As the opioid epidemic continues to rise, news outlets, the community and politicians have focused their attention on heroin and opioids. However, now as a society we need to be focusing on a newer drug taking lives everyday, fentanyl. This synthetic opioid is similar to heroin but 50-100 times more potent. In some forms, fentanyl can be deadly if touched.

In the pharmaceutical industry, fentanyl is prescribed in the form of transdermal patches and lozenges to treat extreme pain, specifically in cancer patients. However, non-pharmaceutical fentanyl, which is illicitly manufactured, has caused a sharp increase in the number of overdoses in America.

While the amount of misused pharmaceutical fentanyl has increased, Mexican drug cartels and Chinese suppliers have taken advantage of this epidemic. As Mexican cartels have been adding the drug to heroin and cocaine smuggled into the United States, Chinese suppliers have begun providing dealers in American with both raw fentanyl and the machinery necessary for the production of this drug. This connection allows dealers in North America to mass produce fentanyl in pill form, often disguising the tablets to look like OxyContin, Xanax, hydrocodone, and others. People who unknowingly take fentanyl can easily overdose due to its potency.

As this opioid epidemic continues to increase, first responders have begun carrying naloxone, a life-saving opioid overdose tool. When fentanyl related deaths increased in the early 2000s, the problem was easier to combat due to most production coming from production labs in Mexico. Now that decentralized drug labs have emerged due to obtaining the machinery from China, this problem is much more difficult to face.

If you know someone who is in active addiction, please notify him or her on the dangers of fentanyl and give the TN REDLINE number, Free Confidential Information and Referrals at 1-800-889-9789.