What is fentanyl? 10 things to know about the potentially deadly drug

Published: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 @ 2:22 PM

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic narcotic that is estimated to be 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to state officials.

The powerful drug fentanyl claimed the life of music legend Prince in 2016 and has, in recent years, largely contributed to the next wave of America’s opioid crisis.

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Here are 10 things you should know about fentanyl:

What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl, also known as Actiq, Duragesic or Sublimaze in its prescription form, is an especially potent painkiller developed in the 1960s used to treat extreme pain.

According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strains of fentanyl can be 50 times more powerful than morphine.

>> Related: What is fentanyl and how does it kill?

Some street names for the drug (or for non-pharmaceutical fentanyl-laced heroin) include Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, TNT and Tango and Cash, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Where is fentanyl manufactured?

According to a recent U.S. government report, fentanyl in recent years has been traced back to illegal labs in China and Mexico, trafficked to countries (like the U.S.), laced with heroin and sold to buyers who have no knowledge of the drug’s presence.

When do doctors prescribe fentanyl?

Physicians prescribe fentanyl as a pain reliever or anesthesia, typically for opioid-tolerant patients undergoing heart surgery (as anesthesia), cancer patients already receiving maintenance opioid medication for pain or patients with chronic pain who need around-the-clock opioids.

>> Related: DEA: N. Fulton woman detained; sold fentanyl to undercover agents

The controlled substance can be legally prescribed via injection, patch, lozenges or lollipop.

What are the side effects of fentanyl?

From the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Weakness
  • Dry mouth
  • Constricted pupils
  • Unconsciousness
  • Slowed respirations
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Flushing
  • Confusion
  • Stiff or rigid muscles
  • Tight feeling in the throat
  • Difficulty concentrating

How does fentanyl work?

Fentanyl (and other opioids) binds to receptors in parts of the brain that control pain and emotions, increasing dopamine levels and creating a state of euphoria.

What makes fentanyl so dangerous?

Like any opiate, fentanyl use can increase the risk of dependency and lead to both abuse and addiction.

When the drug isn’t properly ingested as prescribed or is consumed illicitly or accidentally, just one small dose can result in death.

>> Related: Death toll rises in mass overdose in central Georgia

Because fentanyl is so highly potent, drug dealers have increasingly been mixing heroin, oxycodone or Xanax with fentanyl, deceiving buyers who are unaware that a powder or pill contains the drug.

But this deception, according to Harvard Medical School, is proving fatal.

One strain of fentanyl (furanyl fentanyl) is so potent that you could die from just touching it, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The furanyl fentanyl, labeled and sold as oxycodone pills and powder, caused 19 deaths in Georgia from 2016 to 2017.

Some of the opioid receptors in the brain that fentanyl binds to also help control breathing, but high doses of opioids such as fentanyl (usually consumed accidentally or illicitly) can stop someone from breathing altogether, killing them.

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Rare yellow cardinal a ‘one in a million’ gem for birdwatchers in Alabama

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 9:47 PM

A yellow cardinal.
Wikicommons
A yellow cardinal.(Wikicommons)

 

Birdwatchers and biologists have been on the lookout for a rare, yellow cardinal that’s been spotted around central Alabama in Shelby County in recent weeks, AL.com reported.

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The bird has been getting a lot of attention recently after  resident Charlie Stephenson first noticed it at her backyard feeder and posted a picture on social media.

The cardinal’s bright yellow feathers are a result of a genetic mutation, according to scientists, who say it’s the same species as the familiar vivid red cardinal, but carries a mutation that changes its coloring.

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The rare cardinal is a different species from the endangered South American yellow cardinal species.

The bird in Shelby County is an adult male and Auburn University biology professor and bird expert Geoffrey Hill told AL.com the mutation is so rare that even he’s never seen one in person.

"I've been birdwatching in the range of cardinals for 40 years and I've never seen a yellow bird in the wild," Hill said. He estimated that there are just a few of these yellow cardinals in the U.S. and Canada in any given year.

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"There are probably a million bird feeding stations in that area, so very very roughly, yellow cardinals are a one in a million mutation,” Hill said.

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House releases Democrats’ rebuttal to GOP memo on alleged government surveillance abuses

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 4:23 PM

 House Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks at the Council On Foreign Relations .
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
 House Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks at the Council On Foreign Relations .(Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The House Intelligence Committee Saturday released the Democrats’ rebuttal to the Republican memo alleging the FBI and Department of Justice engaged in questionable tactics in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia. 

>> Read more trending news 

Schiff Memo by National Content Desk on Scribd

>> Related: House Intelligence Committee votes to release Democrat’s rebuttal to Nunes memo

The 10-page memo, released two weeks after President Donald Trump blocked it and after wrangling between Democrats and DOJ officials, was authored by ranking Intelligence Committee Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) in response to one by House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), and disputes allegations that illegal tactics were used to get warrants to surveil a former Trump campaign aide.

“The Democratic response memo released today should put to rest any concerns that the American people might have as to the conduct of the FBI, the Justice Department and the FISC. Our extensive review of the initial FISA application and three subsequent renewals failed to uncover any evidence of illegal, unethical, or unprofessional behavior by law enforcement and instead revealed that both the FBI and DOJ made extensive showings to justify all four requests,” Schiff said in a statement Saturday after the release of the memo.

Trump tweeted a response to Schiff’s document release Saturday, calling the Democrats’ memo “a total political and legal bust.” He also repeated his claims that special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign is a “witch hunt.”

The president released the Nunes memo last month, which contained information purporting to show that the FBI and DOJ did not provide complete information when requesting a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant to watch one-time Trump campaign member and foreign policy advisor Carter Page.

>> Related: Trump sends Democrats’ Nunes rebuttal memo back to House committee

The release of both memos came over the objections of investigators in the intelligence communities.

What You Need To Know About Carter Page

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World’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, restricts late-night access 

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 8:38 PM

Travelers pause to check flight information before proceeding to their gates at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Todd Bennett/Getty Images
Travelers pause to check flight information before proceeding to their gates at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.(Todd Bennett/Getty Images)

Hartsfield-Jackson International announced it will soon begin restricting access to the airport between the hours of 11 p.m. to 4:30 a.m.

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Starting March 2, the world’s busiest airport said access to the terminals, parking decks, SkyTrain and rental car center during that overnight period will be restricted to ticketed airline passengers; people meeting, accompanying or assisting passengers; and “authorized personnel.”

While airport officials have taken steps before to ask overnight visitors to show their boarding passes, the new policy comes amid a growing issue of homeless people sleeping in the Atlanta airport’s domestic terminal overnight.

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Airport officials said the change is “a result of an increasing volume” of passengers and visitors, along with construction projects, and will allow overnight crews to thoroughly clean public areas.

A band performs in the Atlanta airport’s domestic terminal atrium as part of an entertainment series at Hartsfield-Jackson in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day.

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FDA approves blood test that can detect concussions 

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 10:58 PM

Maxime Chanot #4 of New York City FC holds his head after a clash of heads form a corner kick during the New York City FC Vs San Jose Earthquakes regular season MLS game at Yankee Stadium on April 1, 2017 in New York City. 
Tim Clayton - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images
Maxime Chanot #4 of New York City FC holds his head after a clash of heads form a corner kick during the New York City FC Vs San Jose Earthquakes regular season MLS game at Yankee Stadium on April 1, 2017 in New York City. (Tim Clayton - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a breakthrough blood test that can help detect concussions in adults.

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The blood test, also known as the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator Test, works by measuring UCH-L1 and GFAP, both proteins released from the brain into the blood, within 12 hours of a head injury.

It can be administered as soon as 15 minutes after the injury, but results take a few hours to produce.

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According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traumatic brain injury is a “serious public health problem in the United States.” In 2013 alone, there were about 2.8 million visits to emergency rooms for traumatic brain injury-related conditions. Of these, nearly 50,000 people died.

TBI is typically caused by a blow or bump to the head, or a by a head injury that disrupts the brain’s normal functioning. It can range from mild to severe. About 75 percent of TBIs that occur each year are assessed as mild TBIs or concussions. 

>> Related: Spit test could diagnose concussion in kids, study says

Most patients with traumatic brain injury undergo a neurological exam, followed by a CT scan.

For their research, the FDA evaluated data on 1,947 individual blood samples from adults with suspected mild TBI or concussion and reviewed the product’s performance by comparing blood test results with CT scan results.

They found the blood test was 97.5 percent as effective in detecting concussion and 99.6 perfect as effective in ruling out the injury.

The test also costs as little as one-tenth as much as a CT scan.

» RELATED: Which high school sports have the most concussions? 

"A blood test that accurately, reliably and consistently detects the presence of brain proteins that appear in the blood after a brain injury is a major advance," Dr. David Dodick, a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology who specializes in sports medicine and neurology, told CNN. Dodick was not involved in the study.

One of the challenges of diagnosing concussions is that the injury’s symptoms can occur at various times. For some, they appear instantly. Others may not experience symptoms for hours or even days.

» RELATED: Football players under 12 at high risk of brain injury, study finds

Symptoms also vary from person to person. Some may experience light or noise sensitivity, or may lose balance.

“This is something that has been a long time coming,” Col. Dallas Hack, who was director of the Army’s Combat Casualty Care Research Program from 2008 to 2014 and is now retired, told the New York Times. 

“The concept originally was that we would have something that medical personnel in the field would be able to use to assess whether somebody who had received a head injury needed a higher level of care,” Hack said.

» RELATED: Youth football called ‘child abuse’

But Dodick told CNN that researchers still need to better understand when brains have fully healed from trauma and how the protein biomarkers may actually affect prognosis. Additionally, it’s unclear whether or not the new test can determine subconcussive blows, hits to the head that don’t always cause symptoms but do cause brain injury. 

Subconcussive or repeat blows are believed to lead to the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Over time, that damage may lead to personality changes, mood disorders and other behavioral issues.

"These occur much more often than actual concussions, especially in certain collision and contact sports,” Dodick told CNN.

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