Over the last decade, drug overdose deaths have increased significantly across the United States. The CDC claims that approximately 91,800 Americans have died due to drug overdose in 2020. A startling 75% (68,630) of these overdoses were caused by synthetic opioids, like morphine and codeine. A common type of synthetic opioid that you have probably heard or seen on the news is fentanyl. Fentanyl was originally FDA-approved for chronic pain relief among cancer and surgery patients. Now, it’s a popular illicitly manufactured drug on the drug market that’s responsible for thousands of deaths every year. A dose as low as 2 milligrams can be fatal, because the drug is estimated to be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and heroin.
In an attempt to decrease the number of annual fentanyl overdose deaths, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards recently passed a law specifically regarding penalties for fentanyl-related crimes. Below, our legal team discusses the dangers and criminal consequences associated with this synthetic opioid.
If you are facing a fentanyl-related drug charge, you need strong legal representation on your side. Baton Rouge drug crime lawyers at the Law Offices of Ossie Brown have been protecting and defending their clients’ legal rights since 1984. Allow us to fight for the best case outcome on your behalf. Call 225-343-1111 to schedule a free consultation with our legal team today.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that was originally approved by the FDA in 1998 to treat severe pain and cancer. Fentanyl is also considered a Schedule II controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This type of synthetic opioid is approximately 50 times stronger than heroin and approximately 100 times stronger than morphine.
There are two main types of this synthetic opioid: pharmaceutical fentanyl and illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a prescription that post-surgery or cancer patients receive from doctors.
Meanwhile, illicitly manufactured fentanyl is often distributed illegally on the drug market. It can be in the form of a powder or a liquid. Illegal drug dealers commonly mix fentanyl with other illicit drugs – like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine – to make its effects more potent. Illicit drugs like this are often manufactured in Mexico, and they’re linked to thousands of fatal and nonfatal overdoses on an annual basis.
Street Names for Fentanyl
Common street names for illicitly manufactured fentanyl include:
- Dance Fever
- Murder 8
- Tango & Cash
- China Girl
- China Town
- China White
- Great Bear
How Does Fentanyl Affect the Body?
Similarly to other synthetic opioids, fentanyl can create feelings of euphoria, chronic pain relief, confusion, drowsiness, relaxation, and dizziness. Users may also experience nausea, vomiting, pupillary constriction, and urinary retention.
Is Fentanyl Addictive?
Yes, fentanyl carries a high risk of addiction because of how potent it is. Even the smallest doses of fentanyl can create major effects in the body, which is why both illicit drug users and patients experience major withdrawal symptoms.
Fentanyl and Overdose
Fentanyl overdoses and deaths have been on the rise in the U.S. over the last few years. The DEA believes this is because drug traffickers are looking to increase their profits by mixing the dangerous drug with other drugs. Tragically, some people don’t even know that they’re ingesting fentanyl until they begin exhibiting symptoms of overdose.
How Many People Die From Fentanyl Overdose Every Year?
Approximately 70,601 fentanyl overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2021. This number has nearly doubled since 2019. The CDC states that fentanyl overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 45.
The fentanyl death rate has also been on the rise in Louisiana over the last several years. In 2021, almost 1,000 Louisianans died from fentanyl overdose. This number has increased by more than 200% since 2016.
Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Overdose
As previously stated, it doesn’t take much to overdose on fentanyl, which is why accidental overdose deaths are so common. In fact, the DEA states that only 2 milligrams can be fatal depending on the person’s body weight and tolerance level. The DEA also says that it has found up to 5 milligrams of fentanyl in a variety of counterfeit pills, which is more than double the potentially fatal dose.
Signs and symptoms of fentanyl overdose can include:
- Very small pupils
- Respiratory depression
- Slow and/or weak pulse
- Limpness and weakness in the body
- Losing consciousness and/or falling asleep
- Cold and clammy skin
- Discoloration in the lips and nail beds
- Gurgling or choking sounds
What To Do if Someone Has Overdosed on Fentanyl
If you notice that anyone is exhibiting the aforementioned symptoms, it’s crucial to act fast because a fentanyl overdose can quickly lead to cardiac arrest and death. Be sure to take the following steps:
- Call 911.
- If you have naloxone, give it to your loved one immediately. Naloxone is a drug that can reverse a synthetic opioid overdose if it’s administered in a timely manner. It can work for overdoses caused by fentanyl, heroin, and other prescription opioids. Naloxone comes in the form of a nasal spray and an injectable solution. Anyone can administer this medication without previous training.
- If you can, try to keep the person awake. Make sure they keep breathing.
- Make sure to roll the person on their side to keep them from choking.
- Do not leave the person until emergency medical personnel arrive.
Is Fentanyl Illegal in Louisiana?
Yes. The possession, distribution, possession with intent to distribute, and manufacturing of all controlled substances is illegal in the state of Louisiana. Offenders can face felony charges, lengthy jail sentences, and hefty fines.
Penalties for Possessing or Distributing Fentanyl in Louisiana
In the last year, Governor John Bel Edwards has signed a bill into law specifically regarding the criminal penalties for possessing, distributing, and manufacturing fentanyl in Louisiana.
As of August 1, 2022, anyone who possesses, distributes, or manufactures fentanyl (or any drugs containing trace amounts of fentanyl) will spend 5 to 40 years in prison at hard labor. They will also face a maximum fine of $50,000.
Anyone who knowingly misrepresents or incorrectly markets a drug or product containing fentanyl as something else will face the following penalties:
- A maximum fine of $100,000 or the full street value of the drug, whichever is greater.
- 3 years will be added onto the minimum and maximum prison sentence mentioned previously. In other words, offenders can face 8 to 43 years in prison at hard labor.
Potential Defenses for a Fentanyl Charge
If you are facing a fentanyl charge in Louisiana, it’s crucial to hire strong legal representation. Baton Rouge drug crime lawyers at the Law Offices of Ossie Brown can carefully review the details of your case and help you build a strong defense. Listed below are potential drug crime defenses that we can use in your favor.
- Illegal Search and Seizure: If police officers didn’t have probable cause to engage in search and seizure, then our legal team can possibly use this defense in your favor.
- The Fentanyl Isn’t Yours: If you have sufficient evidence to prove that the fentanyl in question is not yours and not related to you in any way, then our criminal defense lawyers could use this defense in your favor.
- Entrapment: Lastly, if you have evidence to prove that a police officer framed you or induced you to commit a fentanyl-related offense, then we can potentially use the entrapment defense in your favor.
It’s important to note that these defenses may not clear your name entirely. Instead, these defenses could result in a lesser charge or sentence.
Call Baton Rouge Drug Crime Lawyers at The Law Offices of Ossie Brown Today
If you are facing a fentanyl-related charge in the state of Louisiana, you need an aggressive team of criminal defense lawyers on your side. The legal team at The Law Offices of Ossie Brown has decades of combined experience in protecting and defending clients charged with various drug crimes. We can help you achieve the best case outcome possible while protecting your legal rights. Call 225-343-1111 to schedule a free consultation with a Baton Rouge drug crime lawyer today.