The FDA approves the new sublingual fentanyl spray, but will this super-strong painkiller make it easier for people to overdose on this drug?
In January 2012, the FDA announced the approval of a new form of painkiller: a formulation of fentanyl meant to be sprayed under the tongue (sublingual). The new drug is called Subsys and is meant for those suffering from breakthrough pain from cancer.1 This means that Subsys is only supposed to be used when the patient is already on a painkiller and experiences pain that breaks through the existing opioid barrier. But fentanyl is already a common drug of abuse, addiction and overdose death. Will this new form be irresistible to opiate addicts?
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is an opiate-type drug that is 100 times more potent than morphine. Since street heroin is of variable potency, fentanyl could be hundreds of times stronger than heroin.
Fentanyl is already popular among addicts for its intense euphoric effects.2 Those addicted to heroin, OxyContin, hydrocodone or other opioids may seek out fentanyl as a substitute, robbing pharmacies, stealing it from hospices or nursing homes, or forging prescriptions. Since fentanyl is often administered in a patch to prevent easy abuse, addicts squeeze the remaining drug out of the used patches and inject or ingest it.
Subsys Recommended Dosage is Millionths of an Ounce
But now fentanyl will be available as a spray. The dosage is measured in micrograms, with the initial recommended dose set at 100 micrograms, or 3.5 millionths of an ounce. A person initiating use of Subsys for breakthrough cancer pain should start with one spray and move up from there as needed.
A person who has already developed a tolerance for opiates may be able to safely use this drug but what about a person new to opiates? A initiate to the drug can easily overdose on a tiny amount of opiates while a person accustomed to them can take higher amounts without danger. This phenomenally strong painkiller could spell disaster for anyone not intimately familiar with the way opiates work.
“For several years, fentanyl was one of the deadlier drugs on the illicit market,” commented Clark Carr, president of Narconon International. Narconon is a non-profit organization dedicated to the elimination of substance abuse and addiction through effective rehabilitation and prevention. “The pharmaceutical and medical industries have already shown that they cannot prevent diversion of these drugs to the illicit market. With this infinitely strong preparation on the market, we should also be ready for the fentanyl overdoses that may follow.”
Mr. Carr noted that more than ten thousand people per year were rushed to emergency rooms between 2005 and 2009 because of problems with illicitly or licitly produced fentanyl. More than a thousand people lost their lives in just three years.
“Because of addiction, many people will not be able to resist the temptation to abuse this powerful drug,” Mr. Carr added. “The only way to save these addicted lives is to eliminate the cravings for drugs with effective drug rehabilitation like the Narconon drug rehab program.”
Narconon organizations located in forty countries not only offer highly successful drug rehab but most also send staff and volunteers out in to the community to provide drug education classes.
“The very best way to eliminate the desire for this and other drugs is to convince people not to start abusing any substances,” concluded Mr. Carr. “We are fortunate at Narconon centers to be able to provide services both for those who have not started using drugs and those trapped in addiction, offering the addicted a new shot at a sober future.”