Fentanyl Abuse Statistics
Fentanyl, a synthetic drug, has become the world’s deadliest opioid, causing nearly half of all overdose deaths worldwide.* Developed in the 1950s and 1960s, fentanyl is 50 to 300 times more potent than morphine and was once considered a “miracle drug” by pain specialists. However, skyrocketing overdose rates have led to more conservative usage. In 2020, statistics show that fentanyl was a factor in over 42,700 overdose deaths, with overdose rates increasing 2.5 times faster than heroin overdoses. Fentanyl overdose rates also outpace prescription opioid overdose rates by 550.94%.
Fentanyl is a semi-synthetic opioid, meaning it is not derived from the opium poppy plant, but is made entirely in laboratories. Many versions are available, with some being up to 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl and its variations share many characteristics, including being highly addictive, available in various forms (pill, tablet, etc.), and legally prescribed for pain. Fentanyl is most often prescribed with other drugs to ease pain in cancer patients, with certain medical patches typically prescribed to manage severe and/or chronic pain.
Fentanyl’s effects come on quicker than morphine, but they don’t last as long, and the drug remains in the body for over a day, impacting different organs and systems. Fentanyl’s narcotic effects can last anywhere from 2 to 16 hours, with excretion taking 6 to 32 hours.
Consuming less than 0.007% of an ounce of fentanyl can cause certain death, with only 0.00005 grams being the threshold for an unlikely chance of death. Many fentanyl overdose deaths are users who did not know they swallowed fentanyl, and most die from asphyxiation due to the drug’s respiratory effect. Despite the high potential for abuse and dependence, legal versions of fentanyl remains a popular drug, with 6.5 million prescriptions written in 2015. However, sales decreased by 40% over three years, indicating a trend towards more cautious prescribing practices.
Fentanyl can be very dangerous, particularly when it is unknowingly present in other drugs. Street versions of this drug can and have killed many people. Drug addictions are tremendously destructive, with fentanyl being just one example.
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