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Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is very effective at relieving moderate-to-severe chronic pain. It’s roughly 100 times stronger than morphine, and 50 times stronger than heroin. Although it can be effective when used in a monitored medical setting, there are several illegal versions of the drug available on the street that are even stronger and much more dangerous. Furthermore, many recreational drug users, especially those addicted to heroin, will use fentanyl as a substitute. Given the drug’s potency and the ability to produce it illegally, the risks for abuse and potential overdose are likely.
The Rise of Fentanyl Abuse
Fentanyl abuse is not new; however, just as there’s been an increase in overall opioid use, there’s been an increase in fentanyl abuse in recent years. Since fentanyl is so potent, abuse poses a high risk for overdose.
Fentanyl abuse often occurs because of the euphoric effects it produces during medical treatment, or due to the availability of stronger versions which produce even greater positive moods when mixed with heroin or cocaine. The drug produces a powerful high, and its attraction is hard to resist.
Those who abuse fentanyl may obtain the drug from illegal laboratories that manufacture it. The type produced in laboratories is usually much more potent than heroin, and it causes significant respiratory distress.
Fentanyl abusers may re-use a discarded a medically-prescribed fentanyl patch that still contains potent amounts of the drug. They take the gel contents from the patch and eat it, place it under the tongue, smoke it, or inject it.
People who buy street heroin or cocaine may not even be aware that fentanyl has been added to the product. Even if they’re taking a reduced dose of heroin or cocaine, the addition of fentanyl makes the drug more potent and more deadly.
Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Abuse
The signs that indicate that someone may have a fentanyl abuse issue are very similar to the symptoms associated with those who are abusing heroin or other opioids.
- Individual may appear elevated or depressed
- Individual may appear anxious
- They continue to take larger amounts of the drug are ingested
- The drug is taken for a longer period of time than intended
- The person may try to cut down but is unsuccessful
- The person spends a great deal of time obtaining and using the drug
- The person continues to use the drug despite an awareness that it is causing social, academic or work problems
- Use leads to the inability to fulfill major life responsibilities
- The person misses activities that were once important
- The person uses the drug in dangerous conditions
- The person continues to use the drug despite the fact that it’s hurting them physically and psychologically
- Drug cravings
- Develop a tolerance, diminished effects while taking the same dose, need for more
- Withdrawal – the person either experiences negative symptoms when attempting to stop the medication or takes it to avoid negative withdrawal symptoms
- Hand and feet become swollen
- Constipation, vomiting or nausea
- Fatigue and/or dizziness
- Unconsciousness, coma, death
- Depressed respiration
- Increased heart rate
- Trouble concentrating
Risks of Fentanyl Abuse
The most serious risks of fentanyl abuse are dependence and death. When someone develops a dependence on the drug, they’ll need more of the drug and a higher dosage of it to feel its effects. Fentanyl is an incredibly potent drug, and an overdose on fentanyl may lead to death if it’s not treated immediately with an antidote like Narcan.
Fentanyl abuse may lead to immune system depression, gastrointestinal problems, and/or increased feelings of sedation. Other risks of fentanyl abuse are similar to the risks imposed by abusing other drugs. These risks include loss of relationships, social withdrawal, personality changes, and lack of motivation.
For those who inject fentanyl using a needle, there’s also an increased risk of various types of infection such as HIV, hepatitis, blood infections, endocarditis.
Don’t Hesitate to Seek Help for Fentanyl Abuse
Individuals abuse fentanyl for a variety of reasons. Social factors, psychological factors, and/or the need to self medicate to relieve physical and/or mental pain may all play a role in use. If you have any suspicion that you or someone you know may be abusing fentanyl, do not hesitate to reach out and seek help. Contact a local physician or a top-rated rehab facility like Beach House to determine the best plan of action for joining a drug treatment program for Fentanyl abuse to help you or a loved one in need.
If you need immediate help or information about fentanyl detox, rehab, and treatments to get free from addiction, you can chat with an addiction expert confidentially 24/7 if you contact Beach House today.