What is fentanyl? The drug which caused the death of rapper Coolio explained plus overdose symptoms

The drug is legal, but it should only be taken if prescribed by a medical professional as it can be lethal

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It has been revealed that US rapper Coolio, who died last September at the age of 59, passed away due to the effects of a drug called fentanyl. The Los Angeles County coroner confirmed the late star’s cause of death today, and his manager Jarez Posey said that his family had been informed of the findings. Posey also told TMZ that the rapper had traces of heroin and methamphetamines in his system also at the time of his death.

Coolio, whose real name was Artis Leon Ivey Jr, was best known for winning a Grammy for best solo rap performance for his 1995 iconic track Gangsta’s Paradise. Fans were left in shock when news of his death broke on 28 September 2022.

Now that his cause of death has been revealed, people have been left questioning exactly what fentanyl is, why it’s dangerous and what the symptoms of an overdose of this drug are. Here are the answers you need.

What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is an extremely strong opioid painkiller, according to the NHS. It's used to treat a patients’ severe pain, for example during or after an operation or a serious injury, or pain from cancer. It can also be used to treat long-term pain when other methods are no longer effective. The drug Fentanyl is only available only on prescription and comes in four forms, which are patches to be put on the skin, lozenges and tablets that dissolve in the mouth, nasal spray and injections.

Why is fentanyl dangerous?

Too much fentanyl can be very dangerous and it can even be fatal. It is also possible to become addicted to fentanyl as, even when taking the recommended dose, if you need to take it for a long time your body can become tolerant to it and that means you will need to take a higher dosage to reduce pain. The drug is so strong that it is hard to determine the difference between an acceptable dose and a dangerous dose, which is why it is a drug that should only be taken if prescribed by a medical professional. It is known, however, that drug dealers often mix fentanyl with other illegal drugs, such as heroin, because it is cheaper to buy but also very strong.

The rapper Coolio, who died in September 2022.The rapper Coolio, who died in September 2022.
The rapper Coolio, who died in September 2022.

What are the side effects of fentanyl?

There are common side effects of fentanyl, which people who use the drug are more likely to experience, and also more serious side effects, which users are less likely to experience, according to the NHS. Common side effects happen in more than 1 in 100 people. They are:

  • constipation

  • feeling or being sick 

  • stomach pain

  • feeling sleepy or tired

  • feeling dizzy or a sensation of spinning

  • confusion

  • headaches

  • itching or skin rashes

Serious side effects happen in less than 1 in 100 people. People are advised to call their doctor if they experience any of these symptoms:

  • your muscles feel stiff for no obvious reason

  • you feel dizzy, tired and have low energy 

If the body has become used to having fentanyl in the system, you may experience withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking it. If a person stops taking fentanyl suddenly it can make them:

  • feel agitated

  • feel anxious

  • shaky

  • sweat a lot

What are the symptoms of fentanyl overdose?

There are a few signs that a person may have overdosed on fentanyl, and while it is not always fatal there is a chance it could be. The amount of the drug that can lead to an overdose varies from person to person, however. If a person has taken too much of the drug they may feel very sleepy, sick or dizzy. They may also find it difficult to breathe. In more serious cases they may even become unconscious and may need emergency hospital treatment.

The NHS advises that people should call 999 and ask for emergency care straight away if they’ve taken too much fentanyl and find it difficult to breathe, if they or someone else has swallowed a fentanyl patch, or if they have a fit or seizure. 

Has fentanyl been linked to any other deaths?

Fentanyl has been linked to other deaths, including the untimely passing of other stars. In 2021, actor Michael K Williams took fentanyl-laced heroin which resulted in his death. Williams, best known for his role as Omar Little on The Wire, died at the age of 54 in September 2021. A drug dealer has since pleaded guilty to giving the fentanyl-laced heroin to Williams.

It was also reported that some people insist that narcotics were found on Gangsta Boo when she was found dead in January this year, and that they believe that a fentanyl-laced substance was a contributing factor to her death. Boo, whose real name was Lola Mitchell, was found dead on 1 January at the age of 43. No official cause of death has been revealed.

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