Fentanyl-related deaths have been a rising problem in the United States, and San Diego is no exception. Unfortunately, there continues to be a nationwide misuse of prescription drugs. Fentanyl, sometimes referred to as heroin’s cousin, has been more of a recent trend in the drug world and has further escalated the opioid crisis. 

Often, pain medications link to an increase in heroin and other synthetic opioids. This is simply because heroin is cheaper and can be a lot easier to get your hands on than prescription drugs. Synthetic opioids such as this substance have desired effects and are laced in heroin, cocaine, and other drugs.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid analgesic, which is designed to be a pain reliever. It is so strong it is 100 times stronger than morphine, meaning that 100 micrograms of fentanyl would be equivalent to 10 mg of morphine. This drug may be extremely potent, but it is short-lasting and fast-acting. The main desired effects of this drug include a decrease in pain, euphoria and relaxation.

Although this pain killer has only recently been in the spotlight, it has been around for quite some time. Fentanyl was created by a Belgian chemist and physician in 1960, by Dr. Paul Janssen. His intention for this drug was to create a strong pain reliever out of the pure form of white powder. Since its creation, it can be available in a patch form, lollipop, tablets, and nasal sprays. Many other fentanyl analogs were then introduced into the medical field. Some, but not all, include:

  • Sufentanil
  • Alfentanil
  • Remifentanil
  • Lofentanil

Being as potent as it is, it is weak when compared to carfentanil. Carfentanil is an analog of the synthetic opioid analgesic fentanyl. This drug is about 10,000 times more potent than morphine, whereas fentanyl is about 100 times stronger. These drugs should be handled extremely carefully and taken very seriously because they can lead to life-threatening consequences. Just a tiny touch, inhalation or absorption of these substances can lead to an opioid overdose.

Today, fentanyl is mostly being produced in China and Mexico. The criminal organizations are mixing this drug to other toxic substances to increase the strength because of the growing availability. In the United States, the first illicit fentanyl was discovered in the 1990’s by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This is believed to be one of the first instances of the substance being produced in the United States.

The name of this specific fentanyl discovered on the streets in the 90s was called “Tango and Cash.” Enforcement agencies found the heroin to be about 12 percent fentanyl and responsible for over 126 overdose deaths. Some other common street names for this drug:

  • Apache
  • China Girl
  • China Town
  • Dance Fever
  • Friend
  • Goodfellas
  • Great Bear
  • He-Man
  • Jackpot
  • King Ivory and Murder 8



Prescription Information And Use

Health officials in the United States consider fentanyl to be a schedule II prescription drug. This means that it has a high potential for misuse due to its psychological and physical dependence. It is used to treat different causes of severe pain because of its strength.

Pains such as post-operative, chronic or sudden pain may be reasons for prescribing this drug. Sometimes, you could have such a high tolerance to other opioids and need something as strong as fentanyl to relieve the pain. It is common for cancer patients to build a tolerance to opioids and need this type of pain medication.

Not only is this drug used to relieve pain, but in some cases, it is used for sedation. This substance can be administered to heavily sedate patients during surgery. Even veterinary medicine uses this drug to sedate large animals because of its high potency. In 2005, the FDA issued a public safety warning of how important the guidelines and regulations must be followed when prescribing and dispensing this drug. Fast forward ten years to 2015 and 6.5 million administered prescriptions. Some fentanyl prescription types include:

  • Actiq®: Oral transmucosal lozenges (commonly referred to as the fentanyl “lollipops”)
  • Fentora™: Effervescent buccal tablets
  • Abstral®: Sublingual tablet
  • Subsys™: Sublingual spray
  • Lazanda®: Nasal spray
  • Duragesic®: Transdermal patches



San Diego Overdose Statistics

Fentanyl-related deaths have been on a steady climb. According to a San Diego police report, about a decade ago, such deaths were usually linked with misusing prescribed fentanyl. But, the data shows the local deaths are linked to counterfeit drugs made to look like oxycodone or alprazolam, and laced with this substance.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner stated that, in 2018 unintentional fentanyl overdose deaths in the region increased by 68% when compared to the previous mid-year. For example, the data shows 69 people died from January to June from overdosing on this drug. Those months the previous year, only 41 people died from such causes. Unfortunately, the rate is expected to continue to grow.


Treatment Is Available

Just like the rest of the nation, the San Diego region faces major issues with fentanyl. It is common for prescription drugs to lead to addiction to opioids such as heroin, which could be laced with this substance. Also, if you have taken this drug or have been prescribed it due to severe pain, we know how important it is to follow its guidelines. If you develop an addiction to opioids, you must be aware of the strength and possible damages of this drug.

Treatment programs are available in San Diego, CA, for opioid abuse. Whether taking fentanyl was intentional or not, there are treatment plans that will help your physical and mental health. At Healthy Life Recovery, medicated-assisted treatment (MAT) and outpatient rehab are offered to help you recover from addiction and abuse. Contact us today to find out what addiction treatment is best to fit your needs and live a healthy life again.

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