Fentanyl Drug Abuse
Fentanyl is prescribed via injection, patch or in lozenge form. Outside of fentanyl patch abuse, illicit fentanyl is sold as powder – often called “china white” – or on blotter paper. Often, illicit fentanyl is sold as or added to heroin or pain pills.
The danger of fentanyl lies is its strength – the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl is usually prescribed for patients who are dealing with severe pain, as well as chronic pain patients who do not respond to other opioid medications.
Fentanyl can be toxic in very small amounts, so most of the prescribed forms of fentanyl come with various time-release safeguards. When abused, users often ingest an entire dose of fentanyl at once, creating a tremendous risk of overdose.
Most people who abuse fentanyl often move onto it after a long period of abusing other opioids, attracted by its strength. More dangerously, fentanyl is sometimes mixed with other drugs including heroin and cocaine to increase their strength and effects … along with their dangers.
Signs of Fentanyl Abuse
- A lack of energy
- Itching and scratching
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
Red Flags of Fentanyl Abuse
- Pharmaceutical packaging in the trash
- Mood swings
- Difficulty breathing
- Constricted pupils
- Slurred speech and clumsy movements
Fentanyl Inside the Body
Like other opioid drugs, fentanyl changes the body’s perception of pain by binding to opioid receptors, found in areas of the brain controlling pain and emotions. As opioids bind with these receptors, the body produces more of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which plays a major role in the body’s reward system. This increase of dopamine brings feelings of euphoria and calm, the “high” that drives users to abuse opioids.
Also like other opioid drugs, fentanyl can essentially teach the brain it needs fentanyl to function properly. When a person who has taken fentanyl for a period of time stops taking the drug, they may experience intense, unpleasant flu-like symptoms. These fentanyl abuse side effects, also known as withdrawal symptoms, can often be so bad a person may continue to abuse fentanyl just to avoid them.
Finally, it’s possible to build up tolerance to fentanyl’s effects if the drug is taken for long periods of time. Many users find themselves using greater doses of fentanyl to achieve the same effects – given fentanyl’s toxicity, a larger dose can turn lethal very quickly.