Fentanyl may not be one of the more commonly abused prescription drugs today but it's definitely a powerful pain medication that's misused for nonmedical reasons and has been linked to many fatal overdoses. Fentanyl is up to a hundred times more powerful than morphine and when abused can lead to a lethal overdose very fast.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever and medically used for treating severe chronic pain or to manage pain symptoms after surgery. Due to the effects the opiate painkiller produces when misused, fentanyl has also been highly abused in the past and continues to be misused today. Fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II prescription drug and can lead to psychological and physical dependence with long term use when used legitimately or recreationally.
Forms of Fentanyl
Fentanyl can be found in various forms such as lozenges, tablets, or even as a lollypop but is most commonly found as duragesic transdermal patches which were approved in 1990 for treating patients with severe or chronic pain. Fentanyl isn't just produced legally and prescribed by a physician the synthetic painkiller is also manufactured illegally by drug dealers and sold on the streets, often combined with street drugs making it more deadly when used.
Street Drugs Laced With Fentanyl
Street drugs laced with fentanyl is a fatal mix. Illegally manufactured fentanyl combined in primarily heroin and other street drugs was associated with the increase of fatal and nonfatal drug overdoses that began taking place in Camden, New Jersey in 2006. Similar situations were taking place in other locations including Philadelphia and Chicago.
Illicit forms of fentanyl that are produced in clandestine labs are often mixed with heroin or even substituted for heroin in powder form. When fentanyl is combined with street heroin or cocaine the potency levels severely increase but so do the potential dangers. Not only does euphoria and drowsiness increase but so does the risk of addiction, unconsciousness, coma, overdose and death.
Fentanyl Skin Patches
Fentanyl patches contain a powerful pain medication that's slowly released and absorbed through the skin over a period of time to manage symptoms of chronic pain. The prescription fentanyl patches are commonly abused though by addicts to get high.
Fentanyl skin patches are meant to help control pain symptoms around the clock and are extremely dangerous if tampered with and misused for recreational reasons. Users have found a way to separate the patch containing the pain medication from the adhesive tape which is then smoked, chewed or injected to get high and can lead to an overdose with possibly lethal results.
Fentanyl was partially responsible for a young woman's death in Ottawa CBC News reported recently. The young woman and her boyfriend had taken fentanyl and in the middle of the night 911 had to be called because he couldn't find her pulse and her body was cold. Sadly she wasn't able to be revived.
The reason fentanyl is a popular drug of choice among many opiate drug users is because the painkiller is so potent it produces intense levels of euphoria and relaxation when it's abused. Fentanyl can lead to physical and psychological dependence with regular use but can also lead to chronic addiction when abused for nonmedical reasons. There are also side effects associated with fentanyl and some are very serious.
Fentanyl Side Effects
- Respiratory depression
- Respiratory arrest
Fentanyl Detox and Withdrawal Symptoms
If use of fentanyl is suddenly stopped and the individual is dependent or chronically addicted to the synthetic pain medication, severe withdrawal symptoms can be experienced. Users of fentanyl can become mentally and physically dependent on the painkiller so the withdrawal effects can affect people differently. Anyone that's developed a high tolerance to pain medications will experience the most severe symptoms of withdrawal from fentanyl which can include:
- Abdominal pain
- Hot flashes
- Rapid breathing
- Flu like symptoms
Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction
Fentanyl is only prescribed for long term severe pain problems and a patient's dose is slowly tapered down while under a physician's care. This method is safe and helps the patient to slowly reduce their dose and avoid uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal.
Detox Centers and many other substance abuse rehabilitation programs provide medically overseen detoxification for fentanyl addiction. Additional treatment, therapy and addiction education is also provided to help the individual overcome their use of opiate drugs and develop the skills they need to remain clean.
Depending on a person's level of use, legitimate dependence or chronic addiction from misuse of fentanyl, outpatient or inpatient substance abuse treatment programs are options when seeking help and recovery. Twelve Step programs like Narcotics Anonymous not only provide hope, strength and group support, but a path of overall healing and lasting recovery.