Doing research out of curiosity about how fentanyl actually kills, I stumbled on this information.
This really opened my eyes and got my attention.
None of our local TV news items on this issue or government public-service announcements have mentioned this mechanism. With those reports, I am often left still asking why so many people are dying from fentanyl (Family hopes their loss saves others, Sept. 14; Children home during overdose death, Nov. 23; Husband of overdose victim speaks to tragedy, Dec. 9).
Those reports often have said that breathing can become depressed, or slow down. To an addict, that probably just means you will feel mellow; that’s probably what they are hoping for.
The quote below – from an article in the American Journal of Public Health titled Expanded Access to Naloxone: Options for Critical Response to the Epidemic of Opioid Overdose Mortality – finally answered the question for me and made me realize everyone needs to know this.
“Fatal overdose – Overdose occurs when the opiate binds to the μ2 receptors in the brain stem, desensitizing it to the carbon dioxide levels in the blood so that breathing mechanisms are not triggered, leading to respiratory failure.”
Maybe if drug users had the realization that fentanyl could very likely deactivate their breathing mechanism altogether, they might not take the risk with it.
If our breathing mechanism deactivates while awake, we can still consciously keep breathing – but if we fall asleep at this time, our brain won’t trigger our automatic breathing when required. Without outside intervention, we may have breathed our last breath.
The article states naloxone reactivates the CO2 receptors and automatic breathing resumes – if administered before death occurs.
My doctor told me that when fentanyl is administered in a hospital setting, it is only done after a respiratory technician is in the room and ready to act. It is that risky.
Please spread this information. This may be enough to discourage many people from taking a risk with fentanyl.
Jim Ayers, Surrey