It’s sold as Actiq, Duragesic and Sublimaze. On the streets it’s known as Apache, dance fever and TNT. But just how explosive is the drug fentanyl?
Characterized as a synthetic opioid anesthetic benzodiazepine drug, Fentanyl has the components of both an opioid painkiller and a depressant. The drug is said to be one of the strongest and most addictive painkillers available at 100 times that of the drug Morphine.
It is often used for those in chronic pain, terminally ill cancer patients and those whose pain cannot be remedied by using other prescription drugs.
The History of Fentanyl
Synthesized in 1960 by a man named Paul Janssen, the drug immediately began to be used as a general anesthetic in the healthcare field. The most common uses for Fentanyl were in emergency rooms, intensive care units and operating rooms. The next 10 years the drug became more widespread with quick-acting prescriptions becoming available for it. These tablets called Fentora were one of the first types of Fentanyl other than the injectable medical form. Soon after a Fentanyl patch was synthesized.
Today the drug comes in a pill form, a patch as well as a spray. A berry-flavored lozenge is another way to take the drug, which is consumed in about 15 minutes and absorbed in the small intestine. There have even been nasal spray forms of the substance as well as inhalers for more rapid response.
The Fentanyl patch, often the most popular and most used form of the drug is used for those with severe chronic pain and is said to allow time release dosages of the drug to enter the body in periods ranging from 48 to 73 hours.
Fentanyl Used for Pain
Like morphine, fentanyl binds to the body’s opiate receptors, substances in the brain that control pain and emotions. The bonding of fentanyl with these receptors causes an increase in the body’s dopamine levels, increasing a person’s ability to deal with pain.
While fentanyl is similar to morphine, this synthetic painkiller is in fact much more potent. It is used to treat severe pain or for pain management following surgery. It is also used for people suffering from chronic pain who are physically tolerant to opiates.
In hospitals, when prescribed by a doctor, fentanyl is administered through injection, transdermal patch or lozenge. Illicit fentanyl, however, is a different story.
Fentanyl Treatment – Using to Get High
In the illicit drug world, fentanyl is often used a replacement or complement for heroin. Because it manipulates the body’s ability to feel pain, pleasure and emotions, it can cause euphoria when taken in large amounts. It is often used to drown out painful memories, to deal with hard times, or just to have fun.
Because illicit fentanyl is sold in powder form, it is difficult to know what one is getting. It is for this reason that fentanyl abuse is notorious for overdose. Additionally, mixing fentanyl with heroin or cocaine amplifies its effects, thereby increasing the dangers.
Effects of fentanyl abuse include:
• Respiratory depression and arrest
When someone uses the drug Fentanyl they may have a different reaction compared to someone else. This is called a ‘rate of absorption’ and is determined by one’s level of body fat, temperature, and even their skin type. With patches this is even more evident. Because of this some who uses patches often use other oral opiate or painkiller drugs.
The drug also has a number of side effects. Some of these include:
• Nausea and vomiting
• Dry mouth
• Weight Loss
• Shortness of breath
• Inability to urinate
• Flu like symptoms
• Stomach pain
• Respiratory depression
• Respiratory death
Anyone over the age of 18 should be aware when taking this medication. Studies into several deaths in April of 2012 indicated that they had been accidentally exposed to the Fentanyl skin patch. Anyone taking the drug should also be educated on the side effects and usage effects. One of these, not mentioned is addiction.
Help with Fentanyl Addiction
Fentanyl belongs to a family of drugs with the greatest potential for addiction known to man. Opioids have been used for thousands of years for pain management, but they have also produced a vast number of addicts and overdose victims. Fentanyl is no exception. In fact, it is nearly a hundred times more potent than morphine.
A recent wave of fentanyl overdoses has raised concern in the medical community. Interestingly enough, the substances are not merely sold on the street–they are obtained from hospitals. Patients are getting hooked on the clear transdermal patches issued by doctors for acute or chronic pain. The patch is designed to transfer a controlled dose of fentanyl through the skin into the bloodstream over seventy-two hours. However, patients with addiction issues have been applying multiple patches simultaneously or removing the dose from the patch and taking the entire amount at once. The results are often fatal.
Experts emphasize that the issue is not with the patch, it is with people suffering from addiction. They say that doctors need to better inform their patients and public awareness campaigns need to spread the word. Many people are not aware of the high potential for addiction and use the drug carelessly, only to find themselves addicted before they know it. When the body becomes hooked, it is nearly impossible to quit without the help of an addiction expert.
Often a Fentanyl addiction will start after one has already been abusing prescription opioids or illicit opiate drugs like heroin. Users will come up with fake aches and pains and try to obtain the drug. Some will ‘doctor shop’ visiting several physician’s offices daily in order to try to get fraudulent prescriptions. There are also those who will search through friend’s or family member’s medicine cabinets for the drug or commit crimes like robbery to obtain them.
Knowing the information above, be aware of the generic and brand names of Fentanyl and what the substance looks like. If you know someone who is addicted, get them immediate help.