Understanding Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and powerful painkiller. As a medicine, fentanyl is normally prescribed to those grappling with severe pain–especially after a major surgery but it is also used as a treatment for those who have a high tolerance to other opioid medications.

In the range of other prescription painkillers, fentanyl is particularly unmatched. According to the DEA fentanyl is 80-100 times more powerful than morphine.5 This figure can be hard for people to wrap their heads around–especially considering the negative press around fentanyl.

Powerful drugs like fentanyl and hydromorphone can cause overdose and even death if used outside of medical supervision–and yet fentanyl abuse and overdose has skyrocketed in recent years.

According to recent figures, “Fentanyl is a factor in more half of overdose deaths”

More on Fentanyl

In the US, Fentanyl is listed as a Schedule II drug. This means that while it has medicinal use, it carries a significant risk of abuse and can in certain cases cause physical and psychological dependency.

Fentanyl Comes in a Variety of Brand Names and Forms

Actiq: Atiq comes as a flavored lozenge. It is traditionally given to individuals to treat pain associated with cancer.

Duragesic: Duragesic is a fentanyl patch given to people with opioid tolerance. It is not prescribed as a solution to constant pain or moderate pain symptoms. It is designed to be worn directly on the skin and replaced every 72 hours.

Sublimize: Sublimaze is an injectable form of fentanyl designed to be administered in a hospital setting by a medical professional for treatment of severe pain both in and out of surgery.

Subsys: Subsys is a sublingual medication sprayed under the tongue. It used as an alternative to Actiq for management of cancer pain.

Abstral: Abstral is a quick-dissolve tablet or spray used to treat mild to moderate short-term pain symptoms included but not limited to headaches, migraines, and medical surgery.

Lazanda: Lazanda is a nasal spray used to treat cancer pain. It is available in three different strengths (100 mcg, 300mcg and 500mcg) and can be taken every 2 hours.

On the street, fentanyl is also known as, Apache, TNT, Crush, China Girl, and Dance Fever.

Fentanyl Abuse and Its Consequences

The belief that synthetic opioids are generally safer than illicit drugs like heroin makes the abuse of these substances all the more dangerous. For example, if a person believes their medication to be safe, they may be more inclined to take more without consulting their doctor. They may also ignore the signs of opioid dependency even when the signs are clear.

The unfortunate truth, is that Fentanyl misuse can cause several physical and mental health problems including:

  • Euphoria
  • Feelings of relaxation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Fainting
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Itching
  • Anxiety

Fentanyl abuse effects everyone differently, but those using fentanyl without an existing tolerance to opioids can experience side-effects that are dangerous and even fatal.

Fentanyl can be made in illegal labs and sold on the street where it can be sold at various levels of potency. It can also be cut with other illicit substances to increase its overall potency. Those purchasing fentanyl or other drugs on the black market should be aware of the real risk of overdose.

“Anyone who uses powdered drugs or takes pills that were not given to them by a pharmacy should assume they contain fentanyl” 
Dr. Alan Melnick, Public health Director, Clark County, Oregon

Fentanyl Addiction Signs and Symptoms

Opioid addiction has now reached epidemic levels in the US and is being primarily driven by the rise in prescription painkiller misuse.

Once in your system fentanyl, as an opioid agonist, floods the central nervous system blocking pain signals in the body. At the same time, neurochemical changes are taking place in the brain causing the characteristic opioid high which produces feelings of relaxation, intense pleasure, and euphoria.

These changes mostly revolve around the creation of dopamine in the brain. Drugs like fentanyl that produce large amounts of dopamine wire the brain to seek more of the drug. This can have profound changes on behavior such as:

  • Uncontrollable urges to use the substance
  • Physical and psychological withdrawals when not using the substance
  • Faking symptoms or forging prescriptions to get more of the drug
  • Prioritizing obtaining the drug over personal health or financial well-being
  • Missing work, school, or family obligations
  • Beginning to experience legal troubles due to drug use

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

Regular use of Fentanyl can result in powerful physical and psychological dependency. In such cases, attempts to quit cold turkey will likely be derailed by withdrawals and powerful urges to continue using. Alternatively, medical detox programs for fentanyl abuse can provide crucial services like:

  • 24/7 medical support
  • Medication assistance
  • Nutritional support
  • A secure drug-free facility

Regaining Control is Just a Phone Call Away

Opioid addiction doesn’t have to be a lifelong illness. With treatment and counseling it is possible to quit drugs like fentanyl and take back control of your life.

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