What is Fentanyl?
Since President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, the drug fentanyl has been brought up in the news a lot more. Yet, there are many people that lack an understanding of this drug and its presence in the lives of many Americans. While there are many drugs that fall under opioids, fentanyl is one of the most problematic. Fentanyl is reportedly even more dangerous than heroin since data released from 2016 found fentanyl to be the opioid causing the most drug overdoses. Deaths (drug overdoses) from fentanyl were up 540% in three years. This drug is a danger people need to know about.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, or painkiller, that was first developed in the 1960s. The properties are similar to morphine but fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent. It’s also 30-50 times more potent than heroin. It is a schedule II prescription drug. Doctors mainly prescribe fentanyl to cancer patients, patients experiencing severe pain, or to manage pain after surgery. In surgery, doctors use fentanyl to help prevent pain after the surgery is over. Sometimes fentanyl is prescribed to people suffering from chronic pain who have become tolerant to other opioids. Fentanyl, in its legal form, is known as Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze®. Street names for fentanyl include Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, TNT, and Tango and Cash.
How is Fentanyl Taken?
People most commonly take fentanyl via injection, transdermal patches, and as lozenges (generally lollipops). An increase in drug overdoses via fentanyl is largely due to the production of illicit forms of the drug. All over the world clandestine labs produce these illicit forms to sell illegally throughout the United States. Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl sold illegally includes powdered substances, spiked on blotter paper, mixed with or substituted for heroin, or as tablets. People using fentanyl in these forms can swallow, snort, or inject the fentanyl or place the blotter paper in their mouths absorbing it through the mucous membrane. These clandestine labs produce fentanyl in pill form to look like OxyContin and Xanax pills. Unfortunately, because of these similarities, many people suffer a higher risk of overdose.
Why is Fentanyl Dangerous?
One of the biggest factors in the lethality of fentanyl is its high potency. The potency of fentanyl is so high, and deadly, that a microgram amount has the ability to kill someone. Additionally, many people take drugs like cocaine, heroin, and OxyContin completely unaware that they’re mixed with fentanyl. These mixtures amplify the potency and potential dangers of all drugs and create a higher risk for overdoses. As an opioid, fentanyl also affects the breathing rate of users. This is due to opioid receptors found in areas of the brain that control breathing. Thus, fentanyl has the chance of stopping a user’s breathing which potentially leads to death. When an overdose of fentanyl occurs doctors and first responders use the medication, naloxone, to save lives. Naloxone is an opioid receptor antagonist that reverses an opioid overdose and restores normal respiration.
Signs of Fentanyl Abuse
Since fentanyl has a higher potency than most opioids, symptoms of abuse show up faster. There are many common signs and symptoms of fentanyl abuse. Signs and symptoms include the following:
- Difficulty walking
- Muscle stiffness
- Slowed/altered heart rate.
- Labored breathing
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting
- Slurred speech
- Weight loss
- Visual hallucinations
- Nausea and vomiting
- Itching & scratching
- Pinpoint pupils
Fentanyl has the ability to cause unconsciousness, comas, and even death. So, these signs and symptoms warrant serious attention. A person with a long-term fentanyl problem experiences even more severe effects. These include gastrointestinal problems, a weakened immune system, respiratory problems, and seizures. A long-term user is more at risk of experiencing respiratory failure, a coma, and death. Learn more about fentanyl abuse here.
It’s important to realize that someone struggling with an addiction to fentanyl or any opioid needs immediate help. One of the best and most successful forms of kicking an addiction is going through an immersive rehabilitation program. At Meridian Treatment Solutions, we provide our clients with a life-changing experience by treating the mind, body, and soul.
Facts provided by National Institute on Drug Abuse