You may have been hearing about fentanyl or carfentanil in the news lately, or hearing concern about ‘super strong opioids’. Fentanyl and carfentanil are very potent drugs from the opioid family. They’re sedatives and painkillers, and have been in fairly commonly used medically (usually for long-term pain management) since the early ’90s. They have been used surgically for much longer but not particularly as well known.
Fentanyl and carfentanil can be very dangerous when not dosed properly, because a reasonable dose for someone without tolerance can be micrograms. That’s 1000 times smaller than the amount of powder in an average capsule of MDMA.
Unfortunately, other non-opioid street drugs are now showing up across North America contaminated with these super strong opioids in varying amounts. Traditionally they would only show up as cuts in heroin or other opioids like fake oxys, but due to increased supply it has been found in cocaine, speed, meth and other drugs.
Here are some ways you can help keep yourself safer:
- Whenever you or a friend get a new batch of anything, try a tiny amount (like a quarter dose) and wait a couple hours before doing a proper dose. If you’ve had opioids medically or recreationally before, the feeling should be familiar if there’s fentanyl in it. Effects often include a warm tingly buzz in the head, accompanied by a bit of nausea and pupils getting smaller. Some people get itchy as well, especially with larger amounts.
FILTER AND DISSOLVE!
- Because fentanyl is so potent, if it is mixed into a different drug and not mixed evenly, some parts could be safer/what you’re expecting while others could have enough fentanyl to cause an OD.
- If you dissolve the drug in water (preferably distilled), you can ensure that any fentanyl or other strong opioid will be evenly distributed throughout the liquid.
- For extra safety, use a syringe and needle to draw the liquid through a filter to remove any unwanted particulates before use.
- ORALLY: You can then drink the liquid (after trying a tiny bit and waiting of course).
- RAILING: You can snort the liquid and it will work even more efficiently than snorting powder with less damage to your nose tubes. Use a smaller amount of water if this is your plan.
- INJECTING/HOOPING/PLUGGING: You’re probably already doing these steps, so continue performing admirably and be sure to start with a SMALL AMOUNT.
KEEP CALM AND CARRY NALOXONE! (Also: PARTY WITH A FRIEND!)
- Partying with friends is a great safe guard to a fatal OD. Ideally at least someone present will be able to call 911 and maybe even give you Naloxone and do CPR.
- Make sure there are a few naloxone kits around just in case. These can be picked up from The Works at 277 Victoria St. (Yonge & Dundas) in Toronto or any pharmacy SHOULD have them available over the counter. Not everywhere has them right now and not everywhere does a good training on how to use them, but you should at least be able to access them.
- Someone other than the person doing the drugs first should know how to use Naloxone kits too.
- Naloxone is essentially an antidote for opioid overdose. When administered in sufficient amounts, it will stop an overdose long enough for medical professionals to arrive at the scene. This will run out after about 30-40 minutes, putting the person who OD’d at risk of ODing again so it’s super important that they go to a hospital!
- When in doubt, it’s better to administer naloxone, because it won’t physically harm them even if they aren’t on opioids.
- If the person being given naloxone is dependent on opioids, it will put them into withdrawal which can be very unpleasant, but it’s still worth it to save a life.
- The Good Samaritan Law was just passed in Canada, which means that you can’t be arrested for drug-related charges after calling 911 for an OD. (You can still be arrested if you have warrents out and it’s still a good idea to stash any actual drugs or paraphernalia away before authorities show up).
A note on drug checking and testing kits:
- There are a number of organizations currently working on street level strong opioid test kits, but outside of proper lab testing we don’t have any highly reliable options available at the moment. When these become available they will provide an additional safeguard to help prevent accidental fentanyl consumption.
Written and edited by Trip! Project
Fentanyl poster created by Humber College students for the ZeroHarm.ca campaign