Here’s what happens during a fentanyl overdose


DEATHS due to opioid overdoses have risen sharply in the past few years, partly due to a particularly potent drug called fentanyl. Fentanyl is between 50 and 100 times more powerful than another opioid, morphine, and its use seems to be on the rise in the U.S.
In Massachusetts, for example, from 2013 to 2014, 32 percent of opioid overdose deaths involved fentanyl. During the first half of 2016, the percentage of fentanyl-related opioid deaths had more than doubled, jumping to 74 percent, according to a new report.
In an effort to better understand the effects of this powerful drug, as well as educate first responders and bystanders on how to best identify and treat people who have overdosed on fentanyl, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention interviewed more than 60 people from southeastern Massachusetts, who were recruited from harm-reduction programs.
All of the people in the study had either used the drug in the previous year and survived an overdose in past six months, or had witnessed an overdose between October 2014 and March 2015.The researchers asked them about their experiences, knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about opioid overdoses. In addition, the researchers gathered information from death records to track fatalities that occurred during the same time period.
The interviews shed light on the fast-acting and sometimes gruesome nature of fentanyl overdoses — as well as how widespread the drug has become — according to the report, which the CDC published today (April 13).
When the researchers asked the participants why there had been an increase in opioid overdose deaths in recent years, 88 percent of the respondents placed the blame on fentanyl.
Fentanyl can be used legally — doctors prescribe the drug for people with chronic pain. The drug comes as a transdermal patch, which slowly releases the drug into the person’s body at a rate that is considered safe. But the drug can also be found in an illegal, powdered form.
In the interviews, the participants said that fentanyl powder can be purchased on its own or mixed with heroin. They also said that sometimes, people didn’t know if the heroin they had purchased also contained fentanyl. The death records revealed that 82 percent of the fatalities involved the illegal powdered form of the drug, and just 4 percent involved the prescription patch. In 14 percent of the cases, the form of the drug that the person had used was not known.

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