Fentanyl Addiction and Abuse
Fentanyl is a powerful opioid drug. The drug is usually reckoned to be between 50 and 100 times more potent than morphine, making it one of the strongest pain relievers in use. It is also fast acting, so it frequently used as a sedative, especially with other drugs, in clinical settings.
The strength of the drug means that it is used to help manage severe acute and chronic pain. While this is usually in a clinical setting, for example during post-operative recovery, it can also be prescribed to manage the chronic pain associated with terminal and chronic illness. Because it is fast-acting, when used in these settings it is often prescribed as a patch that will slowly release the drug to be absorbed through the skin.
What is Fentanyl abuse and addiction?
Like any prescription drug, any use that is outside the directions of the prescription is deemed to be abuse. The strength of Fentanyl means that a tolerance is quickly developed, resulting in dependence and addiction.
Fentanyl is very closely controlled when used medically, meaning that abuse and addiction is unlikely if used as intended. However, the power of the drug has meant that many seek the drug for illicit use. The drug will usually create feelings of warmth, contentment, and euphoria, creating a desirable high.
Fentanyl is more powerful than heroin, and the two drugs are often used in conjunction, to enhance the effects and Fentanyl is frequently found with other drugs, creating problems for those who are unaware of, or underestimate, its potency. The demand for the drug is such that even the patches will be used on the black market, with the contents extracted to be used illicitly.
What are the risks of Fentanyl abuse and addiction?
As an incredibly powerful opioid, Fentanyl carries significant risks. Even taken as directed the drug can have some side effects including weakness and confusion, but because of its power abuse can easily be fatal, and the drug is associated with many drug overdose fatalities.
The effects are similar to other opioids, including confusion, loss of motor functions and coordination, and depressed respiratory and heart rates. The potential for abuse and overdose to have devastating effects means that it’s vital to seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
The fast-acting nature of the drug, making it quick for a tolerance to form means that it’s also quick to form an addiction since the brain’s neural pathways can rapidly rewriting themselves to adapt to the new drug and stimulate the production of dopamine in response.
Treatment for abuse and addiction is possible, but because of the strength of the drug it’s likely withdrawal with have severe effects and a substitution therapy is likely to be the most effective, using other, less potent, opioids such as methadone to reduce reliance on the drug over a period of time until the dependency and addiction have been successfully treated.