Your Healthy Family: How to spot a fentanyl overdose

Posted at 7:40 AM, Apr 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-13 07:40:37-04

Fentanyl overdoses in teens have been on a steady rise over the last two years. One reason is because the drug is being laced in popular party drugs. An Emergency Medical Doctor explains how to spot a fentanyl overdose.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine.

“Because it's so potent, it affects our respiratory drive. So patients that take fentanyl and stop breathing can actually die from lack of oxygen," Dr. Robert Lam, an Emergency Medicine Doctor, said.

He said there are signs of an overdose to look out for.

"They will likely be deeply unconscious, to less responsive, to having shallow or no breathing at all. Those are clues that someone has overdosed on opiates," Dr. Lam said,

But how is a fentanyl overdose different from someone passing out from too much alcohol or another drug?

“One of the most common things that we see is what we call 'pinpoint pupils.' It causes your pupils to narrow significantly. So when we get a patient who has suffered an overdose that has pinpoint pupils, that strongly suggests that an opiate is involved, and it's actually a trigger for us to use this antidote narcan or naloxone," Dr. Lam said.

Narcan reverses the symptoms of an overdose. A quick search of the CVS Pharmacy website shows you can go to pharmacies in Southwest Florida and get narcan the same day, or order for the next business day, without a prescription. It says you just have to ask a pharmacy team member.

But if kids are at a party or in a situation where narcan is needed, and no one has it, Dr. Lam said calling 911 immediately is critical. Nearly all first responders now carry the narcan.

"The sooner we can give this to a patient that has overdosed, the sooner we can save their life," he said.

To find narcan where you live, click here.