What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is one of many synthetic opioids used to treat severe and chronic pain. It’s often prescribed for patients who have just undergone surgery or are seeking pain relief from chemotherapy. It’s widely considered to be a breakthrough cancer pain medication.
The fentanyl drug is a Schedule II Controlled Substance according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). It has a high addictive potential. Even recreational drug use can quickly lead to dependence and tolerance. The fentanyl drug is also often involved in drug abuse, as the effects of fentanyl are a substitution for heroin.
As a pain reliever, fentanyl is 25 to 50 times more powerful than heroin. It’s also 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Just several micrograms of fentanyl can result in opioid overdose and overdose death.
Fentanyl is a prescription drug that is not only wreaking havoc in America. It’s wreaking havoc all over the world. In fact, there’s a fentanyl crisis in British Columbia, Canada as well. It’s responsible for many accidental overdoses.
Although doctors prescribe fentanyl as a pain reliever, there are also many nonpharmaceutical fentanyl options on the black market. Tihe fentanyl drug is relatively cheap, so it is often buffed with other illicit drugs, like heroin.
Unfortunately, drug dealers can’t precisely measure the amount of fentanyl added to the drugs. As a result, it’s easy for drug dealers to add lethal doses to each batch accidentally. Fentanyl has now become one of the deadliest drugs in America. More people than ever abuse this prescription drug. There are also many recreational drugs containing fentanyl now.
What is fentanyl sold as? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), fentanyl is sold in the following forms: a powder, spiked on blotter paper, mixed with illegal drugs, or as pills.
Side Effects of Fentanyl Use
Since fentanyl buccal tablets and even skin patches have similar effects to opioids, it’s not unusual that they can cause some serious side effects. Depending on the length of the fentanyl use, side effects can be short-term or long-term. CDC health and many public health advisories have outlined many potential effects of fentanyl use.
Altered heart and breathing rate
Hallucinations and psychosis
Nausea and vomiting
Long-term effects of fentanyl use are a bit more intense and serious. It usually means that the drug user has engaged in prolonged fentanyl use. Depending on the situation, these side effects may be permanent. They may show that the body has undergone some type of irreversible damage. Common long-term effects include:
- Frequent mood swings, like depression
- Increased risk for anoxic injury
- Multiple organ system damage from oxygen deprivation
- Poor judgment in all aspects of life
- Social anxiety, which leads to social isolation
- Worsened mental health and condition
Long-term effects may be due to brain damage. Fentanyl use, especially overdoses, can cause both cardiac and respiratory depression.
Cold, clammy skin
Confusion with hallucinations and unusual thoughts and behaviors
Pale skin paired with easy bruising or bleeding
Shallow or weak breathing paired with a slow heart rate
Overdose Symptoms for Fentanyl Abuse
Fentanyl drug overdoses are some of the deadliest overdoses ever. This potent opioid easily and quickly diffuses through the blood-brain barrier. It then attaches to opioid receptors. The potency of fentanyl and fentanyl analogs means that the effects kick in immediately. Even a small dose can have a potent effect.
Overdose death rates have risen 540% in the last 3 years. Knowing how to spot an overdose is crucial. Those who spot an overdose early can seek medical attention immediately. This may reduce the lethalness of the overdose. The signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose include:
- Bluish nails and lips
- Exhaustion or fatigue
- Low blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
- Pinpoint pupils
- Slowed heartbeat
- Weak muscles
In simpler terms, fentanyl drug overdoses often look like heroin overdoses. The drug users will experience both cardiac and respiratory depression. They may end up looking like their falling asleep. The truth is that they’re losing consciousness. Eventually, they will stop breathing. These signs and symptoms are the same regardless of whether a drug user has snorted fentanyl or is using fentanyl skin patches.
When someone is overdosing on fentanyl, call 9-1-1 immediately. Acting quickly may save that person’s life. While it may save their lives, the overdose may still cause significant damage to the body. Most drug users who have experienced an overdose may struggle with permanent brain damage.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes how dangerous fentanyl and fentanyl analogues can be. They have put out many overdose prevention campaigns in hopes of raising awareness.
What Is a Lethal Dose?
Since fentanyl is a potent opioid, even a small dosage can lead to a fatal overdose. Lethal doses will vary from drug user to drug user. It depends on each of their biological makeup and drug usage. With that said, many experts believe that the lethal dosage is about 2mg. This amount is dangerous for drug users with no tolerance to the drug. Even if it doesn’t cause a lethal overdose, it will cause some serious side effects.
Opioid tolerant users can get away with consuming larger amounts. They can use larger amounts of fentanyl analogs too, like fentanyl citrate or acetyl fentanyl.
Although 2mg may seem like a lot, it looks like several grains. The lethal dose for morphine hovers around 200mg. The lethal dose for heroin ranges from 75mg to 375mg. Fentanyl overdoses are much more common due to the small dose sizes.
Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms
Abdominal pain and stomach cramps
Anxiety and restlessness
Insomnia, nightmares and other sleep problems
Muscle or joint pain and weakness
Nausea or vomiting