When administered early enough, Naloxone, also known as Narcan, can help bring back a person from a potentially deadly overdose. Two new strains of fentanyl, though, are so potent they may be resistant to the opioid overdose antidote.
Naloxone-Resistant Strains Of Fentanyl
The Georgia Bureau of Investigators (GBI) warned earlier this week that they have identified two new naloxone-resistant strains of fentanyl: acrylfentanyl and tetrahydrofuran.
Acrylfentanyl has been attributed to at least 44 overdose deaths in Illinois this year. Tetrahydrofureon, on the other hand, is so new it is not yet included on the list of banned synthetic designer drugs in Georgia.
The GBI said that the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office submitted forensic drug evidence that contains these new drugs in March. Georgia officially outlawed acrylfentanyl, which officials believe to be manufactured overseas, in April. By May, the synthetic drug was temporarily added to the Schedule 1 list of controlled substances.
Officials, however, are concerned over tetrahydrofuran fentanyl because the drug is not currently on the Drug Enforcement Administration's list of banned substances. It is neither covered under Georgia's law.
GBI said that it is still unknown how the human body will react to these drugs since they are not intended for use by humans or animals. The drugs, though, are highly potent. They can be absorbed through the skin. Officials said that simply touching fentanyl or its residue may result in potentially fatal drug overdose.
The DEA earlier said that the ability of fentanyl to seep through the skin places first responders at risk of overdose simply by doing their job.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, and related substances can cause serious health problems and even death even in small amounts. The DEA said that first responders who help overdose victims and handle evidences report dizziness, breathing problems, and even loss of consciousness. One police officer in Ohio even nearly died after exposure to the substance regardless of putting on gloves and mask.
First responders bring with them naloxone to reverse the effects of overdose. Naloxone has proven helpful in saving lives that librarians are now learning to administer it in case somebody overdoses in or near their premises. There are concerns, though, that the drug may not work in overdose cases that involve the two new strains of fentanyl.
"There are multiple reports showing that this drug is resistant to naloxone," Nelly Miles of the GBI said of acrylfentanyl.
Opioid Epidemic In The United States
The United States is battling with opioid addiction. Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that death rate from synthetic opioid overdose jumped by nearly 75 percent over a period of just one year from 2014 to 2015. More than 33,000 people died from opioid overdoses, which include prescription drugs and heroin. More than half of these cases involve a prescription opioid.
"Drug overdose deaths and opioid-involved deaths continue to increase in the United States. The majority of drug overdose deaths (more than six out of ten) involve an opioid," the CDC said.