Fentanyl: What to know about the drug blamed for thousands of overdoses

- FILE - Fentanyl (WTNH)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– The synthetic drug “fentanyl” is blamed for thousands of deadly overdoses each and every year.

5,500 people died from synthetic opioid overdoses in 2014. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say most of those were related to fentanyl. And those numbers continue to rise. Here are some things about fentanyl everyone should know.

You don’t need to use it for it to impact you. The drug can be absorbed through the skin or accidentally inhaled. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more lethal than morphine and 30 to 50 more lethal than heroin.

Related: Heroin epidemic: legislators seek emergency funds to tackle growing crisis

Just .25 milligrams can kill you. Illegal fentanyl is found in powder or pill form or on a blotter paper that can be placed under your tongue. Legally fentanyl can be injected, put in a patch for absorption or given as a lozenge or lollipop.

Doctors say when used as prescribed fentanyl is a great alternative to natural opioids like morphine, codeine, or heroin because it has fewer side effects.

“Commonly if someone is having a colonoscopy that could be a medication that’s used to help with that sedation. People that have chronic pain, so people that have bone cancer for example have very severe chronic pain and fentanyl is a painkiller that’s used to manage that type of pain as well,” said Dr. Eric Tichy.

To give you an idea of just how potent it is, if you took a baby aspirin and broke it down into about 325 equal pieces, just one of those would equal the .25 milligram dose of fentanyl.

Many heroin dealers are lacing their drugs with fentanyl and users can be completely unaware it’s in there so they take what they would think is a normal amount and overdose.

As for Narcan, that’s the drug that reverses and overdose. Doctors say fentanyl is so potent often it will take several doses of Narcan to have an effect.

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