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Why Is Fentanyl So Dangerous?

You may have seen reason reports and viral posts claiming fentanyl is the leading cause of death for adults aged 18-45. The opioid epidemic is no news, but these reports of skyrocketing fentanyl overdoses may be shocking. You may be asking yourself why exactly fentanyl is suddenly causing so many deaths. In this post, we hope to bring some clarity as to what fentanyl is and why street fentanyl can be so dangerous.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is classified as a synthetic opioid drug often included alongside other opiates. Yet, fentanyl was made in a laboratory using the chemical structure found in morphine and other prescription opioids. The synthetic structure of the medication resulted in creating an opioid drug that is a hundred times more powerful at relieving pain than morphine. As a result, only a very small dose is required to help treat and alleviate pain associated with various medical and chronic conditions. 

Why Is Fentanyl So Dangerous?

When prescribed, fentanyl often comes in a patch form or administered under supervision. Though this type of fentanyl is much stronger than heroin, this isn’t where the primary danger lies.

Illicit fentanyl, the type of fentanyl driving the overdose epidemic, isn’t the same type of fentanyl you receive from a doctor. The reason fentnayl is so dangerous is because the vast majority of street fentanyl is synthesized in illegal laboratories and is actually made of cheaper derivatives of prescription fentanyl. Common derivatives are norfentanyl and carfentanyl.

Norfentanyl and carfentanyl are far more potent versions of an already potent opioid. Street drug dealers will use combinations of heroin and fentanyl derivatives to either extend their supply or make their supply more potent. This creates batches of wildly varying potencies. An individual in the same day may receive a batch hundreds of times more potent than their previous batch, triggering a sudden overdose.

Inconsistent potencies and foreign made derivatives are what is driving the fentanyl overdose epidemic.

How Addictive Is Fentanyl?

Like other opioids, fentanyl is a highly addictive drug due to its effects on the body and brain. For instance, the drug forces an increase in endorphin levels while alleviating pain. The brain remembers this and the associated sensations as a positive behavior. As such, drug use is reinforced. 

As a result, the body will want to experience these sensations and feelings again and again. So, when fentanyl starts wearing off, the body will crave more. If the body does not get more, it will go through withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can be quite unpleasant. Sadly, it is easy to give in to your body’s cravings and continue to use and abuse fentanyl. 

One of the primary reasons why fentanyl is so dangerously addictive is the effects it has on the brain. When fentanyl reaches the brain, the chemical structure binds with neurons and pain receptors that transmit signals through the central nervous system. 

By binding with these structures, the drug slows their response rates to reduce or completely alleviate pain. While it is doing this, fentanyl also stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin to increase levels of these “feel good” endorphins in the brain that cause us to experience pleasurable sensations. Some people may also experience a euphoric-like state where they feel completely relaxed and calm. Others might notice they feel dizzy, confused, drowsy, or sedated. 

Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Abuse

As with other substance use disorders, there are several signs and symptoms associated with fentanyl abuse, which include:

  • Impaired Judgment
  • Making Rash Decisions
  • Engaging in Risky Behaviors
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinating
  • Mood Swings
  • Lack of Energy
  • Cold, Clammy Skin
  • Pale Skin Tone
  • Reduced Appetite
  • Stomach Pains
  • Difficulties Breathing
  • Fainting Spells
  • Dizziness
  • Mouth Sores
  • Engaging in Drug-Seeking Behaviors
  • Withdrawal from Family and Friends
  • Financial Difficulties
  • Legal Problems

How Addictive Is Fentanyl?

Like other opioids, fentanyl is a highly addictive drug due to its effects on the body and brain. For instance, the drug forces an increase in endorphin levels while alleviating pain. The brain remembers this and the associated sensations as a positive behavior. As such, drug use is reinforced. 

As a result, the body will want to experience these sensations and feelings again and again. So, when fentanyl starts wearing off, the body will crave more. If the body does not get more, it will go through withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can be quite unpleasant. Sadly, it is easy to give in to your body’s cravings and continue to use and abuse fentanyl. 

One of the primary reasons why fentanyl is so dangerously addictive is the effects it has on the brain. When fentanyl reaches the brain, the chemical structure binds with neurons and pain receptors that transmit signals through the central nervous system. 

By binding with these structures, the drug slows their response rates to reduce or completely alleviate pain. While it is doing this, fentanyl also stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin to increase levels of these “feel good” endorphins in the brain that cause us to experience pleasurable sensations. Some people may also experience a euphoric-like state where they feel completely relaxed and calm. Others might notice they feel dizzy, confused, drowsy, or sedated. 

Statistics on Fentanyl Abuse

Fentanyl is considered one of the most abused opioids today. Research into opioid and fentanyl abuse provide the following statistics as obtained from the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics: 

  • Over 3 million people abuse opioids every month. 
  • Over 10 million people as young as 12 years old abused opioids in 2019.
  • Men abuse opioids more often than females. 
  • Approximately 7% of opioid abusers are 12 to 17-year-olds
  • 53% of overdose deaths from opioids are caused by fentanyl abuse.
  • There were almost 43,000 fentanyl overdose deaths in 2020.
  • Fentanyl overdoses are increasing 2.5 times faster than other opioid overdoses.
  • A single kilogram of fentanyl consists of 250,000 lethal doses.
  • Over 4 million fentanyl prescriptions were written in 2018. 
  • Only 0.0001 grams of fentanyl is needed for a moderate risk of death. 
  • Consuming 0.0007 grams or more of fentanyl will result in death. 

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment in Columbus, OH

Hopefully, now you can see why fentanyl is so dangerous. If you are struggling with fentanyl addiction and want help, now is the time to get substance abuse treatment at Ohio Addiction Recovery Center in Columbus, OH. We offer clinically-supervised detox along with personalized treatment approaches to make your recovery effective. Our goal is to help you overcome your fentanyl addiction in a caring and supportive environment. 

To learn more about our fentanyl addiction detox and treatment program or to speak to an intake specialist, please feel free to give us a call or use our contact form.

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