Fentanyl is a drug that is fifty to one hundred times stronger than morphine. It is a synthetic pharmaceutical drug classified as an opioid pain reliever. Given this potency, users might wonder what is fentanyl used for. Doctors prescribe it to treat severe pain that can occur with cancer and surgery. Fentanyl is also used to treat breakthrough pain, intense pain flare-ups that occur even with narcotic treatment.
The drug works by blocking the brain’s pain receptors and increasing the supply of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that can induce happiness.
There are several different brand names and forms of fentanyl, such as Duragesic, Sublimaze, Abstral, Subsys, Lazanda, and Actiq. Users have also given fentanyl a number of nicknames, including China white, China girl, apache, TNT, dance fever, and crush.
When famous singer and songwriter Prince died in 2016, his toxicology report indicated that he had a high level of this drug in his body. He was only fifty-six and was still on top of his career. Similarly, singer and songwriter Tom Petty died at the age of sixty-six due to an overdose of different forms of fentanyl. The singer struggled with chronic pain and had a history of abusing opioid drugs.
Many illicit drugs are known to be highly addictive, and heroin is one of them. Heroin is a type of an opiate drug that brings strong effects in the brain’s reward system. Understanding how the brain works helps us to know why heroin is so addictive. The brain has a pathway called the limbic system which is responsible for giving feelings of pleasure and ease. There are chemicals and receptors that respond to each other in order to activate these pathways.
In a typical person, the reward system may be activated through a variety of activities such as getting a promotion, winning a game, or having a relationship. Heroin tries to rig this system by stimulating the release of dopamine in the brain in highly unnatural ways. The brain gets used to this strong sense of pleasure that it signals the user to keep on using the drug.
What Is Fentanyl and What Does It Do?
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies fentanyl as a Schedule II controlled drug. Some common brand names and effects of fentanyl include:
- Duragesic. This is a fentanyl patch that was first introduced in the 1990s. Its effects can last for about three days and the drug is prescribed to relieve moderate to severe pain.
- Abstral. Abstral comes in a tablet form that can be easily dissolved. Users place it under their tongues to obtain immediate relief. This drug is prescribed for opioid-tolerant patients suffering from breakthrough cancer pain.
- Actiq. This form of fentanyl is packaged on a plastic stick. Users place the drug in their mouths like lollipops. Patients utilize this brand for pain relief.
- Sublimaze. Doctors usually administer Sublimaze inside hospitals and often prescribe it with anesthetics. Sublimaze is an injectable fentanyl used to manage pain before and after surgeries.
- Lazanda. This is a fentanyl nasal spray used the way nasal decongestant sprays are used. Lazanda is used to relieve pain among cancer patients.
- Subsys. This is a sublingual spray placed under a person’s tongue to provide immediate pain relief. Doctors prescribe Subsys to patients with breakthrough cancer pain.
How Is Fentanyl Used Legally as a Prescription Medication?
When taken correctly, fentanyl is a legal substance used by patients to relieve pain. Given its effects, it is a highly controlled drug. Fentanyl is almost a hundred times stronger than morphine and about fifty times stronger than heroin. It is among the most potent opioid pain relievers. The growing concern about fentanyl use stems from numerous accounts showing the side effects of fentanyl and fentanyl patch side effects. This drug should be taken with caution, as these ill effects can occur when people abuse fentanyl and use it for nonmedical reasons.
If the drug is used properly, fentanyl can yield many benefits. It is a very potent opioid that can relieve severe pain. It is also utilized in other pain treatments within hospitals or communities.
When users take fentanyl as prescribed under medical supervision, they are less likely to experience serious problems. The likelihood of addiction and overdose decrease. People should use fentanyl with caution, though, since the difference between a deadly dose and a therapeutic dose can be slim. Fentanyl can depress the respiratory system and constrict the pupils. The relief it provides can occur within minutes after administration.
How and Why Has It Become a Common Illegally Abused Drug?
Given fentanyl’s potency, it can be potentially dangerous and fatal if abused. Addiction and overdose can occur when people:
- Intentionally misuse it
- Inappropriately prescribe it
- Inadequately monitor its use
- Improperly follow instructions about its use
Unfortunately, some users eventually develop tolerances to opioid medications. This will lead individuals to increase their dosage to feel the same effects they once experienced. If tolerance becomes a problem and people become incapacitated because they feel need the drug to function, it is necessary to seek immediate help.
When people have an overwhelming desire to obtain more fentanyl even though they no longer have a medical need for it, they could be addicted. Addiction can have a negative effect on all aspects of people’s lives – relationships, employment, health, and even behavior. People may abuse fentanyl because they want to feel the states of euphoria and relaxation that opioid drugs can provide. They do this regardless of the possible ill effects of fentanyl on the system.
Fentanyl patch abuse illustrates how people use and abuse the drug. The fentanyl patch slowly releases a powerful opioid painkiller. Users modify the patch to obtain quick fixes to get high. Some extract the drug from the patch and ingest, inject, or smoke the drug. Some people even use discarded patches since they still contain drug remnants on them.
Fentanyl Abuse and Effects
Public health officials and law enforcement authorities have issued many warnings about the immense potency of fentanyl as well as its addictive potential. Like other opioid pain relievers, it carries a massive risk for addiction.
Abusing fentanyl can damage all aspects of a person’s life. Drug abuse can rob individuals of happiness, good health, and well-being, creating problems such as:
- Job losses
- Sexual dysfunction
- Family problems
- Social isolation
- Legal trouble
- Damage to internal organs
- Relationship problems and loss of custody of children
- Overdoses and other health problems
Professional help is often needed to overcome the cycle of abuse. Rehab facilities can provide support to address dependency and the underlying causes that led to a person’s addiction. Seeking treatment at Mountain Springs Recovery can help people create the vibrant and healthy lives that they deserve.
Signs of Fentanyl Addiction
Some people believe that opioid pain relievers such as fentanyl cannot be addictive, which could be why some people intentionally or accidentally abuse them.
This drug impacts the brain and the central nervous system (CNS). Using fentanyl can increase the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which eventually alters the brain. These neurochemical changes can cause people to become dependent on the drug. Desperate for the drug, these dependent people might turn to illegal means to obtain fentanyl if they have already exhausted their prescriptions.
After developing tolerance to the drug’s narcotic properties, people depend on fentanyl to feel normal. But, this will require more of the substance or higher dosages of it to achieve the same feeling. Unfortunately, this can create a rapid escalation from abuse to full-blown addiction.
People must be careful when using this substance. If you suspect that you or someone you know is struggling with a fentanyl addiction, help them find the assistance they need to treat this condition.
Like other types of substance addiction, fentanyl addiction can change the way a person behaves. Common behavioral symptoms of fentanyl addiction include reckless, risky, or otherwise hazardous behaviors. A person hooked on this substance may have no regard for the possible consequences of being a daredevil or engaging in careless actions.
People who abuse fentanyl may act lethargic or sluggish. Since the drug makes the person relaxed, misusing it can make an individual act so slowly that he or she seems lifeless. Lying, secretive behavior, and using deception to cover actions are other behavioral symptom of fentanyl addictions. If users run out of fentanyl, they might devise mechanisms to obtain additional drugs. This is all too common in substance addiction.
Finally, people who struggle with fentanyl addiction often withdraw from friends and family. Many do not want their loved ones to see how their addictions have changed them. This fear may stem from the possibility that their loved ones might prod them to seek help.
Addiction to fentanyl can create a host of physical symptoms. Many of these symptoms are uncomfortable and can cause medical conditions. Physical symptoms of abusing the drug include slower heart rates, constipation, shallow or labored breathing, drowsiness, and gastrointestinal distress.
While some people may find these symptoms bearable, the consequences of these seemingly normal physical symptoms can harm the body. They can also interrupt a person’s daily routine. Shallow or labored breathing can make it difficult to perform certain tasks, for example. Feeling drowsy might hurt productivity at work or make it dangerous to drive a car.
Gastrointestinal distress can interrupt many activities. Other symptoms may be financially costly if people visit doctors or use different medicines to treat such symptoms. People can ease or even eliminate physical symptoms if they stop using fentanyl and live healthy, sober lives.
Cognitive symptoms are another effect of fentanyl addiction. Such symptoms generally begin subtly but can eventually impede a person’s quality of life. If this happens, it may become impossible for individuals to function normally in society. Fentanyl addiction may cause cognitive symptoms such as impaired judgment, confusion or disorientation, and problems focusing or concentrating.
If people exhibit Impaired judgment, they may act silly, inappropriate, or irresponsible and behave differently from how they behaved before. They may not have common sense or use good judgment. For example, they might try to walk across streets full of traffic or wear heavy clothes in hot weather.
People suffering from disorientation may not have a sense of direction and not know where they are going, or they may struggle with a state of mental confusion. Some studies have even reported that abusing opioid/opiate drugs such as fentanyl can cause brain damage and memory loss.
The word psychosocial refers to the psychological and social symptoms that influence a person’s mental health. Individuals struggling with fentanyl addiction may also struggle with social situations. They may find it hard to communicate effectively with others. Fentanyl addiction can cause the following psychosocial symptoms: mood swings, anxiety, paranoia, euphoria (intense happiness), or dysphoria (dissatisfaction or unease).
Mood swings are noticeable changes in a person’s emotional state. While most people experience mood swings from time to time, drug addiction might cause mood swings that so extreme, serious, and rapid that the mood swings interfere with their daily functioning. People’s moods might swing from happy to contemplative, or sad to angry, or vary in other ways.
Abusing fentanyl or other drugs may create feelings of anxiety, paranoia, euphoria, or dysphoria. People with anxiety feel extreme and uncomfortable fear even if the situations, events, places, or objects might appear nonthreatening to others. Paranoia includes fearful or anxious feelings that are related to perceived threats, persecution, or conspiracies. Euphoria refers to elation, while dysphoria is a state of dissatisfaction or unease.
Effects and Symptoms of Withdrawal from Fentanyl
People who abuse substances often develop physiological dependence on them. This means abruptly stopping their use can cause painful symptoms.
Withdrawing from fentanyl or other substances can cause considerable discomfort. Symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal and fentanyl patch withdrawal include:
- Aches and pains
- Runny nose
- Abdominal cramping
- Dilated pupils
No matter how uncomfortable these symptoms may be, they are better than overdosing on the drug or not treating an addiction. A fentanyl overdose can be life-threatening and may include the following symptoms:
- Poor coordination
- Slurred speech
- Slow breathing
- Cold, clammy skin
If any of the above symptoms occur, seek medical attention immediately.
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment
Going cold turkey from the use of fentanyl can be miserable. Going cold turkey means abruptly quitting drugs without using aids such as medication. People with fentanyl addictions have developed a dependence on the drug, so fentanyl withdrawals can be painful. Mountain Springs Recovery has specialized treatment for individuals going through withdrawal. Outpatient and inpatient programs are available to help people quit the drug and live sober lives.
Outpatient rehab involves multiple trips to treatment facilities for counseling and group therapy sessions. Patients opting for this treatment can continue to live at home during their recovery, so it may be less disruptive to their family, work, or school life. This treatment option generally costs less but it generally provides less support.
Inpatient rehab, on the other hand, requires patients to live inside facilities for their fentanyl addiction treatment. This option helps people avoid the influences and temptations in their usual routines that can trigger substance abuse again. The patients live in healthy environments to support their recovery.
While fentanyl withdrawal is generally not lethal, people are still vulnerable to possible relapse. Medical professionals thus need to supervise the detoxification (detox) process and help ease discomfort. Their help is also necessary to curb the odds of relapse. The severity of withdrawal symptoms varies and depends on the level of dependency and the substances being abused.
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You do not have to suffer from fentanyl addiction. If you are addicted to the drug, it is important that you do something about it.
It is critical to undergo comprehensive detoxification (detox) to treat fentanyl addiction. Detox involves flushing the physical presence of the drug from the users’ systems. The process aims to help people function normally again. Addressing addiction requires attention to both physical and psychological issues. Addressing both can help a person truly heal.
Help yourself, your friends, or your relatives regain their normal and healthy lives. Mountain Springs Recovery is only a phone call away. Our team is on standby to answer your questions.
Winning this struggle is possible. We are capable and experienced and can lend a helping hand.