What Is Fentanyl?

Learn more about the potential dangers of fentanyl use and how to get treatment for fentanyl addiction at Horizon Treatment Services.

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Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid for pain management, anaesthesia, and sedation. It is a Schedule II prescription drug classified as a controlled substance due to its potential for misuse and addiction. This opioid is estimated to be 50-100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more powerful than heroin. It binds to the mu-opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, which are responsible for transmitting pain signals throughout the body.1

It is available in several forms, including patches, tablets, nasal sprays, and injections. It is typically prescribed for severe pain management, such as that experienced by cancer patients or those recovering from surgery.


Has the Substance Been Rising In Popularity?

Fentanyl misuse has become a growing problem in recent years, with some individuals using the drug recreationally or as a cheaper substitute for other opioids. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl has also significantly contributed to the opioid epidemic in the United States, as it can be much stronger and more dangerous than pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl.2

Statistics on Opioid Use

Over 150 people die daily from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Also, synthetic opioids are the most common causes of drug overdose deaths in the United States.3

Is it Dangerous?

This substance can be very dangerous when not used as prescribed by a healthcare provider. Due to its high potency, even a tiny amount of the drug can be deadly if taken incorrectly or combined with other drugs or alcohol.

Potential Dangers

Some of the potential other dangers of fentanyl include:

  • Overdose: The drug is very potent and taking too much can lead to an overdose, which could be fatal.
  • Addiction: Opioids have a high potential for addiction, especially when used recreationally.
  • Respiratory depression: The substance can slow down breathing and lead to respiratory depression, which can be life-threatening.
  • Drug interactions: Opioids can interact with other medications, including benzodiazepines and other opioids, leading to dangerous side effects.
  • Illicitly manufactured: Illicitly manufactured drugs can be much stronger than pharmaceutical-grade substances, potentially leading to an increased risk of overdose.

It is crucial to use the substance only as prescribed by a healthcare provider, otherwise you may experience these adverse side effects.

Is it Addictive?

As an opioid, fentanyl activates the brain’s reward system and produces feelings of pleasure and euphoria. This can lead to psychological and physical dependence, making it challenging to stop using the drug even when faced with negative consequences.

Regular use of fentanyl can lead to tolerance, where the body becomes used to the drug’s effects and requires higher doses to achieve the same level of pain relief or euphoria. Tolerance can quickly lead to physical dependence, where the body needs the drug to function normally.

Fentanyl Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms can occur when someone stops using the drug after becoming physically dependent. These symptoms include muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, and involuntary leg movements.

If you or a loved one are using this substance or another opioid, it is important to know the potential for addiction and dependence. Always take the medication as a healthcare provider prescribes and do not use it recreationally.

What Are Some of the Substances in Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is entirely man-made in a laboratory. The chemical structure of the substance is different from other opioids like morphine, codeine, or heroin. Some of the key chemical components of the substance include:4

  • N-phenyl-N-(1-(2-phenylethyl)-4-piperidinyl) propanamide: This is the main chemical component in the substance, and it is responsible for its pain-relieving effects.
  • Acetic anhydride: This is a chemical reagent used to produce this opioid.
  • Sodium hydroxide: This caustic chemical is used to adjust the pH level of the drug’s solution during production.
  • Ethanol: This is a type of alcohol that is used as a solvent to dissolve the substance during the production process.
  • Water: This is used as a solvent to dilute the solution to the appropriate strength. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl may contain other substances that can be dangerous or deadly, such as other opioids or other potent drugs like carfentanil.

However, some other substances may be mixed into this drug, which is common for individuals who sell it recreationally or illicitly.

The Dangers of Cutting Other Substances with Fentanyl

Cutting other substances with this opioid can be extremely dangerous and potentially deadly. Illicitly manufactured drugs are often mixed with other dangerous substances, such as heroin, cocaine, or counterfeit prescription drugs, to increase their potency and profitability.

However, these mixtures can be highly unpredictable due to the many varying types of combinations people may create, and users may not know they are taking this specific substance. Some of the potential dangers of cutting substances include overdose, developing a substance use disorder (SUD), increased risk of death, and respiratory problems.

Side Effects of Usage

Some of the common side effects of the substance include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Itching
  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness
  • Cravings
  • Withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop
  • Increased tolerance
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weakness or fatigue

ACEs and Substance Use Disorder

Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, have been shown to increase the likelihood of substance use disorder (SUD) to opioids later in life. It’s important to educate others on what can happen, as well as provide support for the root of any childhood experiences that may have led to substance misuse later in life.

Horizon Treatment Services recognizes the importance of ACEs and is here to help support patients as they go through their recovery journey.


Treatment Options for Addiction

There are many options for opioid addiction treatment. Some of the most common options include:

  • Detoxification: Medically supervised detoxification services help individuals safely withdraw from fentanyl and other drugs.
  • Inpatient treatment: Inpatient treatment programs provide 24-hour care and support for individuals struggling with addiction Inpatient programs often include individual and group counseling, behavioral treatment, and medication-assisted treatment.
  • Outpatient treatment: Outpatient treatment is often a good option for individuals who have completed inpatient treatment or who do not require 24-hour care.
  • Medication-assisted treatment: This involves using medications such as buprenorphine, methadone, or naltrexone to help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Counseling: Counseling can help individuals address the underlying issues that contribute to their addiction.

How Horizon Treatment Services Can Help

Horizon Treatment Services provides peer support services, such as 12-step programs, to help individuals in recovery connect with others who have gone through similar experiences. The specific treatment program that is best for an individual with fentanyl addiction may depend on several factors, including the severity of their addiction, their medical history, and their personal preferences. Working with a healthcare provider or addiction treatment professional is important to determine the best treatment plan for an individual’s unique needs.

Horizon Treatment Services is here to help educate and provide care for those who may need help with substance use disorders. It’s important to realize how ACEs, substance use disorder, and any co-occurring disorders may affect us. Get the help you need today by reaching out to us.