Opioid crisis places spotlight on powerful drug fentanyl


When pop star Prince died from a drug overdose in 2016, it was later revealed that he took a counterfeit pill he thought was Vicodin. But it was actually laced with Fentanyl.

“You can die immediately from one dose of Fentanyl, it’s that powerful. That’s the risk factor,” said Brenda Iliaff, executive director at the Hazelden Betty Ford Rehabilitation Center.

Iliaff says Fentanyl is a powerful drug used for severe pain. And in 2016, it caused one third of all overdose deaths across the country.

“Where we’re seeing Fentanyl, it’s coming from China and it’s being laced into other drugs, so when you’re on the streets and you’re buying heroin or cocaine or even a Xanex, it could be laced with Fentanyl,” Iliaff said.

Prince’s death placed a spotlight on the opioid crisis in 2016, becoming the deadliest drug crisis in U.S. history, and making the search for a solution more dire than ever.

“It’s so cheap that you may think you’re getting heroin and you are getting a little heroin and a lot of Fentanyl, which can kill you,” Iliaff said.

She adds that she’s seen a rapid increase in drug abuse around SWFL with her own patients, and many of their addictions started after a routine hospital stay.

“Anytime someone has access to pain pills, the likelihood of addiction is greater,” Iliaff said.

But the best way the avoid addiction is to avoid narcotics altogether.

“You can go to a pharmacist and if you only want to fill three days of pills, only fill three days of pills. You don’t have to fill the whole 60 days,” Iliaff said.

Last month, Gov. Scott signed an opioid bill into law, creating a three-day limit on prescriptions of the powerful drugs for patients. He also set aside more than $50 million to fight the crisis.

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