Facing Fentanyl: The New Assassin On The Block

Escalating To Troubling Highs

If you’ve been to see a doctor for an injury or painful condition, you’re likely familiar with the Pain Scale they use to help assess your pain level. Even with the faces that denote the range from smiling to suffering, it can be hard to pinpoint if you’re at a 4 or 5, or a 7 or 8. If you’re at a 10, for example, your pain is so severe you theoretically wouldn’t be able to effectively communicate your level, but if you’re at a 1 or 2, the scale seems unnecessary. This simple device can be imprecise due to user variation, but the error of margin isn’t generally dangerous.

We use this to illustrate another type of scale. In the clinical realm, painkiller strength is often compared to morphine. Morphine, the “mother” of all opioids, works by triggering our body’s own painkillers, endorphins. Other commonly used opioids, like hydrocodone and oxycodone, are similar in potency. After decades of both helpful use and harmful misuse, we now understand the frightening potential for their abuse, with hundreds of thousands dead from overdoses and millions struggling with addiction.

The opioid crisis has become a national focus with educators and public health officials promoting awareness, Congress working on dozens of related bills, and companies like Premier Biotech consistently refining our drugs of abuse testing protocol and products. We also believe that part of our job is helping educate others by sharing what we know and what we are learning, as we continue to customize tests and offer more comprehensive solutions. Beginning with this article, we will publish a four-part series titled ‘Facing Fentanyl’ in which we’ll share what’s new, what’s working, and what Premier Biotech is doing to educate, innovate and fight back against what many are calling chemical warfare.

Eliminating More Than Pain

Currently, the focus is on a devastating new player that has shown up on the wrong side. When clandestine laboratories and dealers began cutting drugs with Fentanyl, an opioid 50-100 times more potent than morphine, the opioid crisis shot to a terrifying new level. Fatalities jumped, treatments stalled, and medical providers, law enforcement, and drug users’ friends and families found themselves up against a powerful new adversary.

If that weren’t enough, fentanyl analogs present even more ways to change drug structure and potency. The deadly group includes Carfentanyl, an elephant tranquilizer 10,000 times stronger than morphine, and Acetyl Fentanyl, which is one of the current additives of choice for illegal labs and dealers as it makes the product less deadly and more addictive. Unfortunately, there are also several more analogs that present their own issues, and we go into their structure, potency and effects on both users and tests in our next article ‘Fentanyl Analogs – Danger Defined.’

We’re also seeing that Fentanyl isn’t limited to opioids; due to Fentanyl being relatively cheap to produce, coupled with the high potency, drug traffickers are cutting it into cocaine, Alprazolam (Xanax), and other controlled substances boosting their profits and in turn making the drug supply dangerously unpredictable. We’ll explore the unique dangers of these “franken-drugs” and how law enforcement, treatment providers and Premier Biotech are responding throughout this series.

Even if today’s resources fall more on the defensive side (e.g. opioid antagonists like Naloxone or treatments like Buprenorphine and Methadone) than the preventive, everyone involved in fighting the opioid war needs to be armed with information. Knowing what’s out there and knowing how these drugs are being modified, helps change the ways we can detect, treat and fight back.

Continue Reading Our ‘Facing Fentanyl’ Series

Our educational series covering the many faces and dangers of Fentanyl and Fentanyl analogs continues with our next article ‘Fentanyl Analogs – Danger Defined’.

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