If you have never heard of fentanyl, count yourself lucky. This substance has had drastic effects on the United States, both positive and negative. It has helped individuals who would otherwise suffer from severe pain while simultaneously propelling one of the greatest drug crises’ in our country’s history. How powerful, yet addictive is fentanyl that it can create such an impact in just one decade?
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid drug that produces pain-relieving and euphoric effects. Although pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl is synthesized and manufactured for prescription use, there are also illicit manufacturers that synthesize and distributed illicit fentanyl in much more dangerous forms than prescription fentanyl.
How Forms of Administration Affect Addiction
Illicit fentanyl can be found in powder or crystal forms and is usually snorted or melted and injected intravenously. Prescription fentanyl is either administered in a medical setting with continuous monitoring or prescribed in a slow-release form such as a patch or lozenge. The form in which fentanyl is administered is significant because of how addictive fentanyl is. It is more difficult to abuse prescription fentanyl due to the methods of administration, but developing a dependence on prescription fentanyl is still possible. A patient may begin taking illicit fentanyl if they have developed a tolerance to their prescription fentanyl, or less potent opioids and are looking to achieve the same euphoric effects they once experienced. It is easier to consume greater doses of illicit fentanyl, which may help a user achieve the desired effect, but it also carried significant risks.
Statistics on Fentanyl Addiction
Between 2014 and 2015, the DEA reported more than double the number of positive fentanyl encounters in the United States. These numbers rose for several years and although they have leveled off, they have not decreased significantly. Here are some additional statistics on synthetic opioid addiction and overdoses:
- Synthetic opioids (such as fentanyl) at 50x more potent than heroin and 100x more potent than morphine.
- More than 31,000 people died from synthetic opioid-related deaths (other than methadone) in the U.S. in 2013, making these substances more deadly than any other type of opioid.
- The rate of synthetic opioid-involved deaths increased 10% from 2017 to 2018 and in 20181 accounted for 67% of opioid-involved deaths.
Fentanyl Compared to Other Opioids
Opiates such as heroin and morphine are manufactured from opium, a substance produced by the seed pods of the poppy plant. However, fentanyl is a substance that is artificially synthesized in a laboratory. All opioids function is a manner that provides pain relief, but fentanyl is different than other opioids in that it is significantly more potent. As mentioned above, fentanyl is approximately 50x more potent than heroin and 100x more potent than morphine. Due to the increased potency, all of the risks of using opioids are amplified when it comes to fentanyl including the potential for addiction. The greater euphoric effects and risk of developing a significant physical dependence both contribute to the reality of how addictive fentanyl is: highly addictive.
Recovery from Fentanyl Addiction
Due to how addictive fentanyl is, treating this addiction often requires the help of an addiction treatment program. Sometimes patients also benefit from medication-assisted treatment. This is because the severe withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings make relapse prevention a struggle. Proper support, and sometimes the use of medication, goes a long way when it comes to recovery from fentanyl addiction.