What You Need to Know About Fentanyl

What You Need to Know About Fentanyl By Joe Alton, M.D. for American Thinker

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has sent out an advisory to the public regarding the opioid crisis, specifically warning of the presence of brightly-colored fentanyl pills in general circulation.  The presence of highly addictive “rainbow fentanyl” is a trend which potentially targets young people.

I’ve known of fentanyl my entire medical career.  My professional experience with it involved use during general anesthesia on patients undergoing surgery and epidurals during labor.  It has also been used in combat casualties and cancer patients in the form of “lollipops” for pain relief and sedation.

First synthesized in 1960, it gained approval for medical use in 1968 and achieved widespread acceptance.  By 2017, fentanyl was the most frequently-used synthetic opioid in medicine.  Two years later, more than one million prescriptions for it were being written annually.  In 2021, fentanyl accounted for more than 71,000 opioid overdose deaths in the United States.  The vast majority of recent cases are linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl originating, it’s thought, in Mexico.

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The Department of Justice reports the seizure of more than 10.2 million fentanyl pills and approximately 980 pounds of fentanyl powder in the period from May 23 through Sept. 8, 2022


For a drug dealer, fentanyl has some attributes that compare it favorably to heroin: Fentanyl is more potent, has higher profit margins, and is easier to transport to the “market” in the form of pills, lozenges, injections, nasal sprays, eye drops, and skin patches.  It’s given unthreatening nicknames such as “dance fever,” “goodfellas,” and “jackpot.”  As it’s relatively cheap, it can be used to mix in with more expensive illegal drugs.

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