Opioids are natural substances used primarily as pain relievers, which are extracted from opium poppy plants. In contrast, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid with 50 to 100 times higher potency than morphine.
It is mainly used to alleviate intense pain after surgery, but it must be taken with a prescription from a doctor. When you go for a higher dosage, there is a greater risk for tolerance, so better abide by your prescription.
Brand and Street Names of Fentanyl
This drug comes in various brand names when written in your prescription, which includes the following: Duragesic, Actiq, Lazanda, Sublimaze, Durogesic, Fentanyl citrate, and Nasalfent.
In contrast, here are the equivalent street names for this pain reliever:
- Dance Fever
- Tango & Cash
- Murder 8
How Serious Is Fentanyl Overdose in the U.S?
Besides the abuse of prescription stimulants, this synthetic pain reliever is also one of the commonly abused in the United States. If you do self-medication and go for a higher dose, then you are more susceptible to tolerance and addiction.
Below are some statistical data showing the incidence of fentanyl overdose:
- Deaths due to fentanyl overdose rose from 14.3% (2010) to 59% (2017)
- There is also an increment of 10% from the number of deaths due to synthetic opioid overdose from 2017 to 2018.
- In 2018, there are around 31,000 reported deaths due to abuse of synthetic opioids other than methadone. This large number is due to the illicit production and distribution of fentanyl in the streets.
How is Fentanyl Used?
This prescription drug can be given in various forms such as lozenges, patches, or as an injectable. To avoid buying the fake ones, be sure to only purchase them in legit pharmacies and stores.
This synthetic opioid is usually in the following forms:
- Powder form
- Liquid placed on eye droppers or sprays for the nasal cavity
Also, fentanyl is cheaper so it is mixed with other illicit substances like methamphetamine, heroin, or cocaine. The high purity of this drug costs expensively, which is why they are mixing it with other substances.
How Does It Work?
Once this drug enters your body, it goes to your brain and binds with your opioid receptors, then increases the secretion of dopamine which can relax your mind and body. Also, increased dopamine in the blood provides that pain-relieving action, which helps ease moderate to severe pain levels.
Besides that, this prescription opioid can slow down your breathing patterns and then put you to sleep. It has a short-acting effect which typically lasts between 30 to 90 minutes.
Take note, the fentanyl dose will be determined based on your weight and your doctor’s assessment. If you already have a resistance to opioid therapy, then a fentanyl patch is suitable for you.
Place the patch on your skin and then the drug is gradually released to your bloodstream, where its standard duration lasts between 48 to 72 hours. Likewise, the pain-relieving effect still works for another 13 to 24 hours after you remove the patch on your skin.
Medicinal Benefits of Fentanyl
Below is a summary of the various health functions of this synthetic opioid:
- Used as anesthesia for those undergoing heart surgery or those with a weak heart
- Pain-relieving management for cancer patients
- Effective pain alleviation for those suffering from moderate to intense pain levels after a surgery
- Can be administered for patients who gained tolerance from opioid therapy and are medicating with narcotic analgesics.
- Used to alleviate pain in the spinal cord
Common Side Effects from Using Fentanyl
Similar to other prescription medicines, there are side effects when you use this synthetic opioid. The gravity of the side effects is better felt for the older patients, so proper monitoring is needed when taking this drug.
Below are the side effects of using this pain reliever:
- Muscles become slightly stiff
- Inability to focus well
- Depressed breathing pattern
- Smaller pupils
- Feeling dizzy
- Dryness of the mouth
- Slight confusion
- Redness or itchy skin (for fentanyl patches)
Withdrawal Effects of Fentanyl Medication
You are more likely to develop a tolerance to this synthetic opioid when you are taking it in large doses. Once your system gets used to your current dosage, it tends to intake more to experience the same effect.
If you come to the last part of your medication, then you will need to gradually abstain from taking this drug. However, you can expect certain withdrawal impacts within the first twelve hours after your last dose of this medicine.
Here are its withdrawal symptoms:
- Feeling cold
- Irregular sleeping pattern
- Dilated pupils
- Feeling restless
- Slight pain feeling
Is Fentanyl Addictive?
This synthetic opioid is known for its great potency, which also makes it highly addictive. With that, it is best if you follow your prescription and there is constant monitoring with your dosage and condition.
Typically, when you stop using this drug, you will feel its withdrawal effects within 12 hours from your last intake. Moreover, it is strictly prohibited that you use other illicit substances when medicating with this pain reliever to avoid addiction.
Can Fentanyl Overdose and Addiction Be Treated?
Substance use disorder (SUD) can be treated under the consultation and prescription of a doctor or addiction specialist. Your recovery plan will be composed of detoxification, medication, and behavioral therapies.
You need to consult with an addiction specialist so that you will receive a personalized rehab program that matches your needs and finances. Also, inpatient rehab is recommended for extreme fentanyl addiction.
Moreover, behavioral therapies play an essential role in your long-term sobriety because it helps you correct your bad habits and negative thoughts. Also, your counselors will help you formulate positive coping strategies whenever you face a trigger or risk factor.
The rule of thumb for curing substance addiction or dependence will be getting a comprehensive treatment plan as early as possible. With that, you are reducing the risk of addiction and its withdrawal symptoms.
Talk to your nearest addiction specialist today.