- The synthetic opioid Fentanyl is being made in laboratories.
- How we help patients using opioids is the same way we help patients using Fentanyl.
- Patients on medication like methadone and buprenorphine are 50 percent less likely to have a relapse and less likely to die.
There is now a rise in the number of opioid-related deaths because of an opioid crisis. A lesser known substance frequently used is Fentanyl. This drug’s relative obscurity was in recent years shattered due to the well-publicized death of pop star Prince who is said to have overdosed on Fentanyl.
- Fentanyl substance was previously used only in the medical setting as a pharmaceutical painkiller for the crippling pain felt by patients at the end of life or after surgical procedures have been done.
- Recently, Fentanyl is making headlines for being responsible in a growing number of deaths due to prescription medication overdose.
The synthetic opioid Fentanyl is being made in laboratories.
The drug was previously noted to have effects on the brain like oxycodone, morphine, and heroin. However, Fentanyl is a lot more powerful than any of those drugs. In fact, it is up to 100x more powerful than heroin and morphine. Even a small dosage of Fentanyl can be deadly.
The potency of Fentanyl is also the reason why it is profitable for dealers and dangerous for users, both those who do it intentionally and unintentionally. Recently, there are increasing cases of mixing heroin and Fentanyl, but using the pure form of Fentanyl is more often.
Pills have been made to look like a simple painkiller oxycodone or an anxiety medication known as Xanax, but are in fact Fentanyl. The deception has been proven fatal because it is like you ordered a glass of wine but got a lethal dose of pure ethanol instead. Many people, actually, have no idea that they are already using Fentanyl.
How we help patients using opioids is the same way we help patients using Fentanyl.
To stop deaths caused by drugs, we should be ready with immediate access to a life-saving treatment on demand. Where opioid use is risky, Fentanyl raises the stakes even higher. Every episode of Fentanyl use has its own risks of immediate death. Hence, we need to change how we perceive treatment.
Most of the traditional models for the treatment of addiction have been designed for alcoholic use disorder. The misuse of alcohol can indeed be fat, but it can take years, even decades to kill someone with alcohol.
By contrast, opioid addiction is more imminently fatal. Thus, waiting for treatment is unacceptable. There is evidence, which shows that a combination of psychosocial treatments and medication is the most effective treatment to fight opioid use disorder.
Patients on medication like methadone and buprenorphine are 50 percent less likely to have a relapse and less likely to die.
Yet, there remains an underlying stigma around these medications. Some of our patients who take these medications are doing well in recovery, but are afraid to speak out because the stigma is very pervasive.
It can take some time for others to open up to treatment. In these cases, the priority is to keep them until they are ready to consider detoxification. They need to understand that access to an antidote is the primary concern.