A relatively new designer street drug has been getting a lot of attention lately. According to a report on Fox News Friday morning, the drug, acetyl fentanyl, is a truly frightening and deadly drug that many users don't even know they have injected into themselves until it's too late.
Emergency room doctors need to be aware that when a suspected heroin overdose is brought in and doesn't respond to the standard treatment using naloxone, that person may have overdosed on acetyl fentanyl, sometimes called "China white." Sometimes these overdoses occur in clusters, depending on how many users buy from the same source.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this powerful and deadly intravenous non-prescription synthetic opioid first made an appearance in Rhode Island in March of 2013 when 14 overdose deaths on what was thought to be heroin were recorded. On May 30, the Rhode Island Department of Health confirmed that 10 of the 14 deaths were attributed to acetyl fentanyl.
This fentanyl relative has been undocumented in illicit drug use. In 2013, Erowid.org, the internationally-known designer drug site had no listing for the new designer drug. Acetyl fentanyl is also in a "gray area" legally. While it is considered illicit for human consumption, it is not regulated if it is labeled "not fit for human consumption."
This gray area, or loophole makes it easy for drug distributors to make a profit by mixing a regulated drug like heroin with an unregulated drug such as acetyl fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a powerful prescription painkiller that is five times more potent than heroin and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is used in severe or chronic pain management in the form of transdermal patches, like Duragesic, or "lollipops," such as Actiq, and sometimes intravenously as outpatient anesthesia because of its short-term affects.