Everyone’s talking about fentanyl
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, has been responsible for thousands of deaths in the US every year.
Fentanyl was rarely seen in New Zealand's illicit drug market, but in June 2022 we issued an alert after a fentanyl-type substance was detected in a white powder linked to multiple hospitalisations. It’s important to be informed about the risks posed by this substance, and how you can stay safer.
What is it?
Fentanyl is a prescription drug that is similar to morphine, but 50 to 100 times more potent. It is used to treat patients with severe pain, such as after surgery, and is sometimes used to treat chronic pain from a terminal disease, like cancer. Prescription fentanyl is usually applied in a patch on the skin, but it can also be given as a shot, or a lozenge.
It is also illegally made in labs, and this synthetic fentanyl is usually sold as powder, dropped onto blotter paper, put in eye droppers and nasal sprays, or made into pills that looks like other prescription opioids.
A big risk is that someone could be taking fentanyl without their knowledge, as it can be mixed with other drugs, such as MDMA, cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin. This significantly increases the risk of overdose as someone could unwittingly be consuming a far stronger dose than they’re used to.
In New Zealand, KnowYourStuffNZ first identified fentanyl in a heroin sample at a festival in 2018. It is highly recommended that users of opioids test for fentanyl contamination – fentanyl testing strips are available that can detect small amounts of fentanyl and analogues. The Hemp Store and Needle Exchanges stock these strips.
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