The drug fentanyl belongs to the most powerful opioid painkiller group in the world. It is also about 50 to 100 times more potent that morphine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Doctors prescribe fentanyl to treat patients experiencing severe pain or to cope with pain after surgery.
Fentanyl comes in different types like nasal spray, lozenges, tablets and transdermal patches. During operation, doctors use the IV form of fentanyl to elevate pain.
Branded Market Names
Market brand names of fentanyl sold as Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze®.
Street names For Fentanyl
- China girl,
- Dance Fever,
- Murder 8.
History of Fentanyl
In 1959, Paul Janssen first developed fentanyl from the structural analogs of pethidine or Demerol. The drug was patented under Janssen’s pharmaceutical company, Janssen Pharmaceutica.
A combination of fentanyl and citric acid called Sublimaze made its way during the 1960s. Sublimaze is the intravenous anesthetic form of fentanyl. Soon after, pharmaceutical companies created several drugs patterned from fentanyl analogs like alfentanil, lofentanil, remifentanil and sufentanil.
How Fentanyl is abused
Because of the powerful effects of fentanyl, it becomes as the most abused prescription in the US. Fentanyl is included to the list of recreational drugs, which caused deaths to thousands of people from 2000 to 2017 because of overdose. Fentanyl deaths amount to 1,000 deaths in the US for the years 2005 to 2007, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration of DEA.
The availability and the cheap cost of fentanyl make it accessible to abuse the drug. Also, the effect of fentanyl to the user is shorter than heroin. Uncontrolled medication and the effects of fentanyl created a deeper craving for the user.
Opioids such as fentanyl affect the body’s receptor that controls emotion and pain, based on the study of NIH. The drug offers relaxation and a state of euphoria which makes it susceptible to abuse. Users seek this experience time and again.
Furthermore, the hospital uses fentanyl regularly and people have can easily buy the drug. In a study of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Journal or AANA, nurses and anesthesiologist develop an increased chance of the substance abuse. One main reason is that these medical practitioners have an easier access to the drug. Patients can also develop a dependency on fentanyl because doctors prescribed the drug easily.
Signs of fentanyl addiction:
- Dry mouth
- Itching, scratching or hives
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle Stiffness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe constipation
- Strain breathing
- Slurred speech
- Suppressed breathing
- Troubled walking
- Weight loss
Long term abuse of fentanyl can cause severe complication in both physical and mental health. The signs and symptoms include:
Physical effects of fentanyl
- weakened immune system
- severe gastrointestinal problems (bowel obstruction and perforation)
Effects of fentanyl on the mental well-being
- lack of motivation/ decreased pleasure in activities
- personality changes
- socially isolated
In serious cases, fentanyl addiction can cause respiratory problems, coma, and death. Substance abuse needs to be addressed immediately.
Treatment for Fentanyl
Detox is the first step of a long-term treatment and usual take several days. Detoxification process involves the flushing out of all fentanyl traces from the body. Patients who undergo detox may experience withdrawal symptoms. Fentanyl, as a powerful opioid affects several body systems and detox process can be difficult.
Since withdrawal symptoms can cause severe distress to the patient, health care center may prescribe medication to ease the discomfort. The medication can also shorten the time for the detox process.
As a powerful opioid fentanyl withdrawal symptoms may include:
- abdominal pain
- muscle cramps/pain
- excessive sweating
Health care specialist will assess the source of the substance abuse and the patient’s physical and mental health issues. They can also identify the best course of treatment. Honesty plays a vital role in the assessment as well as in the recovery.
After the initial assessment and detox process, the patient will begin the proper addiction treatment for fentanyl. The treatment program can last for 30, 60, 90 and in some instances 180 days. Health care specialist may also recommend longer treatment process because of the powerful opioid properties of fentanyl. This treatment will make the most of the support and care the patient need for their overall recovery.