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People finding out the actual amount of fentanyl needed to kill someone leaves them shocked
Featured Image Credit: DEA / Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

People finding out the actual amount of fentanyl needed to kill someone leaves them shocked

Fentanyl is used as a prescription painkiller in extreme cases, but the amount needed to overdose has people shocked

Fentanyl has become a name synonymous with the opioid crisis in the US, and the amount needed to overdose has people horrified.

According to a 2023 report by the National Center for Health Statistics, in the US deaths by overdose involving the drug spiked some 279% between 2016 and 2023.

This was from 2.1 deaths per 100,000 people linked to the drug in 2016 up to 9.6 in 2021, a stark rise.

And when you see the amount of the drug which is needed for someone to be at risk of overdosing, it's pretty clear why.

Fentanyl is an artificial opiate, and an extremely potent one at that, being many times stronger than heroin. While it is sometimes used in prescriptions it's not the prescribed fentanyl which poses the greatest risk, but rather when the substance is encountered in illicit drugs.

Dr. Allison Lin, an addiction psychiatrist at University of Michigan Medical School, told ABC: "When it comes to overdose, really the biggest driver is folks who are really struggling with addiction primarily on street drugs, which fentanyl is primarily found in terms of the street drug supply rather than a prescription medication."

Fentanyl is often cut with other substances, making it difficult to know how much is there.
Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

While medics can rigidly control the amount of fentanyl they give a patient, measuring it in micrograms not milligrams, with illicit drugs it's far more difficult to know just know strong any one batch of drugs is.

The amount of any given drug required for an overdose can of course vary from person to person.

Things like a person's size and, more importantly, their tolerance can impact how much they can safely take.

For example, someone who has managed to go clean for a year but then relapses is at a very high risk of overdosing. This is because they might assume their tolerance is the same it was before, when it has actually dropped.

The dose generally regarded as posing a high risk of an overdose is 2 milligrams of fentanyl, or 2,000 micrograms. The DEA shared an image to illustrate what a lethal dose of fentanyl can look like, displaying the drug on the tip of a pencil.

As fentanyl is an opiate, the cause of death is often similar to that produced by heroin, including respiratory depression or hypoventilation.

The DEA shared an image to illustrate what a lethal dose of fentanyl can look like.

Hypoventilation is the opposite of hyperventilation, and means that the body is deprived of oxygen and carbon dioxide builds up.

The biggest danger is when someone doesn't know how much fentanyl is in the drugs they are taking.

This is heightened further when the drug is cut with other substances such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine.

People were shocked by the small amount, and took to the comments of the DEA post.

One wrote: "That is f*cking insane!!!! So scary!!!"

Another replied: "Doesn't take much at all. Fentanyl was part of my general anaesthetic a couple of years ago and boy did it make me sick!"

A third wrote simply: "Insane."

Topics: News, Drugs, US News