Op-Ed: Fentanyl pill producers used to mimic other pharmaceuticals, now they don’t have to
By JAY PONER, HARRISBURG TIMESTRANSCRIPT:
When the first synthetic opioid, fentanyl, hit the market in the late 1990s, few people had seen its side effects. But as more are found in the system and the potency is increasing, so are the risks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its 2016 report that there were nearly 4700 overdose deaths among people who used the drugs in 2016. It said almost 80% of those were over-the-counter drugs and nearly 20% were from illicit drugs.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.
When added to heroin, fentanyl produces a high nearly 3 to 9 times as strong as that of heroin.
Fentanyl is also 10 to 100 times more potent than heroin.
“It’s very dangerous,” said Dr. Patrick Brady, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration. “It’s deadly to overdose. When you use it in large doses, the effects are terrible. It’s not a stimulant. It’s not a depressant.”
Fentanyl was first discovered in the 1950s. It is often called the king of the opioids.
“It’s sort of a classic synthetic opioid because it’s chemically similar to morphine and structurally the same,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, professor of pharmacology and pharmacotherapy at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. “But a lot of it is more concentrated because the amount you would get from a heroin overdose is not enough to get your body addicted to, so you have to get higher concentrations to get addicted so we often refer to it like a super-strong opioid.”
The DEA says that the potency of fentanyl is increasing and is now over 50 times more potent than the original drug and that it’s now 10 times as strong.
Fentanyl was initially mixed with heroin, which then was smoked. Now it is mixed with other drugs, such as oxycodone, Vicodin, carisoprodol, and oxymorphone. The other substances are known as analogs.
“When you take heroin, you are taking 10 to