Warning: The following post contains spoilers for episode two of HBO's Euphoria.
• On Sunday night's episode of Euphoria, Rue is forced to take a drug called fentanyl.• Fentanyl is a deadly synthetic opioid that's 80-100 times more potent than morphine.• Fentanyl use has been linked to the deaths of Tom Petty, Prince, and Lil Peep.
Once more unto the breach rode HBO’s Euphoria with its rampant teenage drug usage, raising the question: Which illicit substance is going to harm Zendaya’s character this week? The answer on episode two: fentanyl.
In maybe the most uncomfortable moment of the series so far, a drug dealer named Mouse drips a bit of the substance onto his knife and feeds it to a terrified Rue. She then slumps over onto the couch.
But what exactly is fentanyl? And could that small amount possibly kill her? Here's what to know about the dangerous drug.
What is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate, an opium-derived substance that binds to receptors in the brain and incites the release of certain neurotransmitters like dopamine. It can also bind to receptors in the nervous system and dull pain. (This is how drugs like morphine work.) The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) notes that fentanyl is around 80-100 times stronger than morphine. One common symptom associated with taking Fentanyl: euphoria.
When legally prescribed, Fentanyl can treat severe pain and can be given as a shot, a patch, or a lozenge. Illegally, the drug is often used as a powder, dripped onto paper or used in eyedroppers and nasal sprays, or made into pills.
The CDC reports that overdoses involving fentanyl have increased significantly since 2012. Though, increases were observed in all age groups, those particularly at risk were men between 25-34. Fentanyl is often mixed with and disguised as other drugs, meaning many users are unaware of what they're actually taking. National Institute on Drug Abuse data suggests that such drug mixing has led to overall increase in national overdoses involving opioids.
Overdoses occur when a user’s breathing slows and the brain is deprived of adequate oxygen. This deprivation can cause hypoxia and lead to permanent brain damage, coma, or death. Fentanyl is more powerful than heroine and only a small amount of it can be lethal. That means just the one drop Rue consumed last night could, indeed, kill her.
Fentanyl use has been linked to the deaths of Tom Petty, Prince, and Lil Peep.
After Rue takes a Fentanyl drop and her breathing slows, Fez immediately calls for Narcan, a prescription name for the drug naloxone, which is used to treat opioid overdoses by binding to opioid receptors and blocking the effects of the consumed drug.
He also should have called 9-1-1, which is one of the very first things you should do after witnessing an overdose—even if the user wakes up, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC provides an important breakdown of how to handle an overdose event, including how to recognize signs and symptoms like limpness, cold or clammy skin, and shallow breathing.
For general information on mental health and to locate treatment services in your area, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)