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What is fentanyl and why is it so dangerous?

Fentanyl is a drug medical professionals use for treating severe pain, but when it isn't obtained legally the results can be lethal.

ODESSA, Texas — Over the past few years, fentanyl has become a major point of concern for authorities, medical professionals and parents, and with rainbow fentanyl now in circulation the issue has never been more pressing.

The CDC describes fentanyl as a synthetic opioid. It's 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. 

Fentanyl is a legal drug used for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain.

But when obtained through illegal channels, many times it's mixed with other drugs, like pot or cocaine among other drugs, to get users a more euphoric high. Plus, the dosage could be way off.

“You just don't know how potent it is. So fentanyl is dosed in micro-grams, which is a very small amount... So you don't know how much has been laced in that drug. It could be a huge dose and if you've never taken opioids before that could really put your body to stop breathing.” said Nathan Ehni, a clinical pharmacy specialist at the Medical Center Hospital.

The effects of the drug could be catastrophic.

“So if you've never taken an opioid before you can expect that your breathing is going to slow down. You can even stop breathing. You will fall asleep, unbeknownst to you, you'll just kinda fall asleep and you can overdose because your brain just doesn't tell your body to breathe anymore,” Ehni said.

Data from the CDC shows more than 100,000 people died of a drug overdose between March of last year and March of this year. About 5,000 of them were Texans.

Governor Greg Abbott has also recently been outspoken in the fight against fentanyl.

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