Identifying Fentanyl: What to Look for
Pop culture is often the bridge that closes the gap between mainstream America and stardom. Pop culture is how many young people learn about the latest illicit drugs and substances. From series such as Breaking Bad, The Wire, and Euphoria, movies like Beautiful Boy, and songs including Macklemore’s “Drug Dealer,” substances play a leading role.
Fentanyl is on the scene. The popularity of the substance continues to grow. People have questions when it comes to fentanyl. One, in particular, is: what does fentanyl smell like? This popular recreational drug is leading to many deaths and overdoses. Knowing whether it has a specific smell and taste, and the physical characteristics are essential. When you know how to identify fentanyl, you might save your life or that of a loved one.
What is Fentanyl?
In the medical world, fentanyl is a prescription opioid used to treat severe pain or for sedation. Licensed healthcare providers must administer it. Depending on the dose, fentanyl is up to 100 times stronger than other pain relievers, such as morphine. The prescription form of fentanyl is typically transdermal patches, lozenges, nasal sprays, and injections. The street form of fentanyl can be fatal. This is because it is often cut with heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, or other additives to make it stronger. Street versions can come in pills, powders, and even ingestible liquids. Unfortunately, fentanyl has become a popular street drug, leading to drug overdoses and deaths.
At the close of 2023, there were over 150,000 reported fentanyl-related deaths. In Georgia alone, the percentage of opioid overdose has risen by 9.24%. The rise in drug use has led the federal government to create a National Fentanyl Awareness Day on May 9.
Is Fentanyl Odorless?
There are some noticeable differences between medical fentanyl and illicitly manufactured strands. It does not tend to have a distinct smell in a medical setting. On the other hand, there are some differences with illicit forms of fentanyl. While the smell is slight, it can give off a vinegar or rotten egg odor. Other formats can have different scents, such as sweet or earthy. This leads to an overdose because it smells safe. The problem is that when fentanyl is mixed with other drugs and chemicals, the smell changes. As a result, it can become odorless. It can also take on different smells of the chemicals used to cut it.
When street fentanyl is mixed with acetone or sulfur dioxide, it can remind people of paint thinners, which have a distinct chemical smell. Unless an individual works in an environment where strong chemicals are made or used, this smell is typically an indicator of drug use.
Visual Identifying Fentanyl
Fentanyl addiction can lead to a slow descent into a dark death. But proper treatment makes it possible to rise out of the pit and regain light.
If you aren’t sure if a substance is or contains fentanyl, some visual identifiers could help.
- Color: Fentanyl powder can range from white to brown or black. The color depends on the manufacturing process. Fillers or cutting agents can also impact the color.
- Texture: Fentanyl powder may be fine and talcum-like similar to baby powder. It can also be coarse and gritty, similar to rough sand or small gravel particles.
- Form: Fentanyl pills may be round or unevenly shaped. Some pills are marked with numbers and letters. As people continue to manufacture fentanyl, some have even created tablets resembling Skittles, lollipops, or hard candy. This deception can be dangerous as small kids can mistakenly eat a handful because they believe it to be candy.
- Packaging: Like many street drugs, fentanyl is usually packaged in plastic bags, foil, or other household materials.
- Labeling: Illicitly manufactured fentanyl may be labeled as other drugs. Those include meth, Xanax, Percoscet, and Oxycodone.
Since these descriptors can also be used to identify other drugs, it is important not to rely solely on the visual appearance. The best way to confirm whether a drug is fentanyl is by using test strips. In Georgia, individuals can get free test strips through StopHIVATL, local health departments, and pharmacies. If you suspect you have come into contact with fentanyl, counterfeit pills, or any other dangerous substance, seek medical attention immediately.
How to Use Fentanyl Test Strips
Fentanyl test strips can detect the presence of the drug in its various forms. Even if mixed with other drugs, the test strips can still identify fentanyl presence.
- Begin by putting a small amount of the drug inside a clean, dry container
- Add about a 1/2 teaspoon of water to the container. Shake well.
- Insert the wavy end of the test strip into the container. Let it absorb the mixture for about 15 seconds.
- Remove the strip and place it on a flat surface for 2 to 5 minutes.
- The results will display on the strip. If the sample test is positive for fentanyl, a single pink line will appear on the left side of the strip. A negative result will produce two pink lines. An invalid test will have a pink link on the right side of the strip. Use a new strip to retest if you receive an invalid result.
Signs of Fentanyl Exposure
Contact with fentanyl doesn’t automatically mean you have the drug in your system. However, you want to wash your hands or skin and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
If you think you or someone else has been exposed to and are abusing fentanyl, there are several signs to look for:
- Pinpoint pupils: Fentanyl can cause the pupils of the eyes to narrow. This gives an appearance of pinpoints in the center of the eyes.
- Shallow breathing: Fentanyl can slow down the respiratory system. When it does, individuals tend to take slow or shallow breaths.
- Drowsiness: Since fentanyl is used medically as a pain reliever and for sedation, it can make an individual extremely sleepy or even fall asleep. This often occurs with no bodily warning.
- Disorientation: Fentanyl can cause confusion or confusion about one’s surroundings. This makes it difficult for the person to communicate or get to a place of safety.
- Pale or clammy skin: Fentanyl can cause the skin to appear pale in color, clammy, or damp to the touch.
- Nausea or vomiting: The drug can cause nausea or vomiting. This is typically a sign of an overdose.
If you suspect someone has been exposed to fentanyl, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Fentanyl overdoses can be life-threatening and require immediate medical intervention.
Signs of Fentanyl Addiction
There are some signs and symptoms that may indicate a fentanyl addiction:
- If an individual is prescribed fentanyl by a medical provider, taking more than directed could mean an addiction.
- If an individual has financial problems or changes in previously healthy relationships, that could also be a sign.
- Abusing fentanyl to deal with the challenges of mental illness or combining it with other substance use is a common sign of addiction.
- If an individual tries to stop fentanyl, they can experience withdrawal symptoms. Those can include nausea, vomiting, sweating, and irritability.
- When individuals spend most of their waking days trying to obtain fentanyl, they could have a severe addiction.
- When family, work, or school gets ignored, that could indicate a drug addiction.
- Engaging in risky behaviors like driving under the influence, unsafe sexual practices, or sharing needles are signs of drug addiction.
Understanding fentanyl and how this new epidemic is taking lives is a top priority. There are questions that many people have about the drugs and its dangers.
Q: What are some of the common side effects of fentanyl?
A: Most individuals report feeling relaxed, free of pain, extreme drowsiness, and confusion. More severe symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, inability to urinate, pupil constriction, and breathing difficulty.
Q: What class of drugs does fentanyl fit into?
A: Fentanyl is a Schedule II drug used to treat pain. They also have a high chance of addiction.
Q: Does a fentanyl overdose always lead to death?
A: No. With immediate medical attention, a fentanyl overdose can be reversed. However, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports a 38% rise in fentanyl overdose deaths from 2020-2021. It is critical to get immediate medical attention if an overdose is suspected.
Q: Why is fentanyl such a dangerous drug?
A: Fentanyl’s extreme potency makes it dangerous. That’s why it is important to follow a medically prescribed plan for taking it.
Q: What bodily organs or processes does fentanyl impact?
A: Fentanyl impacts the parts of the brain that control emotion and response to pain.
Getting Help for Fentanyl Addiction
We specialize in assisting individuals and families who are struggling with fentanyl addiction. Southeast Detox offers therapies that help clients develop new ways to cope with mental illness and any associated substance abuse. A supportive environment makes it easier for clients to focus on their recovery and regain control over their lives.
Southeast Detox offers medical detox and has a residential treatment program. Our clients learn about addiction and mental health through individual and group counseling and 12 Step programs. They also gain coping skills to manage cravings to maintain sobriety. Local support groups like Narcotics Anonymous and SMART Recovery are also available.
If you or someone you know needs support combatting substance abuse addiction, we encourage you to visit us at 4300 Martha Berry Hwy, Rome, GA 30165, by phone at (706) 873-9955, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can help you discuss treatment options for a better quality of life.