Recently, you will recall, the music world suffered a great loss when it learned of the death of the musician Prince. Reports surfaced shortly thereafter that his death was caused by an overdose of the drug fentanyl.
Reports of the cause of his death came as a shock, as Prince was known to live a healthy lifestyle and did not even drink alcohol. So it came as quite a surprise as stories broke about his possible addiction to painkillers.
This week further reports have surfaced that pills found at the artist’s home that contained fentanyl were mislabeled as lower-potency painkillers. It remains unclear whether the pills were mislabeled by the manufacturer, or whether they were produced and obtained illegally, and whether Prince took any drug knowing that it contained fentanyl.
That last question, whether he knowingly ingested fentanyl, raises an issue that is occurring more and more frequently – dealers and illicit drug manufacturers mixing fentanyl into doses of heroin and other drugs, as well as deliberately mislabeling pills that contain fentanyl. This is often done without the user’s knowledge, and can lead to fatal results.
What is fentanyl? It is a synthetic opioid that is prescribed to people in extreme pain from conditions such as late stage cancer. According to the DEA, it is the most potent opioid available for medical use and can be up to 50 times more powerful than heroin and up to 100 times stronger than morphine. Because of this potency, a fatal dose of the drug is much smaller than that of other drugs. It is often mixed with other drugs because it is inexpensive compared to heroin and other opioids. As a result of that combination of cost and potency, fentanyl-related overdoses in the United States, and even here in Austin, are exploding.
Even if a user were to knowingly buy a substance containing fentanyl, he or she faces additional unknown risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control, most of the fentanyl on the streets is non-pharmaceutical fentanyl, which is often manufactured in China and is not manufactured to the same standards as the prescription version. As such, the imported drugs may vary in potency and may contain other chemicals as well. Further, with recent legislative crackdowns on fentanyl, illicit manufacturers continually change the drug’s formula to produce new analogues, the effects of which are unknown.
Because of these unknown variables, a purchaser cannot know what he or she is getting when purchasing illegal drugs. When fentanyl is mixed in with heroin or other drugs, each dose has the potential to be a fatal one.
Fortunately, if you or a loved one is addicted to opioids, the outcome can be different than Prince’s fate. Opioid addiction can be treated. At BRC Recovery, we understand that a simple detoxification is not enough, so we offer long-term residential solutions to provide the support and teach the skills needed to help you or your loved one recover from an addiction.