This article will outline what Fentanyl is, how it is used, what it can do to you, and the effects of overdosing on this drug. 

Fentanyl, What is it?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is very powerful, it is similar to the drug morphine that is used in hospitals to treat pain. However Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger depending on how the drug has been made. Fentanyl is a prescription drug that you can be prescribed by a physician, but it is also made illegally. 

Just like morphine it is used to treat severe pain in patients, usually after any surgery. Fentanyl is also used as an option for any patients that may have a high tolerance to other opioids used for pain relief. If you were to get Fentanyl as a prescription then it would be called Actiq, Duragesic or Sublimaze.

How is Fentanyl used?

When a doctor prescribes Fentanyl it is usually administered as an injection, through a patch placed on the skin, or as a lozenge that can be sucked like a piece of candy. 

Whereas, illegally made Fentanyl, which is often associated with overdoses, is made in laboratories and sold illegally in the form of a powder, eye drops, nasal sprays, pills, or is dropped onto blotting paper. 

It’s also worth noting that some people who sell drugs are mixing Fentanyl with other drugs, like cocaine, heroin, and MDMA, for instance. The reason for this is that only a small amount of Fentanyl is needed to produce a high, which means it becomes cheaper to produce the drugs being sold, giving drug dealers a better return on investment and higher profit margins. 

The issue is that this can be extremely risky, especially when the people buying the drugs don’t know that they contain Fentanyl. The drugs could be stronger than their bodies are used to and could cause an overdose to occur. 

How does Fentanyl affect the brain?

Like all drugs, Fentanyl has an impact on the brain. How it works is by binding to the body’s opioid receptors, which are situated within the brain in the areas that control our pain and emotions. 

When an opioid is taken a number of times, the brain begins to adapt to that drug, which reduces its sensitivity, and thus making it harder to feel pleasure from anything apart from the drug, which is why people who are addicted to drugs like Fentanyl constantly seek higher and higher doses of the drug. 

When a person becomes addicted to a drug, taking said drug then begins to overtake the entirety of their lives. 

Fentanyl can cause: 

  • extreme happiness
  • drowsiness
  • nausea
  • confusion
  • constipation
  • sedation
  • problems breathing
  • unconsciousness

Can you overdose on Fentanyl? 

Like all drugs, it is possible to overdose on Fentanyl. 

An overdose of Fentanyl occurs when the drug creates a severe adverse effect on the body, including life-threatening symptoms. 

A Fentanyl overdose can cause a person’s breathing to slow down significantly – or even stop – which then decreases the amount of oxygen that’s able to get to the brain, causing hypoxia. 

This can be extremely serious; hypoxia can cause a person to fall into a coma, causing brain damage and death. 

Is it possible to treat a Fentanyl overdose? 

The good news is that a Fentanyl overdose can be treated if it’s caught early enough. 

The most common cause of a Fentanyl overdose is a drug dealer cutting other drugs with Fentanyl to save money and reduce costs. This can be exceedingly dangerous and can cost people their lives. 

To treat a Fentanyl overdose, Naloxone can be used – as long as it’s given within a short time period. The Naloxone works by binding to the opioid receptors and masking the effects of the opioid drug – in this case, Fentanyl. 

Because of how strong Fentanyl is, it can require multiple doses of Naloxone to help reverse an overdose. 

Can Fentanyl become addictive? 

Due to how potent it is, Fentanyl can be highly addictive. Someone who is taking the drug as prescribed by their doctor may develop dependence on the drug. It is only possible to know if a dependence has occurred once the drug is no longer taken and symptoms of dependence and withdrawal occur. It’s important to note that you can depend on a substance without being addicted to it, however dependence on a drug can eventually lead to addiction to said drug. 

How can Fentanyl addiction be treated? 

Just like other opioid addictions, it is possible to treat addiction to Fentanyl, through medication and behavioural therapies. These combined treatments have been found to be effective for treating people who are addicted to Fentanyl. 

Medications, such as Buprenorphine and methadone can be used as these work by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain, helping to reduce cravings and the symptoms of withdrawal. 

Many people find that counselling can be a great route to take, especially when in an addiction recovery facility, either as an outpatient or an inpatient. Behavioural therapies can help to modify a person’s attitudes and behaviours towards addiction and the cycle that it creates.

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