As an opioid analgesic, fentanyl is used medically to treat severe pain conditions, such as those caused by cancer. It can be effective for those who already have a high opioid tolerance, making it a valued target for illicit drug use. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that 245,000 people reported misusing prescription fentanyl products in 2017. This does not include uses of illegally produced fentanyl, which is the main driver behind the rise in deaths from synthetic opioid overdoses. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that synthetic opioids were responsible for nearly 50% of opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016, a 36% increase since 2010.

Fast Facts About Fentanyl

Fentanyl was originally developed around 1960 as an anesthetic alternative to morphine-oxygen. Today, its primary prescriptive purpose is to treat severe cancer pain or to be used for palliative care. With up to 100 times more potency than morphine, it is commonly administered through medical patches and lozenges to control the release of the dosage. However, fentanyl’s strong effects have made it desirable in the illegal drug market.

Fentanyl drugs

Fentanyl Abuse

Fentanyl can be smoked, snorted, injected, or taken orally; users may tamper with medical patches to remove the gel. Powdered forms of fentanyl may be added to heroin to increase its potency. This is especially dangerous because users don’t often know that they are buying heroin laced with fentanyl, which can easily result in fatal overdoses.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the most powerful variation of fentanyl found in the US, carfentanil, is considered to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Over 500 deaths in Florida were attributed to carfentanil in 2016. 
  • The highest fatality rates from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids belong to states such as West Virginia, Ohio, and New Hampshire.
  • Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl (but excluding methadone), were responsible for more than 28,000 deaths in the US in 2017. 
  • Fentanyl is estimated to be 50 times more potent than heroin and can even be deadly to users with a high opioid tolerance. Several doses of naloxone may be required to counteract its effects in an overdose situation. 
  • Street names for fentanyl include China White, Cash, Tango, Apache, Dance Fever, and Goodfella.

Much like other opioids, fentanyl is a depressant, decreasing heart rate and respiration as it relieves pain, provides a sense of euphoria, and causes drowsiness. Adverse side effects of fentanyl use may include confusion, sweating, constipation, weakness, vomiting, dizziness, and unconsciousness.

Treating Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl addiction is very treatable, but recovering from addiction is about far more than getting off a drug. Drug misuse causes physical and psychological issues that need to be addressed in treatment. Often, mental health conditions underscore self-medicating tendencies. When addiction and mental health conditions are treated in the same setting, an individual has a much higher chance of achieving long-term recovery. 

At The Meadows Malibu, we provide residential treatment and customized plans for long-term recovery. The drug rehabilitation process begins with detox supervised by medical professionals and is followed by a holistic treatment protocol that focuses on both physical and emotional healing. This includes individual and group therapy, an integration of practices such as yoga and meditation, and an emphasis on wellness and nutrition. Your plan is tailored toward your specific interests and structured with research-based dual diagnosis practices. 

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