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Why Fentanyl is so Dangerous

Drug Detox , Drug Rehab Alexa Iocco | November 24, 2021

Why Fentanyl is so Dangerous Resurgence Behavioral Health

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic (manmade) opioid that is given for relief from serious pain, usually provided after surgery or if a person with cancer or chronic severe pain has become tolerant to opioids. Its effects are comparable to morphine, but it is much stronger. Common brand names include:

  • Actiq – a lozenge on a stick like a lollipop, to be placed under the tongue
  • Duragesic – a fentanyl patch for moderate to severe pain that lasts up to 3 days
  • Sublimaze – an injectable form of fentanyl, usually given in hospital settings before and after surgery
  • Subsys – a sublingual spray, usually for treating pain in cancer patients
  • Abstal – a quick-dissolve tablet that is placed under the tongue
  • Lazanda – a nasal spray, usually given to cancer patients

Illicit use of fentanyl is growing at an alarming rate in North America and Europe. Among the over 70200 overdose deaths in 2017, over 28400 were caused by fentanyl.

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When given by a doctor, fentanyl is often given as a shot, a slow-release patch that goes on a person’s skin, or provided as a lozenge that can be sucked on, but when it is illegally made in labs, it is sold as a powder, put into eye droppers or nasal sprays, formed into pills, or even sold as drops on blotter paper. Some people even scrape the gel from prescription topical patches to inject, ingest or smoke.

Some of the common street names given to fentanyl (or fentanyl-laced heroin) include:

  • Apache
  • China white, China Town or China Girl
  • Dance fever
  • Goodfellas
  • Great Bear
  • He-Man
  • Poison
  • Tango & Cash
  • Friend
  • Jackpot
  • Murder 8
  • TNT

Fentanyl works by binding to the center in your brain that affects pain and emotions, causing you to feel a euphoria comparable to a heroin high, along with nausea, confusion, and sedation. It depresses the nervous system and respiratory function, providing a relaxed feeling that can become dangerous if it causes your breathing rate to slow down too much.

The Facts About Fentanyl

Some important things to know about Fentanyl:

  • Fentanyl is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and hundreds of times more potent than heroin
  • Fentanyl is odorless and tasteless, and you cannot see it, so it is often mixed into or passed off as other drugs, putting users at risk of overdose
  • Drug abuse can easily lead to overdose due to its high potency, and it, along with other synthetic opioids are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths
  • Fentanyl binds to the same receptors in the brain that control pain and emotion, changing your brain chemistry

The Dangers of Fentanyl Use

On top of the ease with which one can develop a drug addiction to fentanyl, it is also dangerous because:

  • There is an extremely high danger of overdosing each time you use it.
  • You never know exactly what you are getting when you buy any illegal drugs including fentanyl. There may be additives that can cause permanent internal damage even if you do not overdose.
  • Impaired judgment can put you at risk, especially if you share needles
  • Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin and can be lethal in very small doses, as little as 0.25 milligrams can kill you.
  • Use of fentanyl can cause long-term damage to respiratory and cardiovascular systems
  • It use can also cause brain damage and cognitive defects
  • Constipation can cause serious digestion and stomach issues
  • You may develop collapsed veins, scarring, track marks, and skin abscesses at injection sites
  • Mental health issues may be exacerbated or may develop due to drug abuse and addiction, and decision making, behavior control, and responses to stress are altered.

Fentanyl is a cheap drug to produce illegally and ends up being mixed into methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and MDMA to increase drug producer and dealer profits. Many drug dealers will create “fentapills”, pressing it, along with other substances, into pill shapes and selling them as designer drugs or prescription medications. As these dealers don’t have any means for quality control, the amount of fentanyl in each pill can vary and easily be a toxic amount. This can be a deadly problem for the user, especially if they do not realize it is in their drugs, resulting in an overdose, as their body cannot handle the stronger opioid. For this reason, it is not ever recommended to buy or take random pills.

It is also important to note that you can overdose if you use somebody else’s fentanyl patch, as each person’s body reacts differently to the drug.

Short-Term Effects of Fentanyl Use

Using fentanyl for any amount of time affects the brain. It binds to the opioid receptors that control pain and emotion. The brain adapts to having the drug in these receptors and ends up unable to produce pleasure from anything other than the drug. This causes addiction.

Along with the feelings of euphoria and well-being fentanyl can temporarily produce, the short-term effects of it include:

  • Mellowness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Confusion and dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Itching and scratching
  • Shaking
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness and sedation
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Swollen arms or legs
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep problems
  • Slurred speech
  • Hallucination
  • Urine retention
  • Problems breathing (may sound like snoring)
  • Unconsciousness

Fentanyl Overdose

The risk of overdosing from fentanyl is high. It use is actually related to the majority of opioid overdoses in the US. The drug causes your breathing to slow down, sometimes so much so that your breathing is too shallow or even stops completely. This is known as hypoxia, and can quickly lead to a coma, permanent brain damage, and death if not treated immediately.

A person overdosing on fentanyl may begin snoring, their body will become limp, their face will be pale or clammy, and their pulse will be weak or slow. In lighter-skinned people, you may see their lips and fingertips turn blue/purple, and in darker-skinned people, the inside of their lips may turn blue/purple.

Because fentanyl can be mixed into other drugs, it can be difficult to know what is causing the overdose. Using a medication called Naloxone can treat an overdose if given right away, but because it is so strong it may take multiple doses and quick action, followed by proper medical treatment. Naloxone does not work every time, as the effects of it can last much longer than Naloxone in the body.

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment at Resurgence

Stopping fentanyl use is not easy. It is a highly addictive substance and will produce extremely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you try and quit. These symptoms may make it seem like it is a better idea to just continue using the drug rather than deal with these painful symptoms, which can quickly create a cycle of dependence and addiction as your brain chemistry is altered by the drug.

Symptoms of fentanyl addiction include:

  • Keeping stashes of fentanyl and paraphernalia around
  • Compulsive drug-seeking, having an obsession or preoccupation with getting more of the drug and planning when and where you are going to use it next
  • Starting to need to take more of it to get the same effect because your tolerance is increasing
  • Doing things you normally would not do for drugs or money, or just because you don’t care about the consequences, like risky sex or sharing needles, lying or stealing
  • Missing or performing poorly at work, avoiding your usual social and recreational activities, and not taking care of your everyday responsibilities because of fentanyl use
  • Legal trouble due to fentanyl use
  • Continuing to use fentanyl even when it begins to cause problems in your life and get in the way of your friendships, family life, and other interpersonal relationships

Withdrawal symptoms from fentanyl can become extremely uncomfortable and usually begin within a few hours of your last use. These may include:

  • Severe cravings
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Cold flashes with goosebumps
  • Sleep problems
  • Severe drug cravings

To get help with a fentanyl drug addiction, contact us at Resurgence Behavioral Health. We offer a safe and effective Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) program that will help you stop using fentanyl without suffering needlessly.

Through a safe tapering off of the drug, combined with the use of prescription medications like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone, along with behavioral therapy, counseling, and dual diagnosis treatment, and followed by a customized rehabilitation program, we can help you get to the root of your addiction, deal with any mental or physical health issues you may have, and get you on the track to recovery.

Because fentanyl has longer-lasting effects than many drugs, we offer a long-term, 90-day inpatient rehab option, followed by outpatient rehab and then an aftercare program, so you will have the time and gain the tools you need to stop using fentanyl for good. You will always have full support, not only through our medical and psychiatric professionals but also through peer groups and our alumni network. You will never be alone in your addiction again if you join us at Resurgence Behavioral Health. Contact us today for more information on fentanyl rehab, drug abuse, or our medical detox program.

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