Fentanyl, a powerful opioid pain medication, was first synthesized in 1960 for use as an anesthetic for patients undergoing certain heart surgeries. In the mid-1990s, the fentanyl patch was created for chronic pain relief and since then, other forms of fentanyl, such as sprays and tablets, have entered the market.4 On the street, it is sold in a variety of forms, including powders, blotter papers, and tablets mixed with other prescription and non-prescription drugs.5
Fentanyl was designed to only be prescribed in cases of chronic or breakthrough pain, typically experienced by cancer patients. Doctors also occasionally prescribed it to patients with severe or chronic pain who had become tolerant to milder opioid pain medications.
According to the DEA, 1 out of every 10 teens reported using prescription pain medications to get high at least once in the last year. From 2004 to 2010, emergency room visits resulting from prescription medication abuse in children younger than 20 years old rose by 45%.3
Clearly, the lives of America’s teenagers are increasingly endangered when they unknowingly purchase counterfeit medications on the streets that contain fentanyl, since it can be fatal in frighteningly small doses. Understanding what fentanyl is and how it lands in teenagers’ hands, then, is of utmost importance in protecting them from its dangers. Perhaps most disturbing is the trend of teens abusing fentanyl and experiencing its treacherous effects……. more