Fast Five Quiz: Do You Know About Newer Drugs of Abuse?

Mary L. Windle, PharmD


August 11, 2016

Fentanyl is significantly more potent than morphine and heroin, such that even low doses may be fatal. From 2004 to 2011, increases in abuse of opioids were as follows:

  • Hydromorphone: 438%

  • Oxycodone: 263%

  • Morphine: 146%

  • Hydrocodone: 107%

  • Fentanyl: 104%

  • Methadone: 82%

  • Codeine: 39%

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the use of standard protocol for opioid overdose (including naloxone) in suspected cases of fentanyl overdose. They also recommend enzyme-linked immunoassay screening and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry confirmatory testing on specimens to confirm or rule out fentanyl and its analogues, including acetylfentanyl.

Reports of deaths or serious illness of children accidentally exposed to fentanyl patches is also a concern. A single exposure of this high-potency opioid can be deadly to a child. The FDA issued a Drug Safety Communication to warn patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals about how to properly store (ie, in a locked cabinet) and dispose of fentanyl patches (ie, folding in half with the sticky sides together and then flushing down the toilet) to keep children from obtaining the patch.

For more on opioid toxicity, read here.


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