Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl & Fentanyl addiction responsible for a large number of opioid related deaths and drug overdoses due to the potency of the drug.

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Fentanyl Addiction

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Fentanyl belongs to the class of drugs known as opioids. Fentanyl & Fentanyl addiction responsible for a large number of opioid related deaths and drug overdoses due to the potency of the drug. Another danger to fentanyl is that many people who die due to fentanyl overdose had no idea they were using fentanyl as this drug is commonly mixed together with other opioidal drugs such as heroin.

Fentanyl has been commonly named the most dangerous drug in America. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever which is used for treating severe pain in end-stage scenarios such as late-stage or terminal cancer. Morphine—another commonly abused pain drug, is significantly weaker than fentanyl. For comparison, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than that.

Fentanyl has been commonly named the most dangerous drug in America. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever which is used for treating severe pain in end-stage scenarios such as late-stage or terminal cancer. Morphine—another commonly abused pain drug, is significantly weaker than fentanyl. For comparison, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than that.

In the past decade, large quantities of illegally made fentanyl entered the United States. It hit many communities throughout the US—potentially starting in Ohio, where the daily death toll in 2015 was breaking all manner of records. These deaths were at first thought to be because of heroin, but upon further inspection they were soon found to be fentanyl.

Fentanyl is so deadly because of chain of addiction that follows from prescription opioids to heroin and then to fentanyl. Because fentanyl is so potent, it is significantly easier to miscalculate the dosage and overdose on it.

While the opioid crisis is finally seeing a curb, many people still suffer from opioid addiction and fentanyl continues to be a driving factor behind opioid deaths to this day.

Fentanyl Statistics

In 2016, synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) overtook prescription opioids as the most frequent drugs that are implicated in overdose deaths in the United States according to mortality data on drugabuse.gov. Similarly, in the same year 42,249 drug overdose deaths involved opioids.

If you read our article on the History of the Opioid Crisis then you are familiar with the 3 waves of the opioid epidemic in the United States. Fentanyl largely drove the third wave of overdose deaths as its introduction in the market and accessibility has dangerously left it laced into other drugs such as heroin for increased potency. However, because of that potency even the slightest mismanagement of the dose can have fatal results.

Earlier we mentioned that many people who overdose on fentanyl had no idea they were even doing it.

The CDC has found that the rate of drug overdose deaths that were involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and tramadol were responsible for a 10% increase from 9.0 in 2017 to 9.9 in 2018.

Fentanyl Physical Dependence and Withdrawal Symptoms

Typically, the more powerful a drug is the more potent the withdrawal symptoms are. In the case of fentanyl, withdrawal from the drug should never be done cold turkey. Due to how powerful fentanyl is, physical dependence on the drug begins quickly and progresses quickly.

Like many opioids, changes in the brain are happening the moment the drug is being taken. Of course, there are the primary pain relieving effects.

Withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on the method of administration for the drug. Fentanyl comes in a few different forms, most notably a transdermal patch, tablet, spray, oral lozenge, and injectable. Patches come in extended release forms which alters the period in which the person can expect the onset of withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms have a large range and vary in severity depending on the level of dependence and time since last dosing.

Symptoms include:

  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Runny Nose
  • Chills
  • Bodily aches and pains
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as cramping
  • Muscle weakness

Symptoms of Opioid Usage

Opioids attach to opioid receptors in the brain and other parts of the body. When bound to the receptors, opioids block the pain signals in the body which is what makes them so effective as pain relievers. However, much like alcohol, the tolerance for these drugs and their relieving effects becomes greater and greater, thus setting up a cycle of potential abuse for those who wish to chase the initial potency of the drugs.

What is often not discussed is how the cessation of pain due to opioid usage and abuse can actually lower the pain threshold of patients who are repeatedly using opioids. So, not only is there a cycle of abuse inherent in drugs that users develop tolerance for (until fatal dosing levels are reached), but the initial need which may have been founded on chronic pain has now become significantly worse due to a lowered ability to tolerate pain comfortably and a sensitivity to pain is founded.

Like with alcohol addiction, the progression is such that a person must drink to feel normal. In the case of opioid addiction, this is also true. As pain and discomfort become dominant when not under the influence. However, “normal” is the wrong choice of wording when referring a drug induced homeostatic response. The barrage of opioids in a person’s body can result in both short and long term effects.

Short term effects include:

  • Headaches/migraines
  • Sluggishness or drowsiness
  • Brain fog/difficulties concentrating
  • Reduced respiratory
  • Response Lethargy
  • Numbness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of consciousness

Long term effects include:

  • Increased risk of heart attack or heart problems
  • Mental illness such as depression and generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Hallucinations
  • Hypoxia as a result of respiratory complications
  • Gastrointestinal complications such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Withdrawal Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Opioid withdrawal is an inevitable part of both experiencing an opioid addiction as well as trying to recover from one. Withdrawal symptoms can come on as quickly as just a few hours from the last dose. Withdrawal symptoms can be separated into two categories: short and long term withdrawal symptoms.

Early withdrawal symptoms can start as soon as 6 hours and be delayed as much as 30 hours. Typically, within 24 hours of
stopping the drug, a person may experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Bodily aches and pains
  • Onset of Restless Legs
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Eyes tearing up

Symptoms after the 24 hour period may be:

  • Onset of depression
  • Goosebumps
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as cramping
  • Cravings

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl addictions do not last long, not because people get better but because the drug is so deadly that drug overdose deaths are highly common. Detoxing from fentanyl is the first step to getting better. If you or a loved one is addicted to opioids such as fentanyl or heroin, it is imperative that you seek treatment and go through a medical detox program. While highly uncomfortable and difficult to endure depending on the severity of physical dependence, they are quite safe under medical supervision and are the first step to getting on the road to recovery.

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