Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid similar to morphine but much more powerful. In the United States, it’s a legal drug used to treat pain but is commonly misused illegally. The drug is used correctly when prescribed for chronic pain or severe pain after surgery. When used incorrectly, for other desired effects, it can lead to addiction and overdose.
In its prescription form, the name of Fentanyl is known as Actiq, Sublimaze, and Duragesic. When misused, it has several different street names.
In this article, we’ll look at the history of the drug, how it is used, the effects that make it so desirable, the dangers of addiction and overdose, and getting treatment if needed.
History of Fentanyl
Sometimes it can be hard to understand why a dangerous drug was ever created in the first place. Like most common drugs, Fentanyl was created with good intentions. It was developed in 1959 and then introduced in the 60s as an anesthetic. Today it is still legal and approved by the Food and Drug Administration for pain relief.
Since its creation, the effects of the drug have made it a popular choice for drug users. Its seemingly pleasant physical and mental effects have made it one of the most trafficked drugs in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids increases dramatically each year.
Street names include China Girl, Dance Fever, Great Bear, Apache, Friend, and others. It’s important to be aware of what the drug is called and how it’s used to further prevention.
How is Fentanyl Used
Fentanyl can be absorbed in many different ways. These include oral methods such as lozenges, also referred to as fentanyl “lollipops,” tablets, sprays, patches, and injections. In other words, users can inject, snort, sniff, smoke, or swallow, depending on which version of the drug they have.
Usually, fentanyl is used when mixed with other drugs. This is done to get the effects of both drugs. You can imagine how this can be dangerous, specifically for overdosing. Fentanyl use spans all ages and genders, and increases each year, adding to the overarching Opioid epidemic.
Effects of Fentanyl Use
There’s a reason why this drug is misused so frequently. The most prominent short-term side effect is an intense feeling of euphoria and pain relief. However, like other opioids, the more you use the drug, the more you need to feel the desired effects. That cycle is what often leads to addiction, overdose, and death.
In addition to euphoria, other physical effects of fentanyl use in the beginning include:
- Balance problems
- Slowed blood pressure
- Slurred speech
- Respiratory depression
Long-term use can lead to more severe side effects such as menstrual cycle issues, reduced sex drive, mood swings, respiratory issues, and addiction.
Fentanyl and Drug Addiction
Like most opioids, fentanyl is highly addictive. It’s reported that 3 million US citizens and 16 million worldwide have or do suffer from opioid use disorder, many of which are fentanyl. When used under medical supervision, the drug can be useful, but the illegal form is different. It can also be found in other drugs, including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and even marijuana.
Also, like other opioids, it works by attaching to the body’s opioid receptors, which is the area of the brain that controls emotions and pain. As an individual uses more, the brain adapts, making it hard to feel the pleasures of the drug.
Here are common signs to look out for with a Fentanyl addiction:
- Drug-seeking behaviors such as putting the desire for the drug above anything else
- Continue use after severe negative consequences such as work or school issues, financial problems, and relationships ending
- Having withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop using fentanyl
Withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Muscle aches and pains
- Intense craving for fentanyl
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Uncontrollable leg movements
- Loss of appetite
- Cold flashes
- Depressions and anxiety
Overdose Warnings and How to Help
Fentanyl overdoses are extremely common in the United States. Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, are the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths in the country. That is due to the number of people using it and how Fentanyl is often used with other illicit drugs. Sometimes, users ingest lethal levels of fentanyl without even knowing.
Knowing the signs of a fentanyl overdose is essential in getting someone the help they need. These include:
- Limp body
- Blue-colored fingernails and lips
- Slowed breathing
- Nausea or vomiting
- Low blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
- Clammy skin
If you see someone with any of the above symptoms, seek emergency medical attention immediately. If you or a loved one is struggling with abusing fentanyl or a fentanyl addiction, treatment is available and hope is not lost.
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment
If you or a loved one are experiencing a fentanyl addiction, seek professional help. Studies show that medication, along with behavioral therapies, is most effective when treating individuals with fentanyl addiction.
These therapies can include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Contingency Management, and other counseling.
Fentanyl addiction is frightening and serious, but treatment is available. If you have questions or are ready to start your recovery journey, we’re here to help. Contact our skilled addiction and mental health professionals at Emerge Healing Center to learn more about our treatment and program options.