You may not have heard of fentanyl, but this drugs popularity is growing at an exponential rate, seemingly overnight. Buzz around this drug seems more popular now than ever as it has been linked to the death of the pop singer, Prince. It seems to be the new drug d’jour. Since its rise in popularity, our staff at Health & Hearing Conservation Consultants have been continuously asked if we offer fentanyl drug testing. So here is an introduction to the drug and what you need to know.
Fentanyl is considered a synthetic opiod/opiate. In the simplest of terms, opiods are essentially pain relievers. It acts upon certain receptors in your brain to ‘block’ the feeling of pain. Other drugs that fall into this category are oxycontin, morphine and heroin. Fentanyl is one of the strongest opiods on the market and is used for patients with ailments such as cancer. It is roughly 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine. Fentanyl is available as a skin patch, lozenge, pills, shots, a film that dissolves in your mouth, nasal spray, or by IV (intravenous).
As with any opiod, the main symptoms of fentanyl abuse are euphoria, drowsiness, lethargy and mellowness. Fentanyl very quickly creates a tolerance to high doses, so a dose that is adequate for the intended high one week will probably not create that intended high even a few days later. Symptoms of fentanyl use include but are not limited to:
- Dry mouth
- Retention of urine
- Suppression of breathing
- Severe constipation
- Itching or hives
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Bad dreams
- Difficulty sleeping
- Swollen extremities
- Severe weakness or fainting.
- Slow heart rate
- Muscle stiffness
- Dizziness, vision problems
- High blood pressure (confusion, anxiety, pounding in your neck or ears)
Alberta, like many provinces, has seen a rapid rise in fentanyl-related overdose deaths over the past few years. This rise in fentanyl overdoses is part of a pattern that has been seen across Canada. The Canadian Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use has tracked this pattern in a bulletin from August 2015: Deaths Involving Fentanyl in Canada, 2009–2014.
Over the first 3 months of 2016 (from January 1 to March 31), there were 69 fentanyl-related deaths in the province. This is roughly consistent with the first 3 months of 2015, during which 77 fentanyl-related deaths were reported.
In 2015 overall, there were 274 overdose deaths in Alberta in which fentanyl was detected, up significantly from previous years:
- 120 in 2014
- 66 in 2013
- 29 in 2012
- 6 in 2011
Health and Hearing Conservation Consultants is now offering URINE fentanyl testing services. We are offering the laboratory based testing across Canada. A fentanyl panel can be added to any standard drug screen (5 panel, 12 panel, etc) or can be administered as a stand-alone test. We are also launching instant fentanyl urine testing in our Edmonton, Alberta office beginning mid-June 2016.
If you would like to book a fentanyl drug screen, please click here, or call 1-877-920-8378.
Please note that screening for fentanyl is not currently available for hair or oral fluid testing. When it becomes available, we will offer those services in addition to urine screening.