fentanyl addiction in the central valley

The Deadly Drug: Fentanyl

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Fast Facts to know about fentanyl according to the DEA

  • 26% of tablets tested for fentanyl contained a lethal dose
  • Drug trafficking organizations typically distribute fentanyl by the kilogram.
    • One kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people.
  • It is possible for someone to take a pill without knowing it contains fentanyl. It is also possible to take a pill knowing it contains fentanyl, but with no way of knowing if it contains a lethal dose.
  • According to the CDC, synthetic opioids (like fentanyl) are the primary driver of the increases in overdose deaths in the United States, increasing 38.4% during the 12-month period ending May 2020 During this period:
    • 37 of the 38 U.S. jurisdictions with available synthetic opioid data reported increases in synthetic opioid-involved overdose deaths.
    • 18 of these jurisdictions reported increases greater than 50%
    • 10 western states reported over a 98% increase in synthetic opioid-involved deaths


Fentanyl is deadly.

There has been no lack of discussion in the media lately about what fentanyl is doing to communities across the country, overdoses are rampant, hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID and unable to serve all those who arrive at the emergency room, and the flood of illicit fentanyl is streaming into the country. A record number of overdoses directly related to fentanyl have been reported nation-wide.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released preliminary data showing that overdose deaths in the United States rose 29.4% in 2020 to an estimated 93,331, including 69,710 involving opioid drugs, mainly fentanyl. In the last year alone, overdose deaths in California have increased 30% year over year. Naloxone is a medication that has rapid anti-overdose properties, and is now being widely distributed to try to help stop these extreme increases. It is sprayed in to the nose of someone overdosing and can save a life.


Prescription fentanyl is used primarily to treat patients enduring severe pain from surgery, cancer, or significant traumatic injuries. Prescription grade fentanyl is a Schedule II drug which is defined as having a “high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence” according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. This drug is a highly monitored, regulated, and carefully distributed by doctors and hospitals, and regulated by the DEA and FDA.

There is still a significant risk for abuse of this drug in the context described above. The human body craves dopamine, endorphins and serotonin – all chemicals opioids, such as fentanyl, synthetically produce to help the body calm pain and focus on healing. Fentanyl’s effects on the brain include extreme happiness, drowsiness, nausea, confusion, constipation, respiratory and cardiovascular issues, loss of consciousness, participating in risky behaviors, suicide, and extreme withdrawal symptoms.

But when one takes opioids for too long, the substitute of those chemicals causes your body to stop producing them naturally. This can make stopping use extremely difficult as the body re-regulates itself. A fate less severe than overdose, but as many in recovery know, opioids are extremely difficult to quit once the body is physically addicted.

Illicit Fentanyl

Illicit forms of fentanyl can be obtained by either purchasing pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl that has been diverted to the street either by stealing or obtaining a false prescription with the intent to distribute.

Fentanyl also enters the street market by way of drug cartels bringing in the synthetic form from manufacturing countries, mainly China. While overdose deaths can happen with fentanyl obtained by a doctor, the unregulated production of this drug produced in China has shown devastating overdose rates. The DEA has recently reported seizing counterfeit medication that was twice the lethal amount of two milligrams in one tablet. That would be an instant overdose for anyone who attempted to ingest the substance at that level.

In California alone 45% of overdose deaths are caused by opioid use, and the average age has dropped from 26 to 20 over the last two decades. Rapidly, this issue is becoming a teen problem, with a sharp increase in availability coupled with a global pandemic, children are particularly vulnerable to this drug. Nationally the rate of overdose on fentanyl rose 1,125% over a period of 6 years between 2011 and 2017.

How to get help for addiction in Fresno CA

Fentanyl detoxification usually requires closely-monitored medical detox. Medical detox is a process of ridding the body of opioids under the supervision of trained medical professionals. Due to the extremely addictive properties in fentanyl, most individuals require a dosage reduction period. Being honest about how much and how often you have been using will be extremely important to help the medical professionals decide how to treat each individual’s need.

When you are ready to get help, it is available at First Steps Recovery. Medical detox of fentanyl, including detox of pregnant women under the supervision of their doctor and with a 45 day commitment, is available. Partnering with an evidence-based recovery center focused on long term sobriety and regaining a life of joy and excitement can be a life saving endeavor for many.


Fentanyl is deadly no matter where it is obtained, and we can each do our part to watch for the warning signs of dependency that could save a life. Check out these resources for more information:













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