Fentanyl has become a popular drug over the years, but not in a good way. It is a safe drug in the hands of health care professionals, but even then, it still gets misused.
People can get addicted to fentanyl in many ways. People can make designer fentanyl analogs that look similar to the original drug. Others mix it with heroin, another highly addictive narcotic.
It’s not too late; people suffering from opioid addiction can find the help and resources they need to treat their condition.
But what exactly is fentanyl, and how does it impact a person’s health and life?
What Is Fentanyl?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl is one of the most potent opioid pain relievers available for medical use. Because it’s a synthetic opioid, it’s 50 times more potent than heroin and a hundred times more than morphine.
Fentanyl is a Schedule II drug used to manage pain after surgery and for chronic or severe pain treatment. Doctors would often prescribe it to patients with a tolerance for other opioids, such as morphine and hydrocodone.
Many drug companies mix heroin with fentanyl to increase its potency. Others sell it as just heroin, making users think they are using pure heroin. These practices have led to an increase in overdose and deaths over the past few years.
What Is Fentanyl For?
Clinicians use fentanyl in different ways, depending on its medical use. It is always administered under the supervision of a doctor in these forms:
- Intramuscular shot
- Patches for the skin
- Lozenges that look like cough drops
- Oral or nasal sprays
Because of its simplicity, the patch form is most commonly used for at-home or outpatient treatment. It slowly releases the drug through the skin into the bloodstream in 20 to 72 hours.
There are legitimate prescriptions and legal medications for recreational use. However, illicit fentanyl is available in the U.S. in the form of:
- Pressed pills
- Blotter paper
- Nasal sprays
The Dangers of Fentanyl Addiction
Fentanyl and its analogs are extremely strong and highly addictive, making accidental overdoses common. Many people mix these analogs or substitute them for heroin, increasing the risk of an overdose and death.
Fentanyl addiction is partly responsible for the rise in drug overdoses each year. The rise in overdoses caused by drugs was almost twice the rate in 2010 and 2018 when 67,367 Americans died. 31, 335 of these people died from a fentanyl overdose. Fentanyl is now one of the leading causes of death from a drug overdose.
Risks of Fentanyl Use
Fentanyl negatively affects the brain. It works just like other opioid medications like heroin and morphine by binding to opioid receptors in the brain that control pain and emotion.
Some of the short-term effects of fentanyl use include:
- Extreme happiness
- Going in and out of consciousness
- Slow breathing or breathing problems
- Constricted pupils
- Itching or warm or hot sensations on the skin
Long-term use of fentanyl can cause the brain to adapt to opioids over time, decreasing its sensitivity. This makes it difficult for addicts to feel satisfaction or pleasure from anything other than the drug. Drug use can overtake their lives and lead to drug-seeking behaviors.
Overdosing on fentanyl can lead to death in as fast as 2 minutes. Suddenly stopping its use can lead to withdrawal symptoms within 12 hours of the last dose, lasting up to a week. Some of the withdrawal symptoms addicts may experience include:
- Severe, general pain
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose
- Hot and cold flashes
- Diarrhea and vomiting
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment: What Does It Look Like?
Fentanyl addiction is a growing problem in the United States. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2 million Americans aged 12 and over have an opioid addiction.
Not all is lost for fentanyl addicts, though, as people can still get treatment for fentanyl addiction.
According to Haven House Recovery, a recovery center in Santa Rosa Beach, many drug and alcohol treatment centers offer step-by-step programs that help those suffering from addiction. Many of them will begin the detox process with a medically-supervised taper. A fentanyl overdose usually involves the immediate administration of Naloxone to block its effects. Patients can then move on to the next level of care based on each facility’s program.
These programs provide patients with the tools and support they need to succeed and aid them in their journey to recovery.
Fentanyl is one of the most potent opioid pain medications available, but it’s prone to misuse. Many people make analogs of the drug or sell it as heroin, which has increased drug overdose-related deaths in the past few years.
People suffering from fentanyl addiction can still seek treatment. Many rehabilitation centers offer step-by-step programs to help address their needs and provide the support they need to recover.