Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid used to treat intractable pain, such as cancer-related pain or pain after a serious surgery. Fentanyl is commonly prescribed in a patch and fentanyl patch abuse is prevalent.
Fentanyl was first synthesized in the 1960s by Janssen Pharmaceuticals and was initially used as a general anesthetic during surgery. Today it is only legal in the medical world for its use in the reduction of severe pain in cancer patients. This potent opioid comes in many forms including a spray, tablet, lozenge and film. Duragesic is a skin patch, Sublimaze is an injection, and Actiq is delivered orally through a “lollipop.” The drug has a short onset and duration and, therefore, has become highly addictive. In addition to fentanyl patch abuse, lozenges, lollipops and pills are all common forms in which this opioid is used and abused.
Fentanyl is considered 100 times stronger than morphine and an amount equivalent to the size of three grains of sugar is lethal to an adult human. Fentanyl is listed as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration, meaning that it is extremely addictive and should only be used in very limited scenarios.
The Effect Of Fentanyl Abuse On The Brain and Body
Fentanyl abuse is responsible for thousands of overdoses per year in the United States, and the two main sources are the prescription drug industry and Mexican drug cartels. Fentanyl addiction is prevalent, and drug cartels across the world are synthesizing this product for a cheaper price and lacing it with other substances such as heroin and cocaine for an even more lethal cocktail.
Like all opioids, fentanyl acts on the brain’s mu opioid receptor, which produces a euphoric state in the body and, as a result, desensitizes the body’s natural painkillers, endorphins. After prolonged use of fentanyl and other opioids, the body becomes desensitized and needs a higher dose and more frequent use to produce the same effects. As a result, the addiction cycle continues in a vicious pattern, creating a euphoric high, followed by painfully depressing withdrawals.
Fentanyl drug abuse and fentanyl abuse side effects produce a decreased breathing rate (known as respiratory depression), constipation, dry mucus membranes, a euphoric state and drowsiness. Respiratory depression eventually leads to death when this drug is taken in excess. Withdrawal symptoms of fentanyl, like other opioids, are extremely painful and although not life threatening, are the main reason why users continue to partake in this dangerous drug. Withdrawal symptoms from fentanyl include severe bone pain, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, mood swings and diarrhea. Many people describe these symptoms as “on the brink of death.”