The Scary Truth About Fentanyl Addiction and Abuse

Fentanyl addiction, as well as abuse, is one of the most dangerous epidemics in America at the moment. First created in a lab in 1959, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is used as an anaesthetic. It provides pain relief for surgeries and other circumstances that involve severe pain. 

This drug has a similar mechanism pathway as other opioids like morphine and oxycodone; however, it is much more potent. Its potency contributes to its addictive potential. This prescription pain killer is now one of the most abused drugs in America. It is highly dangerous, and overdoses can easily result in death.



Common Brand Names of Fentanyl

Since fentanyl is still used as a medical treatment for managing and treating severe pain, it is available as a prescription medication. It is packaged under many brand names, like:

  • Abstral
  • Actiq
  • Duragesic
  • Ionsys
  • Sublimaze
  • Subsys

Fentanyl is available as injections, in the form of patches and as lozenges. The administration method chosen for the patient will differ depending on the circumstances. It will also depend on what the patient feels most comfortable with.

Other than in pharmacies, fentanyl is also a very popular illicit street drug. Many dealers sell it, although the purity of the drugs at that point cannot be ascertained. Some of the more popular and common street names for this narcotic include:

  • Apache
  • China
  • China girl
  • Dance fever
  • Fiend
  • Goodfellas
  • Jackpot
  • Murder
  • Tango and cash
  • TNT

There are always new street names popping up for this drug. Different regional areas call it by different names. Many people have also made up their own unique nickname for the drug. If you are checking to see whether your son or daughter is using fentanyl, it’s a good idea to look for the nicknames above, as they are the most common street names for these pain pills.

Why Is Fentanyl So Dangerous?

The reason why fentanyl is drawing so much attention is because it is very dangerous. This synthetic opioid is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin. Only a small dosage is needed to cause an overdose. 

The potency of this drug has drawn quite a few headlines in media outlets. Its presence as a cutting agent in other illicit street drugs is a cause for concern, as several milligrams can result in an overdose. 

The reason why fentanyl is so addictive is related to its chemical structure. It has a high affinity for many of the receptors in the brain. As a result, it can cross the blood-brain barrier in almost no time. This means that it can create a sense of analgesia and euphoria within a short amount of time. 

Since Duragesic molecules can cross the blood-brain barrier so quickly, it causes an even stronger euphoric effect. This makes it much easier to get addicted to the drug. It also makes it much easier for the body to develop tolerance and dependence. 

Fentanyl purchasable from the streets or from drug dealers is most dangerous. The dose is uncontrolled. There's no saying how accurate the dose is, and whether the potency of the drug can result in an overdose. 

Many celebrities have abused this pain pill. In fact, it is responsible for the death of Prince.

How Much Fentanyl Is Lethal?

The scary thing about fentanyl is that only a small dosage is needed for an overdose. While the exact dosage of Abstral that will cause an overdose will differ from person to person, most experts have reported the lethal dosage as 2mg. This is if the user has not built up any tolerance to the drug yet.

Fentanyl Recovery

In comparison to many opioids, this dosage amount is very small. A lethal dose of morphine is over 200mg, and a lethal dose of heroin ranges anywhere from 75mg to 375mg. As you can see, it’s much easier to accidentally overdose on fentanyl than on any other prescription pain pill.

Fentanyl is often added as a cutting agent to other illicit street drugs, like heroin and cocaine. Since only a small dosage is needed to cause an overdose, this becomes dangerous rather quickly. It’s often prescribed as a pain pill, and while it does its job, each pill can cause devastating effects on the human body.

The lethal dose may exceed 2mg for addicts who have developed significant tolerance to the drug. It will also depend on the user's biological makeup, among many other factors. Long-term users and chronic users will be able to tolerate a much larger dosage without overdosing.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

There are chemical changes in the brain when an individual is hooked on Duragesic. This narcotic attaches to opioid receptors and changes the amount of neurotransmitters that are around. The drug magnifies the effects of some of these neurotransmitters to send a stronger signal.

When an addict stops taking fentanyl, their body will respond to this unexpected change in the form of withdrawal symptoms. The presence of these symptoms shows that the brain is struggling to restore balance.

Most withdrawal symptoms mimic flu symptoms. The physical symptoms will subside with time. It's the psychological symptoms that can last for quite some time. These symptoms include depression, anxiety and cravings. Many former addicts report that these symptoms kick in when they feel stressed out.

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can kick in anywhere from 12 to 30 hours after the last dose. Common withdrawal symptoms associated with an Abstral addiction include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anorexia
  • Anxiety
  • Backaches
  • Bristling
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Hypertension
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Profuse sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Stomach cramps
  • Yawning

Physical withdrawal symptoms usually peak within a couple of days, and will last for up to a week. Psychological withdrawal symptoms, like anxiety and depression, can have a longer lasting effect.

Most medical professionals will recommend weaning off of the drug slowly with time. This method is known as tapering. Medical detoxification may also be effective.

Due to the possible severity of these symptoms, it is never recommended to quit cold turkey. Medical supervision and aid from a recovery center, like AspenRidge Recovery, is absolutely necessary for the addict's safety.

Fentanyl Addiction Withdrawal Timeline

Fentanyl has a half-life of about 7 hours, so it can take about 3 days for the body to completely clear it. Withdrawal symptoms usually kick in with one day, and can last anywhere from a mere two weeks to more than a month. 

It's not unusual or uncommon for psychological symptoms to last longer. Some psychological symptoms can appear years after a person has gotten sober. 

As the withdrawal symptoms kick in anytime from day to day 3, patients usually begin to experience symptoms like nervousness, stomach cramping and anxiety. These symptoms worsen and peak by day 3 to 7. This is when patients start to experience vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. By day 8 to 21, the withdrawal symptoms begin to subside. 

While most physical symptoms should disappear within the month, anxiety and depression can linger around for some time. They can have devastating effects on one’s quality of life. 

It's important to note that the withdrawal timeline will differ from patient to patient. It depends on the patient's biological makeup, the duration of the drug use and more.

Overdose Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl overdoses are perhaps one of the most deadly overdoses out of all illicit drugs. Only a little bit of fentanyl is needed to cause an overdose, and the effects usually kick in quite quickly. This means that most overdoses usually result in death, if not serious health complications. In 2016, over 20,000 overdose deaths involved the use of fentanyl. 

A person who is overdosing on Duragesic may experience the following fentanyl overdose symptoms:

  • Bluish nails and lips
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme sleepiness or fatigue
  • Extremely low blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Weak muscles

If you notice someone is overdosing on fentanyl, it is vital that you call 9-1-1 immediately. Act quickly, and you might be able to save that person's life. Keep in mind that the effects of fentanyl act rather quickly. 

A fentanyl overdose is similar to an opioid overdose, like a heroin overdose. The drug stops the user's cardiac and respiratory system, so it looks like they've fallen asleep when they've actually stopped breathing. 

Drug overdoses, like opioid overdoses, are becoming so common that there's even an International Overdose Awareness Day

The effects of a Duragesic overdose can have a lasting impact on one's body. Even if a user survives an overdose, their bodies may sustain a significant amount of permanent damage. For example, extended respiratory depression can result in permanent brain damage.

What to Do if Someone Overdoses on Fentanyl

Having to deal with a fentanyl overdose can be a horrifying experience. Still, it's a good idea to know what to do. Quick actions can save lives. If you suspect that someone is overdosing from fentanyl, you should:

  • Call 9-1-1 immediately. Provide detailed information, like the dosage taken and when the pain killer was ingested.
  • Administer Naloxone. Naloxone is an opioid-reversing drug that is often carried by first responders.
  • Perform CPR in an attempt to oxygenate the individual.
  • Keep the affected individual in a recovery position to prevent them from choking on their own vomit.
  • Stay with the person until first aid help arrives. It’s even a good idea to go with the person to the hospital, if they require more intense medical supervision and care.

In the event that the overdose wasn't fatal, it's important to reach out to the affected individual and recommend that they seek therapy. It might be a good idea to stage an intervention. Addiction treatment may be the first step on their road to recovery.

Unfortunately, it's important to keep in mind that you can't force a person to go to seek addiction treatment or see a therapist. Addiction is a very delicate subject. Before approaching the individual, consult with a therapist or a medical professional.

Detox from Fentanyl

Detoxing from fentanyl can be difficult. The body goes through intense withdrawals, and it's easy to relapse. Those who are attempting to get sober should speak with our counsellors to determine what treatment plan may be most appropriate for their needs.

In general, there are three classes of medications recommended for detoxing from fentanyl. They include agonists, partial agonists and antagonists. There are unique benefits associated with each class of medication.

Agonists include medications like Suboxone and methadone, while partial agonists include medications like buprenorphine. Agonists have a stronger effect than partial agonists. Buprenorphine, for example, produces a diminished response when stimulating opioid receptors.

Antagonists, on the other hand, work quite differently than agonists. This class of medication include drugs like naltrexone, which block opioid receptors. Essentially, these medications aim to interfere with the reward center of the brain.

Free Yourself from the Grasps of Fentanyl

Many people who are prescribed fentanyl do get addicted. Others get addicted after taking fentanyl from illegitimate means. With that said, using Abstral is like playing with fire. Although this pain killer is effective, it is very easy to overdose on it. In addition, the body quickly builds tolerance and dependence on the drug.

If you or someone you know is addicted to fentanyl, it's time to take action. With the right motivation, discipline and perseverance, it's possible to break free from a fentanyl addiction and lead a healthier life.

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