Authorities have determined that the opioid medication fentanyl is the culprit behind pop superstar Prince's death.

What fentanyl is and how fatal and widespread are some of the things that have been highlighted to the public upon release of the findings.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug that was first invented in 1959. This is indicated for patients who experience severe pain since it is considered to be more efficient than morphine and meperidine. In fact, the National Institute for Drug Abuse has deemed it as 50 to 100 times and 30 to 50 times more robust than morphine and meperidine respectively.

In the United States, fentanyl is the most potent opioid approved for medical purposes. Doctors usually prescribe this to lessen the debilitating and seemingly unending pain endured by patients with serious medical conditions, particularly advanced cancer.

Fentanyl can be administered via injection, patch or lozenge.

The Pits of Fentanyl

In a 2006 study, experts found that even a quarter of a milligram of fentanyl can cause death.

"It's very, very dangerous," said Melvin Patterson of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The drug has resulted in unintentional overdoses and caused the agency tremendous worries, he added.

Fentanyl can cause deaths particularly by restraining the areas in the brain responsible for breathing.

According to Mike Cohen of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, standard protocol does not allow doctors to prescribe the medication to individuals who have not taken opioids before.

In 2015, the DEA even released a nationwide warning to law enforcement authorities regarding the fatal features of the drug even in small doses.

Fentanyl Deaths

Fentanyl overdose has resulted in more than 700 deaths across the U.S. from late 2013 to early 2015, and these are records from only one agency.

In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that emergency room cases of fentanyl-associated seizures reached nearly 4,600.

From 2005 to 2007, the CDC and DEA recorded 1,103 non-medical deaths due to fentanyl.

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