Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. It is a prescription drug that is used to treat patients with severe pain.
It is often mixed with other drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, which makes it even more dangerous. Due to its potency, fentanyl addiction has a high risk for overdose death.
Legitimate Uses For Fentanyl
Fentanyl does have some legitimate uses, as it is prescribed primarily as a sedation inducer because it produces effects such as euphoria and drowsiness.
It is used in the medical field as a treatment for severe pain, such as cancer pain, and can be administered as a shot, patch, or lozenge.
Pharmaceutical fentanyl, as it is a prescription opioid, can only be administered under supervision and with a legitimate need.
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It is used in the healthcare industry under the common names Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze.
How Is Fentanyl Made?
Fentanyl is typically sold as a powder and can be mixed with other drugs or sold as a pill, patch, or lozenge.
It is also sometimes used as a “designer drug” in club settings, and has been linked to a number of drug use complications and overdose deaths.
This illicit drug is typically made in clandestine laboratories, where the manufacturing process is unregulated.
This means that the potency of fentanyl can vary widely, making it difficult to know how much of the drug to take, and increasing the risk of overdose.
Where Do People Buy Illicit Fentanyl?
In the United States, most people buy illicit fentanyl online from China or Mexico. The drug is shipped through the mail and is often disguised as other drugs or products.
Some types of prescription fentanyl are also sold on the street in pill or powder form, though this is less common.
How Does Fentanyl Use Affect You?
Fentanyl works by binding to the body’s opioid receptors, which are found in the brain and spinal cord.
This binding action affects the body’s perception of pain and can also produce feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and calm.
However, fentanyl can also produce dangerous and even life-threatening side effects, particularly when it is used illegally and without a doctor’s supervision.
Some of the most common side effects of fentanyl use include drowsiness, confusion, and constipation.
Due to its potency, it can also cause more serious side effects such as respiratory depression, low blood pressure, and even fentanyl overdose.
How Fentanyl Compares To Other Opiates
Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to other opiates such as heroin and morphine, but is far more powerful.
Oftentimes, prescription drugs sold on the street such as Oxycodone and Xanax are cut with fentanyl to increase profit margins.
When ingested, counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl have a much higher risk of drug overdose death.
Can Fentanyl Cause Withdrawal?
Fentanyl is very potent and can be very dangerous, even deadly. It is also addictive, and people who use it can develop a tolerance and dependence on it.
When people try to quit using fentanyl, they can experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be severe and can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, and anxiety.
Treatment for fentanyl withdrawal typically includes tapering the dose down gradually and using medication to help manage uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
The Greatest Risk Of Fentanyl: Overdose
Fentanyl overdoses are on the rise in the United States as the opioid crisis continues to persist.
The danger of fentanyl greatly contributes to the rise in both opioid use disorders and deaths as even the smallest dose can cause an overdose.
In 2017, there were more than 28,000 deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is a significant increase from the 2016 death toll of more than 20,000.
In total, drug overdoses increased from 2019 to 2020, with 91,799 fatalities reported in 2020.
Deaths caused by synthetic opioids other than methadone (chiefly fentanyl) continued to grow, amounting to 56,516 in 2020.
Treating Fentanyl Addiction
Fortunately, there are a number of addiction treatment programs and services used to treat fentanyl addiction.
Common treatment approaches for fentanyl addiction include:
- behavioral and mental health services
- inpatient and outpatient treatment
- medical detoxification programs
- therapy and counseling
- medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- drug use education programs
- long-term and short-term residential treatment
- support groups
- dual diagnosis treatment
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Published on October 25, 2022
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)