The results of Mac Miller’s autopsy have been released and the late rapper had the dangerous opioid fentanyl in his system when he died. A doctor tells us why the drug is so deadly.
The deadly opioid fentanyl is behind the passing of yet another musician. Mac Miller had the drug in his system along with alcohol and cocaine when the 26-year-old suffered a fatal overdose on Sept. 7. Dr. Dominic Sirianni, CEO of Delphi Behavioral Health Group tells us why that combination is so lethal. “Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and using along with fentanyl (more than 50x stronger than heroin) which relaxes the body so much that it can stop breathing is a dangerous and often-lethal combination. Because fentanyl is so potent, it can leave very little leeway for the amount taken to be non-fatal or fatal. If using with cocaine, the cocaine gives the body a rush, allowing for additional time for fentanyl use and to have the user not able to feel the full effect the fentanyl is having right away,” he explains.
“Fentanyl relaxes you so much that you stop breathing. It is also possible for someone to vomit and be unable to turn themselves, resulting in choking. Because many users think they are using heroin or have experience with heroin, they are unable to properly gauge what is a lethal dose,” he continues.
Fentanyl has been linked to the deaths of such music icons as Prince and Tom Petty, both of whom were using it as a prescribed painkiller for injuries suffered over a lifetime of stage performances. But even just one dose of the drug can be lethal. “Using fentanyl just once can result in death. However, someone who is experiencing chronic relapse is able to overdose more easily because their tolerance system isn’t built up to a sustained amount of the drug. Chronic relapsers also have an unsteady supply and easily overshoot the dose their body is used to, because it is changing constantly. Many people who overdose on fentanyl mistake the substance for heroin or are used to taking heroin, and with fentanyl being so much stronger, it can lead to easily overdosing,” Dr. Sirianni explains.
It’s unclear if Mac was a regular user of Fentanyl, but the drug is highly addictive and hard to kick. “Fentanyl is addictive because it stimulates the reward pathway in the brain. The users’ body and brain recognize this as positive, building physical dependency to the substance. To discontinue use would bring the user into withdrawal, that is very uncomfortable and can last about 7-10 days (feeling sweating, vomiting, anxiety, and sleeplessness). Part of the addiction is also knowing that taking the substance will stop or prevent these feelings,” Dr. Sirianni tells us. It’s just so sad the world has lost another talent to this deadly drug.
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