Stories regarding fentanyl, its dangers and abundance, have become commonplace in national media. But, as a university student, should you be afraid of it?
Fentanyl is a highly potent synthetic opioid that is 50 times more powerful than heroin. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says a lethal dose of fentanyl is two milligrams, though a person can be killed by less than this deadly dose depending on their weight, metabolism and previous use of opioids. In 2021, overdoses from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids increased 23% from 2020 and exceeded 71,000. A majority of these deaths were accidental and caused by fentanyl poisoning, which results from consuming illicit drugs unknowingly laced with fentanyl.
So should you be afraid of fentanyl? In short, yes. It’s a dangerous and detrimental drug, but there are ways to protect yourself.
First, the most obvious and effective way to protect yourself from fentanyl is abstaining from illicit drug use. However, in the case that complete abstinence doesn’t align with your lifestyle choices, there are other ways to protect yourself.
Fentanyl can be easily added to other drugs — the taste, smell, color and feel is hard to distinguish from other illicit drugs. Despite the inherent difficulty of detecting fentanyl in illicit pills by their taste or look, fentanyl test strips can be used to test if drugs have been illegally laced. These test strips are affordable and easy to use and can be ordered online from Dose Test and Bunk Police.
Lifesaving Naloxone medication, commonly referred to as Narcan, can be used in the case of opioid overdoses that include fentanyl, heroin and prescription opioid medications. Naloxone won’t harm someone overdosing on something other than opioids, so the Centers for Disease Control recommends using it even if you are unsure if the person is overdosing on opioids.
There are two forms of Naloxone: nasal sprays and injectables. These can both be used without medical training or authorization. However, you cannot use Naloxone on yourself in the case of an overdose, so it is essential that those around you are in possession of the medication or know you have it and how to use it.
In most states, Delaware included, you can find Naloxone in your local pharmacy without a prescription.
Recently there has been anxiety revolving around fentanyl-laced marijuana. There isn’t evidence that fentanyl is appearing in illicit cannabis products in a widespread manner. But just because fentanyl-laced marijuana isn’t widespread doesn’t mean the threat is nonexistent; fentanyl-laced weed is just not a common problem, especially as compared to fentanyl-laced methamphetamines, cocaine and heroin.
A more pressing issue is counterfeit pills from outside the United States. These pills can appear identical to legitimate prescriptions of medications such as Xanax, Oxycontin and Adderall. The only way to protect yourself and test these street drugs is with fentanyl test strips.
Delaware has one of the highest drug overdose rates in the country. Fentanyl is now the leading cause of drug overdose deaths in Delaware.
Help is Here, an online resource regarding drug use and addiction, provides resources and data regarding fentanyl and drug use in Delaware. The organization also provides plentiful resources regarding addiction and helping yourself and others who may be struggling with addiction. College students are at a higher risk than many other communities for substance abuse, so it is important to understand the threat of fentanyl.
“Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered … We must take every opportunity to spread the word to prevent fentanyl-related overdose deaths and poisonings from claiming scores of American lives,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said.
Austin Post is a staff reporter at The Review. Her opinions are her own and do not represent the majority opinion of The Review staff. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for this important article. I attend Delaware’s Behavioral Health Consortium meetings, and this month they discussed new concerns around an animal tranquilizer called xylazine (“tranq”) that, like fentanyl, is also being laced into illicit drugs.
It is rampant in Philly and has been showing up in DE as well.
Read more here in recent NY Times article:
One thing that I think should be said: you can’t normally absorb fentanyl through the skin. There are some patches for cancer pain relief that use fentanyl, but those are specially made and have a carrier molecule system to effectively dose fentanyl through the skin, and typical street fentanyl powder or liquids can’t be absorbed through the skin. If some fentanyl accidentally gets in one’s mucous membranes (like eyes) or mouth it can enter the body that way, but absorbing fentanyl through the skin is exceedingly rare without specialty patches.