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What is Fentanyl? 

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. It is a Schedule II controlled substance [1], and it is medically used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery. It is also sometimes used to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids. In its prescription form, fentanyl is known by such names as Duragesic, Actiq, and Sublimaze. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) [2], fentanyl may be habit-forming. As a result, taking certain medications with fentanyl may increase the risk of developing severe or life-threatening breathing problems, sedation, or coma.

The most recent fentanyl overdose and death cases in the U.S. are linked to illegally made fentanyl. It is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often blended with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination drug —with or without the user’s knowledge—to increase its euphoric effects. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [3], rates of overdose deaths involving fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (carfentanil) increased by over 16% from 2018 to 2019. More than 36,000 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, in 2019.

How long does fentanyl stay in your system? This is a common question that many abusers of the drug may have. Since fentanyl can be administered in so many different ways, the administration method determines how long the effects last and how long it may stay in your system. When someone who suffers from an addiction to this drug suddenly stops using it, fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can occur. It is important to remember that recovery from fentanyl addiction takes much more than simply ending drug use. The underlying causes of the addiction and the mental illness from the addiction itself must be addressed for the best chances of a successful fentanyl addiction treatment and recovery.

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What Does Fentanyl Look Like?

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl has been specially designed to be more powerful than other opioids like heroin. This makes it a popular choice for drug dealers who want to dilute their product without their customers realizing it. While this might be good for the dealer’s bottom dollar, it’s actively harmful to individuals who can’t recognize fentanyl in their drugs. People can easily overdose without knowing what they’re taking, and a fentanyl overdose can be deadly without medical intervention.

Typically dealers will either steal fentanyl from local healthcare providers or make their own fentanyl at home, which can increase the risk of fentanyl overdose since it may not be chemically identical to fentanyl medication. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission report:

  • Fentanyl and its analogs (Carfentanyl) are openly available on the internet through the public and dark webs, where buyers and sellers transact sales anonymously.
  • China was the source of 97 percent of inbound shipments of high-purity fentanyl during 2016 and 2017.
  • Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are the preferred payment method, as these make the transactions easier, with anonymity, instant transfers, acceptance, and conversion to currency.
  • The illicit drugs are imported primarily through clandestine shipments via the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), and to a lesser degree via express consignment operators (ECOs), FedEx, UPS, and DHL.
  • Given the high purity of fentanyl illicitly manufactured in China, most illicit imports are less than 700 grams (1.5 lbs.) per shipment.
  • After importation, these small batches of high-purity powder are often mixed with heroin (or other illicit drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamine) or pressed into pills, including counterfeit narcotics (e.g. OxyContin, Percocet).

What Does Fentanyl Taste like?

There is no guaranteed way to identify what fentanyl tastes like. Different types of fentanyl mixed with different things may taste radically different, so a taste test is not an effective way to tell if something contains fentanyl. It does not have a super strong or bitter chemical taste compared to something like MDMA. Never try and smell fentanyl. or its analogs. Might be the last thing you ever do.

What Does Fentanyl Powder Look Like?

When sold as a powder, fentanyl can look at varying levels of off-white to light brown. When it is mixed into other powders, fentanyl tends to bring an off-brown color to the mixture.

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How to Know If It’s Real Fentanyl vs. Fake Fentanyl?

What does fentanyl look like? Illicitly manufactured fentanyl can be in powder or tablet form. Fentanyl powder is placed on blotter paper, nasal sprays, or eye droppers. Color varies from off-white to light brown, similar to other illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine. Fentanyl can also be found in counterfeit pills that look like real prescription opioids.

Fentanyl can be difficult to identify, especially when it’s mixed into other drugs. However, there are a few steps you can do to spot fentanyl:

  • First, check the color. Many illicit drugs, such as cocaine or meth, are pure white in powder forms. However, when they’ve been “cut” with another substance, like fentanyl, their color can change. Usually, fentanyl creates patches of brown spots in the product. This can be useful in identifying fentanyl in drugs. However, this method is far from foolproof, but if you do see brown spots in your drugs, they may be laced with fentanyl.
  • Fentanyl pills have surged into communities. These are pills that appear to be Oxycodone, Xanax, or other prescription drugs, but are actually laced with fentanyl. dealers also marketed these pills as another opioid, ecstasy, meth, or benzodiazepines. In some instances, the numbering on the pill, or the color may be abnormal, which can help spot fentanyl. However, just as often, there is no clear physical difference to identify a fentanyl pill.

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What are the Signs that Someone is Using Fentanyl?

Some of the signs someone is on fentanyl or abusing fentanyl include:

  • Euphoria followed by depression or confusion
  • Slowed heart rate and breathing
  • Weakness and trouble walking
  • Stiffness of muscles
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Shaking
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Itching and scratching
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Hallucinations
  • Urine retention
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping problems
  • Swollen arms or legs

While the above are signs of someone taking fentanyl, there are also long-term effects that develop if someone chronically abuses the drug. Some of these include gastrointestinal problems, a weakened immune system, and the potential for seizures to occur. With the chronic use of fentanyl, sedative effects may increase over time as well. You may also notice someone is on fentanyl if they go through behavioral or mental changes including paranoia, social withdrawal, a loss of motivation, or other personal changes.

How is Fentanyl Taken?

Fentanyl pharmaceutical products are currently available in the following dosage forms: oral transmucosal lozenges commonly referred to as fentanyl “lollipops” (Actiq), effervescent buccal tablets (Fentora), sublingual tablets (Abstra), sublingual sprays (Subsys), nasal sprays (Lazanda), transdermal patches (Duragesic), and injectable formulations.

Fentanyl can be injected, snorted/sniffed, smoked, taken orally by pill or tablet, and spiked onto blotter paper. Fentanyl patches are abused by removing their gel contents and then injecting or ingesting these contents.

Patches have also been frozen, cut into pieces, and placed under the tongue or in the cheek cavity. Illicitly produced fentanyl is sold alone or in combination with heroin and other substances and has been identified in counterfeit pills, mimicking pharmaceutical drugs such as oxycodone.

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How is Fentanyl Addiction Treated?

First and foremost, if you think that a loved one is abusing fentanyl, you should first research the drug and the addiction associated with it so that you can better understand what your loved one needs. Next, you must plan an intervention to provide your loved one with options as to battle their addiction in a safe and supportive environment. During this intervention, make sure that you offer compassion and support instead of judgment. Lastly, offer your support throughout the entire treatment process.

Clearing fentanyl from the body and overcoming fentanyl withdrawal symptoms is the goal of detox, which is the first step of treatment for fentanyl addiction. Here at We Level Up NJ, a comprehensive team prescribing medications as part of our medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program, which aims to alleviate your fentanyl withdrawal pains while monitoring your health 24 hours during the detox. We prioritize your safety and comfort because this is a fragile and challenging time for you.

Once detox is complete, a new doorway in treatment opens up, which is referred to as an inpatient drug rehab or residential level of care. Our residential care program slowly and effectively introduces the individual into an atmosphere of therapeutic growth, marked by master’s level therapists, clinicians, group counselors, psychiatrists, and a community of like-minded individuals with the same aim: to attain sobriety and live a great life.

Some of the many modalities applied and practiced within our residential treatment facility are:

Our treatment tailors the program to the individual and the individual to the program of recovery. We begin by assessing our client’s history of mental health, drugs, and substance abuse-related past. The needs of each individual are specific and personalized because we aim to provide comprehensive support for mental health, addiction, and dual diagnosis treatment. Our supportive environment is designed accordingly to give clients 24-hour care for sobriety. Most importantly, we hope to have our clients live comfortably within the facility during this crucial and fragile time.

Now that you’ve answered the question “what does fentanyl look like?” it is crucial to seek help to avoid fentanyl overdose. At We Level Up NJ, we prioritize removing the stigma and temptations for relapse and applying an air of recovery into every component of the treatment timeline. We find that when clients are living in a supportive community, especially during their early recovery process, they can truly focus on what matters most: their recovery. 

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Sources:

[1] USITC – https://www.usitc.gov/publications/332/executive_briefings/ebot_george_serletis_fentanyl_from_china_pdf.pdf#:~:text=China%20was%20the%20source%20of%2097%20percent%20of,Southwest%20border%2C%20mostly%20by%20large%20transnational%20drug%20cartels%29.