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Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic drug that has contributed to the opioid epidemic. Understand the risks of this dangerous opioid.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a specific type of synthetic opioid that is extremely strong; more specifically, fentanyl is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, which makes it exceptionally dangerous in the hands of the general population. It is classified as a Schedule II drug.

Originally, fentanyl was developed pharmaceutically as a method of pain management for cancer patients. However, anything that is prescribed can make it onto the streets, as did this low-cost substance. Fentanyl is one of the major reasons there is an opioid crisis in the United States.

The fentanyl addiction rate is rising as the illicit version of the drug continues to move in from Mexico, where it is smuggled from. Counterfeit and cut products are circulating around—users sometimes never know what they are getting or how much until it is too late.

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What Does Fentanyl Look Like?

According to descriptive information from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration:

Fentanyl pharmaceutical products are currently available in the following dosage forms: oral transmucosal lozenges commonly referred to as fentanyl “lollipops” (Actiq®), effervescent buccal tablets (Fentora®), sublingual tablets (Abstral®), sublingual sprays (Subsys®), nasal sprays (Lazanda®), transdermal patches (Duragesic®), and injectable formulations.

Clandestinely produced fentanyl is encountered either as a powder or in counterfeit tablets and is sold alone or in combination with other drugs such as heroin or cocaine.

Types of Fentanyl Misuse

Fentanyl use is on the rise and is drastically increasing. Between 2018 and 2019, overdose deaths increased by 16%, and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 accelerated overdose deaths, the CDC reports. Also, an astounding 72.9% of all opioid deaths are synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.

Pharmaceutical fentanyl by itself can be deadly and dangerous when it ends up in the wrong hands and not prescribed under medical supervision.

Fentanyl that is smuggled and distributed is often mixed with other illegal drugs to increase its potency and can be cut with other substances, which is a major cause of user overdose.

Due to its high potency and alluring effects, the onset of a fentanyl addiction is statistically high—that is if a deadly overdose does not occur first.

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    Effects of Fentanyl

    The effects of fentanyl are some of the most devastating and deadliest.

    Fentanyl addiction signs to look for in someone who may be using include constricted pupils, irritability, drowsiness, confusion, rigid muscles, weakness, itching, sweating, flushing, trouble concentrating, tightness in the throat, and depressed breathing.

    Those who are on fentanyl and begin experiencing severe symptoms will quickly need medical treatment.

    While some fentanyl addiction symptoms seem similar to other drugs, some of those mentioned above are telltale signs of someone who has a problem.

    Fentanyl Overdose

    Rates of fentanyl overdose have significantly increased over the years as more have gained access to the cheap substance.

    Here are a few staggering facts about fentanyl, coming from the experts who know it best—the DEA.

    • 26% of tablets tested for fentanyl contained a lethal dose.
    • Drug trafficking organizations typically distribute fentanyl by kilogram. One kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people.

    Unfortunately, dealers will sell fentanyl under the disguise as a more expensive drug, such as oxycodone, widening the likelihood an overdose may occur.

    Furthermore, fentanyl is many times added to heroin to up its potency. This again results in a large number of overdoses because the buyer was unaware they were purchasing a different type of drug.

    The consequence of pushing fentanyl can end up being life in prison.

    For a Schedule II drug, such as fentanyl, the legal consequences are as follows:

    • First offense: Not less than 5 yrs. and not more than 40 yrs. If death or serious bodily injury, not less than 20 yrs. or more than life. Fine of not more than $5 million if an individual, $25 million if not an individual.
    • Second offense: Not less than 10 yrs. and not more than life. If death or serious bodily injury, life imprisonment. Fine of not more than $8 million if an individual, $50 million if not an individual.Common Drug Combinations

    Those who do not overdose and die from using illicit fentanyl will deal with quite uncomfortable and difficult withdrawal effects when they decide to stop or detox in a fentanyl addiction treatment center.

    Withdrawal Effects of Fentanyl

    Withdrawal from fentanyl begins to take place quickly—12 or so hours after the last dose has been taken.

    Fentanyl addiction withdrawal can include the following symptoms but are not limited to these: anxiety and irritability, restlessness, excessive yawning, enlarged pupils, weakness, runny nose and watery eyes, mood swings, rapid breathing, complaint of muscle pain, and nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.

    Withdrawal effects can be quite challenging and detoxing from fentanyl is recommended to be done inpatient under the care of medical supervision.

    The length of time it will take an addict to successfully detox from fentanyl depends upon various factors.

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    Treatment and Resources for Fentanyl Misuse

    Fentanyl addiction recovery is the only way out of fentanyl use. It is rare for someone to successfully stop using fentanyl on their own and detox.  Going “cold turkey” is not recommended, as the process can be miserable and even unsafe.

    Those who use fentanyl and want to recover should look into inpatient treatment options. By detoxing under medical care, obtaining a treatment team, and beginning therapy, addicts can begin their journey to full sobriety.

    Aftercare is a recommended part of fentanyl addiction treatment as well. This sets recovering addicts up for success and provides them the support they need when they leave a treatment center.

    Recovery from fentanyl use is possible!

    Commonly Asked Questions

    What is fentanyl?+

    What makes fentanyl so dangerous? +

    Why is fentanyl a part of the opioid epidemic? +

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