Fentanyl is a type of synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and can cause overdoses by simply getting some on your skin. The true danger in fentanyl lies not in how the drug is made, but rather what it does to the brain and the body.

Fentanyl works by inhibiting pain signals in the brain and spinal cord, dulling the sensation. This is the reason the drug was originally created as a prescription painkiller. In addition to inhibiting pain signals, it also causes the brain to make more dopamine, which create intense feelings of relaxation and happiness, ASAPScience reported. However, on the downside, the drug can also prevent the brain from detecting co2 levels in the body.

Read: What Is Fentanyl? 20 Facts About The Drug That Killed Prince

The drug also is extremely potent; it's up to 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin, making it far easier to overdose and more lethal at far lower doses.

"... approximately 2 mg of fentanyl is a lethal dose to kill an individual. We're talking about a couple of grains of sand," Special Agent Michael Ferguson of the Drug Enforcement Administration told Boston 25 News.

Other less deadly but equally unpleasant side effects of fentanyl use include dizziness, chills, vomiting, fainting, difficulty urinating, and extreme constipation.

According to ASAPScience, there are stories of first responders who have overdosed on the drug from simply touching it or inhaling its dust. Luckily there's an antidote to the drug, and if those who have taken high amounts of fentanyl are given Naloxone in time, it can block opioid receptors in their brain and prevent an overdose.

Today, Fentanyl is still used to treat severe pain or to manage pain after surgery, but it is also widely abused. Many who use fentanyl are individuals who first got addicted to prescription painkillers but then turned to cheaper and easier to obtain options, ASAPScience reported.

Although doctors are being more careful with writing prescriptions for these painkillers, this doesn't help those who are already addicted. According to Forbes, it's not clear exactly how many people are overdosing on fentanyl, but the numbers continue to grow in both the U.S. and Canada. According to CNN, the drug first was seen on the streets in 2007, and use spiked around 2014. The drug became more publicly known when the singer Prince died of an accidental overdose in 2016. Now, the drug is being widely sold in every part of the U.S., although it's mostly in powder form on the East Coast and in the Midwest, and pill form on the West Coast.

What’s more, many people are unknowingly taking the drug as it's often mixed with heroin or cocaine because it's both cheaper and stronger. However, DrugAbuse reported that combining these drugs can be extremely dangerous.

See Also:

Fentanyl, The Powerful Drug That Killed Prince, Presents Growing Threat

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