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Everything You Need to Know About Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl is known to be the most potent opioid pain reliever that is allowed to be used in medical treatment. Fentanyl addiction is something doctors need to watch for. It is approximately 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more effective than morphine.

Since fentanyl is more powerful than other opioid pain relievers, it comes with high abuse potential. But it is only considered safe for use in a monitored medical setting. There are different fentanyl analogs available for medical treatment because it can be manufactured and mixed with heroin. These analogs are incredibility potent and unfortunately, their accidental overdoses and death are increasingly common.

In this post, we will discuss everything you need to know about fentanyl addiction along with its side effects and abuses.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl – a synthetic opioid pain relief drug with analgesic properties that are useful in the treatment and management of severe and typically advanced pain. It also helps in managing moderate to acute, chronic pain syndrome and also relieves pain before, during, or after surgery in opiate tolerant individuals. This approved drug is 50 to 100 times more effective compared to morphine.

Fentanyl selectively binds to the opioid receptors present in the Central Nervous System and activates them by increasing dopamine levels. This increase in dopamine causes a relaxation state in the individual by promoting a feeling of well-being and causes flare-up pains to ease by decreasing the perception of being in pain.

It acts fast and works within minutes to help individuals get rid of the pain. The effects of fentanyl vary from person to person. The effectiveness of fentanyl depends on the individual’s weight and overall health. Moreover, the impact of this drug generally lasts for 30-90 minutes and does not last long.

Fentanyl Formulations

To meet the patient’s needs, fentanyl comes in different formulations, including patches, oral and nasal sprays, tablets, and injections.

Fentanyl Patch

The fentanyl patch was introduced in the 1990s. The administration of this drug can also be done through a transdermal patch that sticks to the skin. Through this patch, fentanyl slowly releases and absorbs in the bloodstream. The process of absorption takes about 48-72 hours. Patients already tolerant to a similar potency can use this patch.

Because fentanyl is absorbed in the blood, it can be useful for almost 24 hours after the patch is removed.

Fentanyl Addiction and Heroin

Like other potent opioids, fentanyl has a massive risk of misuse. Its abuse initiated in the 1970s, and it has increased in recent years. Whether taken as a prescription or for recreation, fentanyl can pose a severe and lethal threat to an individual’s health.

In the most severe cases, the respiratory system represses, leading to death. Most individuals going through the recovery phase while using drugs are not aware of the potential threat of combining fentanyl and cocaine.

This combination can multiply the potency a thousand times, resulting in overdose or death. Illegitimate laboratories are producing fentanyl analogs, which are many times more potent than street heroin. These individuals mix fentanyl with other drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, or cocaine.

Abusers might also use discarded patches and can place them beneath their tongue, smoke it, or even eat it. Whether smoked, snorted, or taken orally, none of these methods is safer than other methods.

Street Names or Slang names for Fentanyl:

  • China White
  • Shine
  • Apache
  • Serial Killer
  • Drop Dead
  • Dance Fever
  • Goodfella
  • Fenty
  • Dragon
  • Butter
  • Lollipop
  • Murder 8

Note there may be other street or slang names for Fentanyl.

Medical Uses of Fentanyl

Please, read the prescription carefully and follow the advice of your doctor while using this drug. Use fentanyl as directed and ask your doctor if you should change other opioid medication you are taking, or if those opioid medications need to be stopped.

Fentanyl if adequately administered, have uses which include:

  • It can be used as anesthesia for patients who are undergoing heart surgery or who suffer from
    poor heart function
  • Pain management in cancer patients who are already on opioid medication for persistent pain
  • It can be used for patients who have severe or chronic pain and are continuously on opioid treatments for pain relief and management
  • In patients who are already taking narcotic analgesics
  • It can be used by patients who are already opioid-tolerant
  • It can be administered intravenously, spinally, intramuscular, or as an epidural

Commercial Names

The commercial names of fentanyl are as follows:

  • Sublimaze
  • Duragesic
  • Fentanyl citrate
  • Lazanda
  • Nasalfent
  • Subsys
  • Actiq

Keep in mind there could be additional commercial names for Fentanyl.

Side Effects of Fentanyl

Fentanyl users might become prone to adverse impacts similar to those of other drugs, e.g., morphine, OxyContin, etc. Its addiction can be life-threatening. Old patients experience more side effects than younger patients, particularly respiratory depression. Caution and monitoring need to be done for old group patients. The effects can be frequent or severe, depending upon the use or abuse.

The most common side effects of fentanyl include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Lost Appetite
  • Weakness
  • Dry Mouth
  • Difficulty in Concentrating

These effects tend to go away in a couple of weeks, but make sure to be in contact with your doctor if problems persist. Transdermal fentanyl patches can also react adversely on the skin site where the patch is applied, including itching, irritation, redness, and swelling.

Fentanyl Addiction and the Potential Risks

The withdrawal rate of fentanyl increases if the individual is more addicted and dependent on fentanyl use. Like any opioid, the risk of dependency, tolerance, abuse, and addiction to fentanyl increases. When individuals stop taking the drug abruptly, physical dependence might result in withdrawal. The occurrence of withdrawal symptoms starts within 11 to 12 hours of the last dose and might last for a week or can be more depending upon the severity of abuse.

Individuals can experience the following symptoms:

  • Runny Nose
  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Hot and Cold Flashes
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Delirium
  • Generalized pain
  • Watery Eyes
  • Enlarged or Dilated Pupils
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid Heartbeat

Users of fentanyl develop high tolerance swiftly as compared to other drugs. That is why people start taking a high dose to achieve the results they desire. Opioid users suffer addiction-inability to stop consuming a chemical, drug, or substance despite adverse consequences that go beyond physical dependency due to repeated dosage.

Dependency is a psychological issue but becomes physical for most individuals, which results in harmful behavior. Drug use becomes their primary purpose in life. Treatment of fentanyl addiction depends on the nature of severity and is the same as other opioid use disorders.

Inpatient or outpatient treatment centers, detox programs, medication to manage cravings and relapse, and behavioral treatment are some of the many procedures to cure addiction and bring it back to a normal healthy life.

Fentanyl Addiction and Overdose

A fentanyl overdose can pose a severe threat to health and can put the patient’s life at risk. If taken accidentally or without a prescription, it can even cause death.

There are some symptoms of fentanyl overdose which are:

  • Weak Muscles
  • Extreme Sleepiness
  • Trouble Walking
  • Confusion
  • Slow Breathing
  • Cold skin
  • Loss of Consciousness
  • Constricted Pupils

There may be additional symptoms of overdose.

Preventing Fentanyl Overdose

The least lethal dose of fentanyl is approximately 250 ug (micrograms). A fentanyl overdose can be deadly. Mostly, it is used as a replacement in opioid-dependent individuals; but the risk increases because of its high potency.

Sometimes, people use it without a prescription for recreational purposes, which results in an overdose. The dangers of overdose can drastically decrease by getting professional help. Individuals using fentanyl powder can suffer from serious health issues. The powder does not dilute properly, resulting in a potent mixture.

This mixture can also be fatal for people having high opioid tolerance. Moreover, death occurs more quickly as a result of this. The FDA issued an advisory to alert people of the deaths and overdoses that occurred in individuals.

Those patients were using the brand product, namely Duragesic and generic transdermal fentanyl patches. Individuals need to follow the directions precisely to use skin patches to prevent abuse or overdose. The FDA highlighted a piece of valuable information for using fentanyl skin patches; “Fentanyl skin patches are very strong narcotic (opioid) painkillers that may cause death from overdose.

The fentanyl skin patch should always be prescribed at the lowest dose needed for pain relief. Fentanyl skin patches should not be used to treat short-term pain, pain that is not constant, or pain after an operation.

Fentanyl skin patches should only be used by patients who are already taking other narcotic painkillers (opioid tolerant), and who have chronic pain that is not well-controlled with shorter-acting painkillers.”

FDA also mentioned the methods to dispose of these patches. It stresses the disposing of used patches by folding the ends together, which are purposely sticky to help fold easily and flush the patch in the toilet. Removal of the previous patch before using a new one is also essential.

If not removed, it can cause adverse effects. Moreover, avoid putting the patch near heat because the process of drug absorption increases rapidly due to heat.

Usage of naloxone becomes necessary to treat fentanyl overdose. Naloxone, an opiate agonist, blocks the opiate receptors in the brain and can stop the overdose effects. High doses of naloxone are required to minimize the overdose of fentanyl.

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment at Resurgence

Fentanyl, a potent opioid, provides pain relief to people who suffer from acute or chronic pain. When misused, it can cause severe harm and even death. If you or someone you know has a fentanyl addiction we are here to help.

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