it comes because of powerful medications that should not be used often. When any substance is used too often, your body can easily build up a tolerance. This results in having to use more of the same substance to produce the same effects that you felt originally, often leading to a drug dependency. Opioid overdoses have been one of the highest causes of death in America for years and still are today.
Can You Tell If Something Has Fentanyl in It?
As mentioned previously, fentanyl is often unidentifiable if it has been mixed into something else. That’s why it presents such an imminent threat to many users who buy its products on the street. Because fentanyl can be manipulated to a certain form for whoever is using it, it is often laced into drugs in order to build dependencies and ultimately increase profits for whoever is creating the drug. Illegal fentanyl can be found in pill form, nasal sprays, eyedroppers, powders, and more. Because of this, fentanyl is often hidden well in the other substances the user thinks they are buying in the first place.
What Are Fentanyl Test Strips?
Fentanyl test strips are an innovative and inexpensive method of identifying the potentially harmful drug in other substances and help to prevent overdoses. These test strips can identify some of the smallest traces of fentanyl at around 0.125 micrograms/ml. Fentanyl testing strips are similar to many other common testing strips from the drugstore and are used by mixing the substance in question with water and then inserting the strip. After a few minutes, the strip displays a result of whether or not that substance has fentanyl in it. These strips are one of the most accurate methods of testing for fentanyl and have the potential to save thousands of lives when used.
How Do You Use a Fentanyl Test Strip?
Using a fentanyl test strip is easy and gives fast, accurate results. Here’s how to use one:
- Add the substance in question to sterile water, then mix them thoroughly. Depending on the substance that is being tested, you might use anywhere from a couple of drops of water to ¼ cup.
- Take the blue end of the testing strip and hold it while dipping the opposite end into the water mixture. Hold it in the water for about 15-20 seconds.
- After inserting the test strip into the mixture, pull it out of the water and allow it dry. Depending on your test, you may wait anywhere from 1-5 minutes.
- After you’ve given your test a fair amount of time to process, you can check the results that will show up in line form.
How Do You Read Fentanyl Test Strips?
While fentanyl test strips may be easy to use, some people find themselves wondering how to read them. These testing strips are similar to pregnancy tests in that the results show up in lines. They are actually much easier to read than you might think.
There are just two main things you need to know when reading your fentanyl test strip:
- One line means that there IS fentanyl in the substance being tested.
- Two lines mean that there IS NOT fentanyl in the substance being tested.
How Do You Know If Someone Is Overdosing on Fentanyl?
As fatal fentanyl overdose numbers continue to increase, it is important to know and be able to identify the signs of someone having an overdose to help them before it may be too late. Fentanyl is an extremely fast-acting drug that does not allow for much time for any kind of intervention.
Some of the most common signs of a fentanyl overdose include:
- Difficulty breathing / respiratory function slows down quickly
- Loss of coordination / inability to walk or move
- Confusion / cognitive impairment
- Pinpoint pupils
- Falling into a coma
- Blue/purple lips
What to Do If Someone Overdoses on Fentanyl
An overdose is an act of ingesting more of a substance than your body can handle. Due to its potency and how quickly it works, there is often very little time to act during a fentanyl overdose, especially because it begins to stop your breathing. Because of this, no time should be wasted and emergency medical help should be retrieved immediately.
When medical help arrives, the first step they will take is to administer Naloxone, which is a medication that is known to help reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Naloxone works oppositely of fentanyl, where it attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain and works to reverse and block the oncoming effects of opioids from binding to the receptors. This drug is especially helpful in restoring the breathing of the person who was having an overdose. Naloxone can come in the form of an injection that can be inserted into the muscle or even in nasal sprays.
Fentanyl Test Strips and Working for a Safer Future
Ultimately, fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid that can have dangerous consequences if misused. It is now one of the leading causes of drug overdose deaths in the United States and is a contributing factor to the opioid epidemic.
By using fentanyl test strips to test for traces of this dangerous substance, thousands upon thousands of lives can be saved from potentially fatal drug overdoses. These fentanyl test strips are an innovative and inexpensive way for anyone to test a substance for fentanyl and potentially save their own life.
Here at Illuminate Recovery, we understand how difficult and dangerous addiction can be. That’s why we are constantly searching for new ways to fight the dangers of dependencies and work for a healthier, safer future. We offer addiction treatment that focuses on helping individuals live happy, healthy lives while on their road to recovery. For more information on how we can help you with addiction in Arizona, contact us here.
Having been on both sides of active addition, both the person using, and the person affected by a loved one using drugs and alcohol, Lucas has been involved in recovery since 2009. He has been working in the treatment industry since 2013. Using his personal experience and wealth of knowledge learned from professional development and immersion in the recovery field, he has spoken with thousands of families and helped hundreds of people attain long-term sobriety. In 2020, the opportunity presented to join in and start Illuminate Recovery. Understanding the importance of personalized treatment plans and the complex nature between substance abuse and co-occurring disorders, has helped Illuminate Recovery build a strong curriculum and a phenomenal staff. Illuminate Recovery now has a medical doctor who is board certified in addiction medicine and a psychiatric medical doctor who works side by side with independently licensed therapists to provide compassionate and effective treatment.