Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid that doctors prescribe to treat severe pain, especially after surgery and for advanced cancer patients. Fentanyl is among the strongest prescription opioids - up to 50 times stronger than morphine and up to 100 times stronger than heroin. Due to its potency, fentanyl comes with a high risk of overdose and addiction and is a major contributor to overdose deaths in the United States.
Fentanyl is a man-made substance produced from the seeds of the opium poppy plant. Medicinal medicine comes in tablets, while illicit fentanyl may be sold in powders, nasal sprays, or counterfeit pills. Fentanyl is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a controlled Schedule II substance.
Fentanyl works by affecting the body's natural (endogenous) opioid system, a complex system that regulates many bodily functions including mood and pain. Fentanyl binds to the body's opioid receptors in the brain, causing a variety of effects throughout the body. These may include:
Fentanyl overdose is when you take more fentanyl than your body can metabolize. Because fentanyl is so potent, the lethal dose can be lower than other drugs.
When someone overdoses on fentanyl, their breathing can slow or even stop. This can lead to 'hypoxia' - a lack of oxygen in the brain. Hypoxia may cause a coma, brain damage, and in some cases death.
Signs of overdose include:
With immediate medical attention, fentanyl overdose can be reversed with a medicine called Naloxone. Naloxone works by binding to opioid receptors and blocking the effects of the drug. Because fentanyl is so strong, medics may need to use multiple doses of Naloxone.
In some states, it's legal to purchase Naloxone from a pharmacy without a prescription. Family, friends, and others can use the nasal spray version of the drug to provide initial treatment before the arrival of medical professionals.
If you think someone may have overdosed on fentanyl or another opioid, seek immediate medical support so medics can provide life-saving treatment.
Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths in the United States. Over 150 people die each day from an overdose of synthetic opioids.
Most cases of fentanyl overdose result from illegally manufactured fentanyl, which drug dealers distribute in markets alongside other opioids like heroin. Analyses have found that a single pill can contain 2mg of fentanyl, a potentially lethal dose.
Opioid addiction and abuse have been a serious public health crisis in the United States in recent decades. In the past year, opioid overdose deaths have been increasing. Between January 2020 and January 2021:
In response to the ongoing crisis, national institutions continue to fund research lifesaving scientific solutions to prevent overdose deaths, including improved strategies for treating pain and opioid use disorders. There are also information and awareness campaigns to promulgate the facts and dangers of opioid use to both doctors and members of the public.
Producers of illicit drugs often mix other substances with fentanyl to increase their potency. Because a person cannot smell, see, or taste fentanyl, the user may not know it's contained in the substance. These counterfeit pills can contain lethal doses of heroin, unknown to the user.
Fentanyl addiction is when you compulsively seek or use fentanyl, despite any negative consequences. Because of its potency, fentanyl has a high potential for addiction. Fentanyl addiction is more likely to result from drug abuse and misuse; however, some people have developed fentanyl addiction as a result of harmful prescription practices.
Signs of addiction include:
Addiction is a severe kind of substance use disorder that can severely impact your work, home, and family life. However, effective addiction treatment programs can help you overcome addiction and reclaim a sober life.
When you repeatedly take fentanyl, your body gets used to the presence of the substance and adjusts its opioid functions in response. Over time, you can become dependent on fentanyl to feel normal. If you stop taking fentanyl, you may experience a series of withdrawal symptoms as your body readjusts. These symptoms may include:
While opioid withdrawal syndrome typically consists of flu-like symptoms, it can nevertheless be fatal. Persistent vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration, elevated blood-sodium levels, and death.
It's essential to seek professional medical advice before you detox from fentanyl or other opioids. Medical detox programs offer expert guidance and supervision throughout the withdrawal process to ensure your safety at all times. While medical detox programs may be inpatient or outpatient, SAMSHA recommends 24-hour supervision for opioid withdrawal due to the potential severity of withdrawal symptoms.
Fentanyl is a dangerous drug. If you or someone you know is addicted, you may feel scared or hopeless. However, with the right support, anyone can recover from addiction, leaving behind the risks of overdose and other dangers.
Effective addiction treatment programs are individualized, combining a variety of treatment options according to each client's needs. Treatment options may include:
Long-term recovery involves identifying and overcoming the underlying causes of addiction. Addiction treatment programs often involve 'dual diagnosis', where underlying mental health conditions are treated alongside substance abuse. Conditions like depression and anxiety can be driving factors behind drug use and should be addressed to prevent future relapse.
Empowered Recovery rehabilitation center provides clients with the skills they need to overcome addiction and reclaim their futures. We believe that everyone has the potential to defeat substance abuse - we support clients to harness this power.
Empowered Recovery offers a holistic and compassionate approach to recovery, combining clinical knowledge and expertise with empathetic care. We pursue the highest caliber of medical and clinical staff to encourage long-lasting, meaningful healing. At the same time, we ensure we maintain a safe, supportive environment that provides clients with the space they need to grow.
We understand that overcoming addiction involves more than simply changing a few behaviors. We empower clients to rebuild a sober future where they can truly thrive. We emphasize fun in early recovery, supporting clients to rediscover the beauty of sober life.
Empowered Recovery focuses on long-lasting sobriety. We realize that recovery doesn't end once clients leave the center, and offer a year's free coaching to guide clients through the challenges of early recovery. We offer a supportive and active Alumni community to provide clients with ongoing support, inspiration, and a link to the place they got sober.
If you are struggling with fentanyl addiction, contact us today. We're here to support you to reclaim a long and fulfilling future.