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  Monday, July 28, 2014
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Fetanyl/Heroin Combination
By Brianne R. Fitzgerald RN, MPH

     Health departments in several U.S cities including Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey have reported drug overdoses and deaths involving fentanyl.  Fentanyl, is a narcotic pain killer that since the 1990’s has been available in the form of a 72 hour patch (Duragesic).  It is slowly released over time and is used to treat severe and unrelenting pain from cancer.  Symptoms of overdose include central nervous system depression, slowed breathing, dilated pupils and possibly cardiac arrest.  Fentanyl is not detected by the usual opiate urine screening tests.

     There has been a noticeable shift in the number prescription drug addicted persons over the last few years.  Many more individuals are experimenting and dying with drugs that have been found in medicine cabinets.  Fentanyl is one of these drugs.   Although it has been around for years the up-tick in persons chewing the patches, cutting the patches up and placing them on different parts of their body or breaking the gel pack to extract the drug to inject it have increased and thus this surge in overdoses.  Perhaps this recent misuse has come from the governmental crackdown on oxycontin? 

     Fentanyl, a synthetic opiate is 200 times more potent than morphine.  Its action is immediate and short lived.  Reports of an EMT team in Philadelphia reported finding a person dead from an OD with the needle, half filled with the drug still in the addict’s arm.  Injecting the contents of the gel pack can have consequences other than the drug effect.  Medical complications such as abscesses and deep venous thrombosis’ (blood clots) are possible given the components of the gel pack.

     Dealers market a heroin/fentanyl mix with catchy names like “Drop Dead”, or sometimes with no name at all, just marketed as “better than heroin.”  The fentanyl powder may be mint green or yellow with tinges of dusky brown.  Some may give away samples in order to build up sales.  Since fentanyl is so much stronger than heroin one needs not use as much.

     Clean out your medicine cabinet now and dispose of all drugs that you are not using on a regular basis.  Bfitz38@msn.com.       



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