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What Is Fentanyl? Prescription Drug Abuse Facts
Fentanyl is a type of highly addictive opioid prescription drug that is similar to morphine

Like most people, you have probably heard a lot about heroin and the opioid crisis. But what about prescription opioids like fentanyl? And what is fentanyl, anyway?

Put simply, fentanyl is a type of highly addictive opioid prescription drug that is similar to morphine. Fentanyl abuse often leads to addiction and death due to individuals taking too much and the way that illegal dealers develop this drug.

But what are the differences between legal and illegal fentanyl, and how do you know if your life is in danger because of this drug?

Find answers to your fentanyl-related questions below.

What Is Fentanyl Used For?

You might have heard of fentanyl by either its prescription drug brand names or by fentanyl drug slang terms like “jackpot,” “murder 8,” and “friend.” You might also know that this drug, like many prescription opioids, can be used as a pain reliever.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. This means that the chemicals in this prescription drug are created in a lab rather than coming from nature. Thus, the effects of fentanyl are much stronger than other prescription drugs and opioids, such as morphine. This also makes the effects more dangerous. In fact, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, which both increases its desirability and its lethality in long-term opioid abusers.

Doctors sometimes prescribe fentanyl as method for treating severe pain in patients who have chronic pain or conditions like cancer. When used as prescribed as a transdermal patch or dissolvable tablet, it can give patients significant pain relief. 

The chemicals in fentanyl are highly potent and they work by binding to opioid receptors—the cells found throughout your body and, most importantly, your brain. Opioid drugs activate opioid receptors in order to block pain signals going from one area of your body all the way up to your brain.

This is where the pain relief comes from: your pain receptors are effectively and euphorically blocked.

Unfortunately, fentanyl is highly addictive because of its high potency, especially in patients who have chronic conditions, including mental health disorders and other opioid addictions. In fact, research shows that people who experience chronic pain and mental health struggles are more likely to develop a substance use disorder as well. 

One reason this happens is because of access: Doctors prescribe opioids like fentanyl as a pain reliever, so it is easier for patients to (intentionally or accidentally) misuse these dangerous drugs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the United States has experienced a rise in fentanyl overdoses in recent years. 

Despite its high potency and addictive qualities, fentanyl is still legal. It is classified as a schedule II prescription drug, which means that it is a controlled substance by the United States government, but does offer medical benefits in the right situations. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse warns that this opioid is often sold in a powder-like substance that people sometimes put in eye droppers or nasal sprays. Additionally, illegal fentanyl might come in pill form so that it looks like a legal prescription drug.

One of the biggest risk factors here is that fentanyl that is not prescribed legally by medical professionals is often laced with other harmful substances. Heroin and cocaine are the most common combinations with illegally produced fentanyl and can make it much more dangerous. But often, people who buy illegal fentanyl off the streets do not understand that this drug has other substances mixed into it. This makes it easier to suffer a fentanyl-related overdose due to not knowing what or how much they are taking.

And the most dangerous thing of all? This opioid is so addictive that many users don’t care if this drug is dangerous—they are willing to risk dying just to reproduce the high that has become so addictive.

Signs of Fentanyl Abuse

You or a loved one might have legal, prescription access to this opioid. Or you or a loved one might search for this drug through illegal means. Whatever your experiences are with this prescription opioid, you need to understand the signs of fentanyl abuse before they become deadly.

Here are some common signs that you or a loved one might be addicted to this prescription painkiller:

  • Using the prescription drug outside of your doctor’s guidelines
  • Taking higher doses or more frequent doses than prescribed
  • Finding different doctors who will prescribe more and more drugs
  • Using fentanyl to mask emotional pain or mental illness symptoms
  • Constantly craving fentanyl when you are not under its influence

Though the thought of giving up fentanyl might seem scary or even impossible, treatment is possible—it might even save your life.

Fentanyl Overdose

The side effects of drug abuse can be incredibly harmful to your physical and emotional health. In fact, fentanyl abuse often leads to an overdose.

An opioid overdose, when caught early enough, can be “reversed” with medications like naloxone. But without treatment, drug overdoses are often too severe to be reversed. Sadly, this leads to thousands of lives lost every year in the United States.

This is why it’s so important to seek treatment for your mental health and substance use disorders—your life depends on recovery.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Recovery for opioid addictions often starts with drug detox. The withdrawal symptoms from opioid drugs are often uncomfortable and can potentially be life-threatening if your body is physically dependent on the prescription drug.

The most common fentanyl withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Muscle pain or soreness
  • Increased heartrate
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting
  • Drastic mood changes
  • Increased anxiety or depression

Because the withdrawal symptoms are so severe and might even lead to further medical complications or death, you will need a medically supervised detox program to keep you safe. With 24/7 medical care, you will stay safe, stay healthy, and stay on the path to recovery.

In some cases, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help ease you into your recovery program. By providing you with opioids that do not produce a high, MAT can wean you off of dangerous opioids without inducing withdrawals. But remember, recovery does not stop after detox—this is just the first step. 

Your treatment program should offer additional services to treat you systemically. These services might look like:

  • Behavioral therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Group therapy sessions
  • Recreational therapy
  • Aftercare resources for long-term recovery

Be sure to speak with your health care professionals as well as the mental health experts in your program to find the treatment that is best suited to your needs.

Your Recovery from Opioid Addictions Matters to Us

We understand how scary the opioid overdose death statistics can be, and our goal is to make sure that those numbers keep going down. We are dedicated to helping patients like you to find strength and peace in recovery.

For more information on fentanyl abuse, opioid addictions, and treating mental health conditions, please reach out to us with the Blackberry Center’s online confidential form or by calling admissions today at 1-888-512-9802.


Sources:

  1. Armenian, P., Vo, K., Barr-Walker, J., & Lynch, K. (2018). Fentanyl, fentanyl analogs and novel synthetic opioids: A comprehensive review. Neuropharmacology, 134 121-123. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2017.10.016

  2. Peterson, A., Gladden, M., Delcher C., Spies E., Garcia-Williams A., Wang Y., Halpin J., Zibbell J., McCarty C., DeFiore-Hyrmer J., DiOrio M., & Goldberger B. (2016). Increases in Fentanyl-Related Overdose Deaths — Florida and Ohio, 2013–2015. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65(33) 844-849. http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6533a3

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