It is not uncommon to have heard of the opioid epidemic sweeping the United States in recent years. The dangers of opioid use and addiction have been spotlighted in the news and online. What some people may not realize is that some opioids, such as fentanyl, are much stronger than others.
Take morphine, for example. Morphine is an opioid derived from the leaves of the opium poppy plant and is used in the creation of many other opioids as well as drugs like heroin. While morphine is quite potent and holds a high risk for addiction, other opioids, such as Fentanyl, hold as much as 100 times more potency than morphine.
Like many prescription opioids, there are legitimate medical reasons for Fentanyl to be taken. It is important, however, to keep in mind that not all prescription opioids are created equal. Some hold significantly higher risks than others. The best thing you can do for yourself is make sure you are educated on the drugs you have been taking, and always be on the lookout for signs of abuse and addiction.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic, or lab created, opioid that has been around since the 1960s. It was originally marketed for anesthetic use in operating rooms, working with other anesthesia medications to ensure patients were relaxed and stress free as the anesthesiologist prepped the patient for sleep.
In the 1990s, researchers delved deeper into the pain relieving effects of Fentanyl. First creating the Fentanyl patch for long-term or chronic pain patients, pharma companies caught on to the popularity of the drug and eventually went on to make Fentanyl sprays, suckers, dissolving chewables, and pills. This truly brought Fentanyl into the market of synthetic opioid pain relievers.
By 2012, Fentanyl was the most widely prescribed synthetic pain reliever in the United States. While it is considered safe when used in the highly controlled environment of an operating room, Fentanyl can be extremely dangerous and easy to overdose on. Allowing patients to take home versions of Fentanyl, such as pills, can be a recipe for disaster as it is not uncommon for an individual to accidentally take too much.
How Does Fentanyl Work?
Like other opioids such as oxycodone and morphine, Fentanyl works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain. The opioid receptors are tied to the brain’s ‘reward’ system, which is related to the emotions an individual may feel.
The reward system in the brain is meant to instinctively drive humans towards doing more things that benefit them. For example, when you eat something sweet like a piece of fruit, you body naturally rewards you with feelings of satisfaction and happiness in an attempt to get you to eat it again. Feelings of pleasure are also tied to this, as pleasure is a reward for sex which can lead to procreation, or the production of more offspring.
When opioids like Fentanyl are introduced to the brain, however, this reward system is hijacked by the drug which triggers opioid receptors to produce feelings of euphoria and pleasure without it having been technically ‘earned’ by the individual. Following natural protocol, your body will crave more Fentanyl to receive the reward of these feelings again. This cycle is what drives Fentanyl addiction.
Signs And Symptoms Of Fentanyl Abuse
While Fentanyl can help provide some patients with temporary pain relief and relaxation, it does affect your body in some negative ways. As an opioid, Fentanyl directly affects the body’s respirations, or breathing rate, as well as heart rate.
As potent as Fentanyl is, this risk is greatly increased over other, less potent opioids. If an individual has recreationally taken other opioids before without any issues, they may be tempted to think they can take Fentanyl in the same way. Unfortunately, this sometimes fatal mistake is made when users do not understand the extreme potency of Fentanyl.
Death from Fentanyl overdose is most commonly caused by a decrease in breathing so severe that it cuts off oxygen from the brain. Although death may seem like an extreme case, Fentanyl can take a toll on other parts of the body as well. Some signs and symptoms of Fentanyl abuse can include:
- Cold sweats
- Uncontrollable shakiness
- Dizziness, headaches, or hallucinations
- Weight loss or malnutrition due to loss of appetite
- Constipation and inability to urinate
- Itchy skin or hives
- Insomnia and nightmares
- Difficulty breathing
- Dry mouth (cotton mouth)
If you or a loved one is suffering from Fentanyl abuse, it is important to seek professional help immediately. The extreme potency of Fentanyl makes it difficult to predict the effects it will take on its user, which can lead to dangerous outcomes very quickly.
Fentanyl is highly addictive and difficult to quit, but our addiction specialists are here to support you every step of the way. Call today to learn more about the comprehensive addiction treatment programs we have and get started on your road to recovery.
For More Information Related to “Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Abuse” Be Sure To Check Out These Additional Resources:
- Heroin and Opioid Addiction Statistics
- Opioid Addiction in Cancer Patients
- Using Naltrexone To Treat Opioid Addiction
- Heroin Mixed With Fentanyl Causing Overdoses
- CDC Alerts An Increase In Fentanyl-Laced Heroin
BMC Palliative Care - Opioid Switch From Low Dose Of Oral Oxycodone To Transdermal Fentanyl Matrix Patch
Drugs.com - Fentanyl Injection
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - What Is Fentanyl?
US National Library of Medicine - Transdermal Fentanyl: Pharmacology And Toxicology