A Brief Introduction to Fentanyl and Fentanyl Addiction
Fentanyl is a pharmaceutical drug that is typically used as an anesthetic. It can give users feelings of euphoria, relaxation, pain relief, and comfort. It is extremely addictive, as is heroin, and it is a cheaper alternative to some of the more expensive opioids. Some of the brand name for fentanyl include: Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze. Street names include: China white, China Girl, Dance Fever, Jackpot, Murder 8, Friend, Goodfellas, and Tango & Cash.
History and Abuse
Fentanyl was developed in the 1960s as a pain-relieving agent for cancer patients. It has since grown to become one of the most commonly prescribed painkiller medications in the world. Given the drugs incredible potency, fifty to one hundred times stronger than morphine, it can be used topically, orally, nasally, or intravenously. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, and can cause feelings of euphoria, hallucinations, and sedation like other opioids. Also similar to other opioids, fentanyl can be highly addictive.
Because of fentanyl’s incredibly high potency, people begin using it instead of, or in conjunction with other drugs, especially cocaine and heroin. Furthermore, dealer disguise Fentanyl as heroin or oxycodone to increase the effects on the user. This is dangerous because if someone purchases fentanyl instead of, or mixed with, their normal drug they are unaware of its potency. This can lead to overdose or death. In fact, fentanyl has surpassed heroin in opioid related drug deaths.
Fentanyl has become a popular street drug due to its comparatively cheap cost, its high potency, and its availability from both prescription and black-market sources. Most non-pharmaceutical Fentanyl found in the US comes from Mexico, smuggled into the United States. The drug’s often found and sold on the black market in patch form, its original use being as a patch for cancer patients. After that, users oftentimes scrape the gel off and ingest or inject it.
Fentanyl has become increasingly common in the news as new strains have become more potent and are causing more fatalities than ever before. Carfentanil has also seen a rise in popularity due to its incredibly potency. Carfentanil, a drug used on elephants for surgery, is 10,000 times stronger than morphine.
Because of its strength, it is an attractive additive for drug dealers to increase the potency of their product at low cost. It is sometimes mixed with lower-grade heroin to increase the potency or with other drugs as a replacement for regular fentanyl or other opioids. This is dangerous as the cutting techniques are uncontrolled and inaccurate, which then leads to overdose by users and often death.
A very small amount of carfentanil can lead to death. It is usually injected, taken orally, or snorted; but can also be accidentally inhaled by people in its vicinity. Furthermore, it is readily absorbed through the skin, making it very dangerous to anyone who comes into contact with it.
Scarier still is the fact that carfentanil is resistant to naloxone, often referred to as its prescription name Narcan. Narcan is used to reverse the effects of opioids, including heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl among others. It has saved the lives of countless addicts who would have otherwise succumbed to overdose. Unfortunately, carfentanil abusers aren’t so luck and an overdose is often deadly.
Effects of Fentanyl Addiction
Using Fentanyl comes with a number of unpleasant side effects. These side effects vary depending on the frequency and duration of use. For instance, the side effects someone might experience simply by taking the drug include:
- A sense of elation
- Physical and psychological dependence
The symptoms most severe and most commonly associated with Fentanyl are the ones of withdrawal. Withdrawal becomes an issue after a person has become physically dependent on the drug. In other words, after the body has become accustomed to the drug. Some of the most common withdrawal effects associated with stopping the use of Fentanyl include:
- Cravings both Physical and Psychological
- Cold Sweat
- Muscle tension
- Body Aches
Prolonged use of fentanyl and fentanyl addiction can lead to coma and brain damage, especially when it is being mixed with other substances. Overdosing on Fentanyl comes with severe consequences in the long run. Individuals who have overdosed on these drugs can experience hypoxia. Hypoxia is a condition that decreases the amount of oxygen to the brain in addition to slowing down or stopping breathing altogether. The latter has resulted in individuals going into a coma, permanent brain damage, and in the worst case scenario death.
Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction
If you suspect a loved one is abusing Fentanyl the best thing you can do is show them you love them and not enable their addictive behavior. You typically can’t force a person into treatment, and if you can it’s rarely successful. A person will not look to recovery until they are ready to make that choice for themselves. While Fentanyl addicts can be very manipulative and sneaky with their use there are signs that you will see that might tell you if a person is abusing drugs.
A person who frequently hang out with different groups, constantly changes friends, or seems to be ignoring longtime friends for a “new crowd” might all be signs that a person is developing an addiction. In addition to this addicts will spend significant time alone and avoid friends and family for long periods. They will display little interest in previously enjoyed activities, undergo frequent and unexplainable mood changes, and very often their personal hygiene will decline. A person struggling with Fentanyl addiction will commonly experience financial troubles, miss important appointments, or unreliably attend work or school. Other more obvious signs include getting into trouble with the law, frequently exhibiting flu-like symptoms, and stealing from family or friends. Some additional warning signs that your loved one may be abusing fentanyl include:
- Sudden weight loss
- Urinary retention
- Poor coordination
- Respiration depression
- Low blood pressure
It is very difficult for users, even the most motivated, to “kick” the habit at home, as withdrawal symptoms are often severe and uncomfortable. More often than not the severity of the symptoms leads the user right back to the drug unless they have the proper support in place to help them through this challenging stage. The most common withdrawal effects include:
- Agitation and irritability
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Full body aches and pains
- Post-acute withdrawal syndrome
By going through a medically supervised detox period and quality treatment program, users have a much lower relapse rate. In addition, those who attempt to stop using the drug often do not have the proper support in place and frequently turn to other substances, or return to fentanyl use. Above all, if you or a loved one is struggling with Fentanyl addiction help is out there. Click here to see our treatment options available.