What is Fentanyl? How to Use Fentanyl Rapid Test Strips?
Despite the medical value of their highly potent analgesic properties, fentanyl and its analogs are a significant cause of fatal and non-fatal overdoses worldwide. While the skyrocketing overdose rates have substantially limited its pharmaceutical use, fentanyl remains among the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths due to the wide availability of illicitly manufactured fentanyl across illegal drug markets. Fentanyl rapid test strips have been developed as a low-cost diagnostic solution to prevent drug overdoses and reduce overall harm caused by fentanyl and its analogs. Read along to learn more about fentanyl, its use, withdrawal, or overdose symptoms, and its detection via fentanyl test strips.
What is Fentanyl?
Initially developed in 1959-1960, fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid. Although it possesses analgesic properties similar to morphine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that fentanyl may be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and more than 100 times stronger than morphine. In fact, 2 mg of fentanyl is considered as a lethal dose, with doses as small as 0.25 mg placing the user at a high risk of overdose. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is prescribed in conjunction with other analgesics to treat moderate to severe or chronic pain following surgery, advanced-stage cancer, and other conditions. Once only available in the form of infections, fentanyl can now be smoked, snorted, used as a transdermal patch, or taken orally as pills, tablets, and films.
With the illicit manufacture and distribution of fentanyl after 1979, fentanyl and its analogs have become widely available across illegal drug markets around the world. Similar to other opioid analgesics such as morphine, fentanyl and its many analogs cause physical effects such as drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, urinary retention, and pupillary constriction, along with experiences of relaxation, euphoria, and confusion among the users. Fentanyl also has profound addictive properties. In fact, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) categorizes fentanyl as a schedule II controlled substance, which denotes drugs with a high potential for abuse and severe physiological and psychological dependence.
How Does Fentanyl Work?
Once they enter the human body and get distributed in fat, fentanyl molecules bind to human plasma proteins and travel to the brain through the bloodstream. In the brain, the molecules act preferentially on the μ-opioid peptide receptors to ultimately produce an analgesic effect or “high” in the user. These effects appear relatively quickly and may be present for up to 16 hours. Fentanyl molecules are then metabolized by the liver to be excreted by the kidneys. The drug may remain in the body for 6 to 32 hours.
How Common is Fentanyl Use?
Data suggest that the use and availability of fentanyl have been increasing both within the medical community and among recreational drug users and addicts. Fentanyl-linked overdoses have been observed to spread both geographically and demographically throughout recent years. In fact, according to National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 52.7% of all overdose deaths involve fentanyl use. Fentanyl overdose rates have also been observed to increase by 1,105% between the years 2012 and 2018, with an average increase of 31.57% in fentanyl deaths. The rise in fentanyl-linked overdoses and deaths has continued after 2018. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported a spike in fentanyl-linked overdose deaths throughout the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. These surges have been primarily linked to the growing availability and use of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs.
What are the Symptoms Associated with Fentanyl Addiction, Withdrawal, and Overdose?
Getting informed on the symptoms associated with fentanyl addiction, withdrawal, and overdose may be critical for initiating timely intervention. Physical addiction symptoms associated with fentanyl use include labored breathing, constipation, upset stomach, cough, lightheadedness, pale skin, sunken eyes, loss of appetite, ulcers/sores in the mouth, swelling in the legs, hands or feet, convulsions, and fainting. Withdrawal symptoms associated with fentanyl addiction include restlessness, irritability, myalgia, weakness, chills, elevated blood pressure/heart rate, upset stomach, vomiting, and hallucinations. Finally, symptoms that may indicate a fentanyl overdose include depressed breathing, pinpoint pupils, loss of coordination, faint pulse, and unconsciousness.
How to use Fentanyl Rapid Test Strips?
Fentanyl rapid test strips have a simple and convenient design and procedure. Although the steps may slightly change depending on the tested drug, the procedure generally requires a small sample of the tested drug to be put aside in a clean and dry container. Next, water is added to the container and mixed with the drug sample. Next, the assigned end of the strip is placed into the water for around 15 seconds. After the strip absorbs the water-drug mixture, the strip is removed from the water and placed on a flat surface for 2 to 5 minutes. The presence of a single pink line indicates the detection of fentanyl or a fentanyl analog in the tested drug. Two pink lines indicate that fentanyl or a fentanyl analog has not been detected in the tested drug. Finally, a single pink line on the right-hand side or no lines at all indicates an invalid result. In this case, you can test your drugs again with a new strip.
Blackwood, C. B., & Cadet, J. L. (2021). The molecular neurobiology and neuropathology of opioid use disorder. Current Research in Neurobiology, 2, 100023. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.crneur.2021.100023