July 22, 2021
Fentanyl: Small Doses. Big Danger.

Imagine a drug that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and is so addictive that it’s hard to feel pleasure from anything else besides the drug.

Not only does that drug exist, but it’s the leading cause of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. Fentanyl’s prevalence has skyrocketed in recent years as the main driver of drug overdose deaths experiencing a nearly 14-fold increase from 2012 to 2019.

Fentanyl is typically used to treat patients after surgery or help them manage severe pain. When prescribed by a doctor, it’s often given as a lozenge, shot or a patch on a person’s skin. The fentanyl that is used illegally is typically made in labs and sold as a powder or made into pills. Many drug dealers are mixing fentanyl with other drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine because it is cheaper to produce a strong high.

The potency of the drug actually causes many people to deliberately seek it out. “Knowing that it’s very powerful? That’s a driving force for people who are looking for that extreme high,” says street outreach worker Sergio Armendariz.

Jake, who is addicted to opioids, attests to the powerful drug cravings. “Soon as I wake up, I have to have a pill. The high is not very long, so 20 minutes after I smoke a pill, I want to smoke another one, you know?”

Like other opioids, fentanyl works by binding to the areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. Once someone has taken opioids many times, the brain becomes less sensitive to the drug and needs higher doses to feel the same high. Effects of fentanyl include extreme happiness, drowsiness, nausea, sedation and more.

The City of Columbus’ Project LIFE pilot is working to empower individuals who use drugs to use fentanyl test strips in hopes of reducing the rate of accidental overdose. Fentanyl test strips can be a lifesaving overdose prevention tool as they can tell if a substance has been contaminated with fentanyl.

“Fentanyl testing strips are a lifesaving overdose prevention tool and they empower individuals who use drugs to know if a substance has been contaminated with fentanyl,” said Andrea Boxill, who leads the Columbus and Franklin County Addiction Plan. “They are a useful awareness and education tool for people who use drugs – and they can save their lives.”

In Ohio in 2019, fentanyl was involved in 76% of overdose deaths, often in combination with other drugs. Local and statewide organizations are aggressively addressing the drug crisis in Ohio in an effort to combat the rising number of drug overdoses the state is experiencing.

To learn more about the City of Columbus’ Project LIFE or to acquire free testing strips, visit the City of Columbus’ website. Fentanyl testing strips are also available at various Waterbeds ‘n’ Stuff locations around the city, Columbus and Franklin County Addiction Plan pop-up events, Walk in for Recovery events and Safe Point. For recovery resources and to support those living with addiction, visit FindTreatment.gov.

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