Fentanyl is a legal prescription drug meant to alleviate severe pain, like chronic cancer pain or pain from surgery. However, this drug is being illegally produced and distributed for its euphoric, relaxing effects on the brain and body.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, there were over 67,000 drug overdose deaths in 2018, and 70% of those deaths involved the use of opioids. Although street drugs like heroin usually get most of the attention when it comes to addiction and fatal drug overdoses, use of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids is rising at an alarming rate. In 2017, 59% of opioid-related deaths involved the use of fentanyl, compared to 2010, when the rate was just 14%.
How Does Fentanyl Work?
In general, fentanyl acts the same way other opioids do, which is by binding itself to opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other organs in the body—especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure. When this happens, the opioids block messages of pain sent from the body through the spinal cord to the brain, creating a sense of deep relaxation and euphoria.
What Makes Fentanyl Different from Other Opioids?
Fentanyl is 50–100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In comparison, methadone is roughly 3 times stronger than morphine and heroin is about 5 times stronger. Fentanyl is so potent that it’s measured in micrograms instead of milligrams. It takes about 30 milligrams of heroin to kill an average-sized adult male, but only 3 milligrams (or 3,000 micrograms) of fentanyl to do the same. This enormous difference in potency is what makes fentanyl users so susceptible to overdosing.
One other defining attribute of fentanyl is how quickly it can bind to opioid receptors and take action. This almost immediate effect is one of the reasons why it’s so dangerously addictive and the reaction can happen so fast that users may not be able to recover in time from the overdose.
Why Is Fentanyl So Dangerous?
Fentanyl is easy to make, easier to ship, and is more compact than other drugs, so drug dealers are combining fentanyl with other drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA, and heroin. This means that users may not know if the street drugs they are purchasing contain fentanyl, resulting in more unintentional overdoses.
All opioids also create what is known as respiratory depression. This means that when someone takes an opioid, their breathing could slow so much that they end up dying. With fentanyl, this can occur at a much smaller dose than other opioids and will happen much faster.
Addiction to any opioid can result in a tolerance to be built up in the brain. However, with fentanyl, since it crosses the blood-brain barrier so rapidly, a tolerance is built up quicker than with other opioids. Once a tolerance starts to build, the user will require larger and larger doses to get the same euphoric high, making fentanyl prime for a risk of overdose.
Louisiana Penalties for Fentanyl Possession
Any unlawful possession of fentanyl in the state of Louisiana is charged as a felony. If you are arrested for fentanyl possession in Louisiana, you could face:
- 2-10 years in prison for holding 2-28 grams
- 5-40 years at hard labor (incarceration at a state prison) for over 28 grams
- Loss of the right to own or carry a gun
Any criminal charge that results in a felony can remain on your criminal record for the rest of your life, and may show up on future background checks for as long as you seek employment. Having a felony charge could also limit your ability to find housing and enjoy other privileges. Do not take a felony drug charge in Louisiana lightly when there may be a way to reduce its impact on your life.
Contact an Experienced Louisiana Drug Defense Attorney
Prosecutors in Louisiana take criminal drug offenses very seriously in Louisiana. Don’t take a gamble on being punished to the full extent of the law. Hire an experienced Louisiana drug defense lawyer that will fight to ensure that you receive the least possible punishment for your case.
With over 25 years of experience, Attorney Eric Johnson of the John D. & Eric G Johnson Law Firm knows how to build an effective defense for your drug case. Call (318) 377-1555 or complete one of our online contact forms for a free consultation.