In the 1960s, a new painkiller called Sublimaze took the medical community by storm. Approximately 100 times stronger than morphine, this groundbreaking medicine quickly generated spinoffs, including Alfentanil, Lofentanil, and Sufentanil. The recurring substance in each is visible in their names: fentanyl. Patented in 1959 by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, fentanyl is one of the strongest and most dangerous prescription medications on the market today.
Initially an intravenous medication, fentanyl is now most commonly taken via patches applied to the skin or consumed orally as tablets or lozenges, called lollipops. The drug is used primarily to manage post-surgical and chronic pain. In addition, it can be employed to treat pain for patients with a high tolerance to other opioids. Fentanyl is so potent that gloves are recommended to prevent exposure for anyone applying patches for a patient.
Fentanyl abuse began in the 1970s and continues today. The painkiller provides a feeling of euphoria exceeding that of many other street drugs, so it has become a favorite additive for dealers of cocaine, methamphetamine, and especially heroin. However, because of its potency, adding to or replacing heroin with fentanyl presents an extreme danger to the buyer, as ingesting or injecting the same dosage as one would with heroin can be fatal. For example, a single Xanax tablet contains 250 micrograms of alprazolam, a tranquilizer. The maximum initial dosage of fentanyl is 100 micrograms, so if a dealer can replicate the appearance of a Xanax tablet using fentanyl as the sole ingredient, the pill’s contents would be two and a half times stronger than the recommended intake. Further, while medical professionals generally agree that the lethal dosage of fentanyl is two milligrams (2000 micrograms), mixing the painkiller with heroin reduces the lethal dosage to a size so small that it may be immeasurable.
Readers may ask, why all of this information? When Jesus sent the twelve disciples into ministry, he commanded them to proclaim the arrival of the kingdom of heaven to the “lost sheep” and to heal the sick, raise the dead, and throw out demons (Matthew 10:6-8). Among his instructions is one that should resonate with Christians of all eras: “Look, I’m sending you as sheep among wolves. Therefore, be wise as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 CEB). As an addiction recovery ministry, Adult & Teen Challenge stands often as the lone sheep amidst a den of ravenous wolves. In this position, it is crucial that ATC follow Christ’s directive to be wise about the intricacies of drug culture, including the current opioid crisis engulfing the United States. Equipped with an understanding of fentanyl and other life-controlling substances, ATC staff are better prepared to tailor their message of freedom in Jesus Christ to the lost sheep of the world.