From The New York Times
Fentanyl, which looks like heroin, is a powerful synthetic painkiller that has been laced into heroin but is increasingly being sold by itself — often without the user’s knowledge. It is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin and up to 100 times more potent than morphine. A tiny bit can be fatal.
In some areas in New England, fentanyl
is now killing more people than heroin
. In New Hampshire, fentanyl alone killed 158 people last year; heroin killed 32. (Fentanyl was a factor in an additional 120 deaths; heroin contributed to an additional 56.)
Fentanyl represents the latest wave of a rolling drug epidemic that has been fueled by prescription painkillers, as addicts continue to seek higher highs and cheaper fixes.
Nationally, the total number of fentanyl drug seizures reported in 2014 by forensic laboratories jumped to 4,585, from 618 in 2012. More than 80 percent of the seizures in 2014 were concentrated in 10 states: Ohio, followed by Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Kentucky, Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire and Indiana.
It was only last March that the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a nationwide alert about fentanyl, saying that overdoses were “occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States and represent a significant threat to public health and safety.”
Its chief characteristic is that it is fast acting.
Joanne Peterson, executive director of Learn to Cope, a statewide support network for families involved with addiction, said fentanyl works so quickly that there is often little time to administer naloxone, which reverses the effects of an overdose.
“At least with heroin, there is a chance that if someone relapses, they can get back into recovery,” she said. But with fentanyl, she said, it is only a matter of moments before an addict can be dead.