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Adding fentanyl to your drug screening profile

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, meaning it was developed in the labs. Medically, it is used for pain control for end-of-life illnesses, and sometimes as an anesthetic for labor and delivery. It is about 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin and can usually be found in pills or patches. Since 2015, fentanyl has been the leading killer from drug overdose in the US (see for more info). One of the big problems with fentanyl is that with a high enough dose, your chest muscles can lock up, causing breathing problems. In addition, it can cause laryngo spasm, making your vocal cords close up, completely blocking your airway.On the streets, this can be found mixed in with cocaine, heroin and even methamphetamine to give you an extra high. Some drug dealers have even mixed fentanyl into what they say is heroin--a lethal combination. The worse news is that narcan (naloxone) isn’t incredibly effective in counteracting the side effects from this drug. In fact, one study found that it works only if its given BEFORE the fentanyl ingestion (Miner et al. (2021). Fentanyl causes naloxone-resistant vocal cord closure: A platform for testing opioid overdose treatments. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 227, 108974). Although it’s been in the US for a while, popularity has increased lately in the Yakima Valley area. Because of this, we’d recommend adding fentanyl to your drug screening profile, especially when it comes to post-accident screens (make sure to add this to your list of drugs if you have those specified in your drug policy).

We can test for fentanyl in saliva, urine or hair. When a donor takes fentanyl, both norfentanyl and fentanyl will show up as positive on the results. Of course, depending on the type of drug test, the quantity cutoffs will be different, but the end result is: if it’s positive, it’s positive!

Consider adding this hazardous drug to your testing panel, and help us keep our community safe and healthy!

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