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November 6th, 2014 | Sterling

Another Designer Drug On The Radar

Another Designer Drug On The Radar | SterlingBackcheck

Concern over a relatively new and deadly designer drug has been emerging over the past year.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), acetyl fentanyl is a new drug of abuse that is a variant of fentanyl (a powerful prescription painkiller). 

The drug, which is not authorized for medical use, nor specifically regulated under the Controlled Substances Act, can be five times more potent than heroin, and sixteen times more potent than morphine.  It is commonly laced with heroin to increase potency, and sometimes other substances.  Overdose symptoms are similar to heroin in that the user appears lethargic, disoriented, and has shallow breathing.

Emergency room physicians have been advised to watch for an increase in what might, at first, appear to be a heroin overdose but, in fact, may be tied to ingestion of acetyl fentanyl.  Recent studies are also advising emergency room physicians to suspect acetyl fentanyl if a patient is unresponsive to standard naloxone treatment for a heroin overdose, or if an individual presenting related symptoms screens negative for heroin use. To treat an acetyl fentanyl overdose, larger or additional doses of naloxone become necessary.

The CDC first issued a health alert last year following overdose deaths related to injected acetyl fentanyl in Rhode Island. Use was then identified in Pennsylvania and in Louisiana, and is now believed to be spreading across the U.S. 

Use of acetyl fentanyl (or fentanyl) cannot be detected with a standard laboratory-based testing panel (5, 7, 9, or 10).  To detect fentanyl use (or its analogs, including acetyl fentanyl), employers must test separately for fentanyl, or add fentanyl testing to a currently used standard panel.  If the initial screening result is positive, confirmation analysis using standard gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) testing will confirm or rule out fentanyl and its analogs, including acetyl fentanyl.

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