Blog - Beach House Rehab Center
February 17, 2020

What Makes Fentanyl Such a Dangerous Opioid?

The opioid epidemic has made nationwide headlines because of the thousands of deaths attributable to this health crisis. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it has officially been a public health emergency since 2017. An estimated 130 people die each day from accidental opioid overdose – a tragedy we could prevent with the appropriate education about the dangers of these drugs and how addictive they can be, even when taken under a doctor’s direction.

In recent years, the introduction of a potent synthetic opioid called fentanyl has changed the landscape of the opioid epidemic. Not only is this drug more addictive than other opioids, it is also far more deadly – a dose as small as two milligrams is enough to kill most people. What is fentanyl, and why is it such a dangerous opioid?

The Facts About Fentanyl

Like other drugs derived from the morphine poppy, fentanyl works by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors. When this happens, a neurotransmitter called dopamine floods the reward center of the brain, creating an intense state of euphoria and relaxation.

Like all opioids, fentanyl binds to opioid receptors throughout the brain, meaning that it not only attaches to the areas responsible for mood and emotions, but also those that control breathing. Therefore, while fentanyl can create a more intense high for users, it is also far riskier to use because of its potential to cause an accidental overdose.

Fentanyl and heroin have different chemical structures, which is why fentanyl is so much more potent than other drugs in the opioid family. Fentanyl can create its effects much faster than heroin, morphine or oxycodone, and it takes a smaller dose to catalyze the molecular chain of events that initiates this opioid’s effects on the body.

Fentanyl’s Rising Impact

Use of fentanyl has been on the rise over the last several years. Opioid addicts seek it because it tends to be cheaper and creates a more euphoric high, while drug dealers favor it because it can make their product more addictive and keep buyers returning for larger and larger doses. Unfortunately, this combination has proven extremely lethal because of fentanyl’s ability to rapidly suppress the function of the central nervous system.

A fatal overdose can occur in minutes with this drug, so recognizing the following symptoms – and immediately calling for help – can save the life of someone you love.

  • Drowsiness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Blue lips, nails and skin
  • Confusion
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Slow pulse
  • A drop in blood pressure
  • Faint heart rate
  • Muscle weakness or limpness
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble with coordination and balance
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Respiratory failure

Treatment Options for Fentanyl Addiction

If you or someone you care about has developed an addiction to fentanyl or any other opioid, you should know about the available possibilities for getting qualified help. In most cases, treatment will need to begin with medically managed detox to help mitigate uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms such as flu-like body aches, mood swings, trouble sleeping, nausea, sweating and diarrhea.

During the detoxification phase, the controlled use of medications such as Naltrexone and Suboxone under the supervision of a team of addiction specialists can help shorten the time spent in this phase of treatment, while reducing the chances of experiencing complications. Once the opioids are out of your system and you are medically stable, you can then move on to the next stages of inpatient rehab, including evidence-based behavioral therapy in both individual and group settings.

With the right treatment program at a facility that can meet your needs, it is possible to make a complete recovery from fentanyl addiction and realize your full potential in life. Are you looking to break the cycle of opioid dependence and regain your physical, mental and emotional well-being? Contact us at Beach House to speak to a member of our admissions team and learn more about starting your treatment at our tranquil Florida rehab center.