A couple of months ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to public health departments, health professionals, and others over the increased use of fentanyl and fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths across the United States. This is the same drug that claimed Prince’s life.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid that was first developed in the 1960s. Being a strong painkiller, fentanyl is used for breakthrough pain that doesn’t respond to conventional painkillers. It’s also used to treat severe chronic pain.
Fentanyl works by mimicking the body’s natural endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that block pain receptors to the brain. Fentanyl is fifty times more potent than heroin and a hundred times stronger than morphine.
A study conducted by the CDC discovered that fentanyl is a driving force behind a drug epidemic where more than 47,000 people died in 2014.
Fentanyl has been illegally manufactured in China and Mexico, where it’s used in place of heroin without the buyer’s’ knowledge. Also, Fentanyl is available in the form of pills, nasal sprays, and gel tabs designed to look like common medication such as OxyContin and Xanax.
People are abusing fentanyl without knowing as fake OxyContin pills; others are abusing heroin laced with fentanyl, while a huge percentage is abusing fentanyl knowing of its lethal consequences.
What Does Fentanyl Do To The Brain?
Fentanyl crosses the blood- brain barrier and binds to the brain’s opioid receptors. This leads to euphoria and analgesia. Unlike morphine, which takes a while to bind with the receptors, fentanyl rapidly binds with the receptors thus creating the euphoric feeling in minutes.
Fentanyl also has great potency compared to other opioids. This means that it has fatal consequences even at lower doses.
How is Fentanyl Used Legally?
A physician can prescribe fentanyl via injection, as lozenges, or through a transdermal patch. Being a central nervous system depressant, fentanyl relaxes the body and brain. Fentanyl is prescribed to cancer patients and those in extreme pain after surgery.
Where Does Fentanyl Come From?
All traces of fentanyl from 2005 have been traced to a single lab in Mexico. Other cases of fentanyl have been traced to China where it’s then shipped to the U.S. and Canada in different forms. The lab in Mexico was shut down and this led to a decline in production. However, the number of illegal manufacturers has since increased.
The decision to redesign OxyContin to make it hard to abuse has also led to a rise in the use of fentanyl. Fentanyl can fast become an epidemic drug if not stopped soon. The government has introduced diplomatic and legal measures to prevent the spread of fentanyl.
Short-Term Effects of Fentanyl
Fentanyl has similar side effects as heroin. Some of the short-term effects of fentanyl use include:
- Reduced pain
Individuals looking to reduce pain and relax will abuse fentanyl by taking it without prescription, mixing it with other drugs, or using high doses. All these can be fatal.
Other Side Effects of Fentanyl
- Slow breathing rate.
- Itchy skin.
Symptoms of Fentanyl Overdose
Taking fentanyl can cause a life-threatening overdose. The reason fentanyl leads to overdose is because it’s incredibly potent. Fentanyl was made to help individuals who’ve become tolerant to other painkillers such as OxyContin.
Tolerance is a problem in people struggling with narcotic addiction. Over time, the brain and body gets used to the drug. Failing to take the drug regularly leads to withdrawal symptoms. In turn, this makes them increase the amount of fentanyl they take to reduce these withdrawal symptoms.
Taking another dose of fentanyl means the person takes much more than what was prescribed. This can lead to an overdose and in some cases, death.
Some of the symptoms and signs to watch out for include:
- Fainting and dizziness.
- Cardiac arrest.
- Difficult, shallow breathing.
- Intense Fatigue.
- Severe Confusion
- Unresponsiveness to painful stimuli
- Trouble swallowing.
Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl
When one has abused fentanyl, he/she may suffer from long-term psychosocial effects. You’ll notice that this person will exhibit signs of poor judgment both in their personal and career life.
Some of the long-term effects of this opioid painkiller are:
- Harm to relationships and personal life.
- Worse mental conditions such as frequent mood changes and depression.
- Increased risk of death.
- Increased risk of anoxic injury.
- Reducing Fentanyl Dependency
Using any drug for an extended period makes the body tolerant, and for one to achieve the same high, a higher dose of the drug is required. It is, therefore, important to combat this by avoiding abuse of fentanyl for recreational use. It’s also essential to strictly follow the instructions given if fentanyl has been prescribed for your pre-existing condition.
It’s important to note that some people may become addicted to fentanyl without ever abusing it. This means that they only follow the instructions provided by the physician. However, they can become addicted to the drug on a physical level.
In such a case, the doctor can help the person wean off the drug without further treatment. For a person who uses fentanyl to escape from life, this type of addiction has both psychological and physical effects. Such a person requires drug rehabilitation to recover.
Getting Help for Fentanyl Addiction
People struggling with fentanyl addiction need to seek help to detox and overcome their addiction from a professional treatment facility. The emergence of the illicit market puts people dependent on fentanyl at great risk of overdose and death. Going to an addiction treatment program helps the person understand the psychological, biological, and environmental causes of their addiction. With proper rehabilitative care, an individual can develop coping mechanisms for stress and cravings.
Fentanyl abuse and addiction is deadly. It’s critical to reach out for help immediately if you or someone close to you is struggling with this addiction. If you’re stuck and need professional help, the compassionate and experienced staff at Beachside Rehab will help you get treatment comfortably and safely. Learn more about our treatment options.