What are some slang terms?
China Girl, China White, Murder 8, Tango and Cash, Pink
What is it?
Fentanyl and similar compounds like carfentanil are powerful synthetic opioids 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl is available as a schedule II prescription drug under such names as Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze®.
Along with other similarly potent synthetic opioids, fentanyl also shows up in illicit forms that are frequently combined with heroin, cocaine and other street drugs, and carries a high risk of overdose and fatality. According to the CDC, the death rate of synthetic opioids like fentanyl increased by 72.2% from 2014 to 2015.
What does it look like?
Prescription fentanyl is a white powder that may also come in the form of tablets, an injectable liquid, lozenges and transdermal patches. Non-pharmaceutical, illicit forms of synthetic opioids are sold as a powder; spiked on blotter paper; mixed with or substituted for heroin; or as tablets that mimic other, less potent opioids.
How is it used?
As a prescription medicine, fentanyl is used to treat severe pain or to manage pain after surgery. It is sometimes used to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids.
What are the risks?
Opioid receptors are found in the same areas of the brain that control our breathing rate. In high enough doses, opioids can cause breathing to stop completely. The high potency of fentanyl and similar synthetic opioids increases this risk of overdose substantially, especially if a person who uses street drugs or illegally purchased prescription drugs is unaware that a powder or pill contains these substances. Fentanyl and synthetic opioids sold illicitly can be mixed with heroin or cocaine, which amplifies its potency and potential danger. Overdoses of these drugs may require higher doses of naloxone to successfully reverse the overdose.
What are signs of use?
Respiratory depression and arrest
How to protect teens from falling prey to fentanyl?
The risks of teen drug abuse are incredibly high, and fentanyl overdose creates a serious cause for concern. Using the drug just once, intentionally or not, could cost a teen their life. It is crucial that we, as a society, take action now to combat teen drug abuse and protect teens from falling prey to fentanyl.
Where do we begin?
Talk to your children about drugs and their dangers: Talking openly and honestly with your children may be one of the best means of teen drug use prevention—and it won’t cost you a dime. According to the DEA, teens who talk to their parents about the risks of using drugs are half as likely to abuse them than those who do not. Yet only 16% of teens reported having discussed prescription medications with their parents within the last year.
Get specific about fentanyl: When you talk with your son or daughter, don’t leave out the details. Be specific about the drug fentanyl and the dangers of its use. Let your child know that it is being sold as counterfeit OxyContin, Xanax, and other prescription drugs. If your child knows that they may be unknowingly ingesting a substance that could easily kill them, they may consider it too risky to try any of them.
Set a good example for your children: If your teen sees you misusing or abusing drugs, they may think it’s okay. Research has shown that parents, just as much as teens, are increasingly abusing prescription medications. Approximately 18% of parents use a prescription medication that was not prescribed to them at least three or more times in their lifetime, 15% of which reported doing so within the past year.
Do not keep your prescription medications readily accessible: Many teens have reported obtaining prescription drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets. Keep your drugs hidden, both out of sight and out of reach for your children to ensure they don’t take any medications from you.
Be proactive in your teen’s life: While you may not want to be “that parent,” being involved in your teen’s life can go a long way in potentially saving their life. Ask your children questions. Find out who their friends are, where they’re going, and what kind of activities they are participating in. Openly ask them if they have ever been around any drug use. Consider showing genuine interest and curiosity without coming off as being too judgmental or overprotective, since many teens will clam up and hide information if they fear that their parents may react negatively.
Keep your teen active: Encourage your children to engage in hobbies and extracurricular activities that both interest them and keep them occupied. Research has indicated that extracurricular activities may reduce many risky behaviors in teens and adolescents, from drug use to skipping school.
Get them treatment if they need it; actively participate as a family: If your teen has developed an addiction to fentanyl, consider seeking professional treatment immediately and commit to actively participating as a family. Your involvement is beneficial to yourself and your teen, as well as any other family members who may be affected by your child’s drug use. Most treatment centers offer family therapy as well as support groups for parents and other family members of addicted loved ones.
The dangers of fentanyl use and abuse are abundant and clear, from the miniscule amount needed to be fatal to the many subversive ways it shows up in other drugs. It a serious risk worth taking seriously, especially when it comes to your teens. Educate yourself and then sit down with your kids and educate them as well. Together you can begin to end this tragic epidemic.