What Is Fentanyl And Why Is It So Dangerous?
- Lisa Herron
- 8 Feb 2019
Fentanyl has become on of the most dangerous street drugs to enter Canada in the past several decades.
This drug is commercially manufactured to treat a range of pain related conditions, but has become a popular drug for abuse by opioid users. It is extremely potent, and even a dose as small as a few grains of sand can be lethal, making it particularly problematic when dealing with drug addiction.
But what exactly is fentanyl and why is it so dangerous?
There is much confusion around what this dangerous synthetic drug is, what it is used for, and why it is causing so many deaths. We explain everything you need to know in our comprehensive guide below.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid analgesic, meaning it is a manmade compound that binds to the opioid receptors in the body.
Opioids are a class of drugs that are considered depressants, in that they slow down the body’s processes and responses. Examples of other opioids are morphine, heroin, codeine, and oxycodone. While morphine and heroin are naturally derived substances, fentanyl is artificial and does not exist in nature. Fentanyl is also up to 100 times more potent than morphine, which is already considered to be an extremely powerful opioid.
Fentanyl comes in a variety of different forms, such as a flavourless white powder, clear liquid, or small skin patch.
What is Fentanyl Used For?
As a powerful opioid, fentanyl is typically prescribed for long term management of severe pain.
Some conditions, such as certain forms of cancer, progressive degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and muscle and joint problems, can require more intensive pain management than is afforded by morphine or codeine. Some patients experience complications with other pain medications, such a nausea or itching, making fentanyl a viable option.
Fentanyl is generally administered via injection, intranasal spray, or through skin patches. Being extremely powerful, only microscopic amounts of fentanyl is required to achieve the desired pain reduction. The route of administration will depend on the patient’s needs and the condition they are trying to treat.
What are the Effects Of Fentanyl?
Fentanyl has a variety of effects consistent with typical opioid use.
The main medical use for fentanyl is pain management, as it can decrease painful sensations in all areas of the body. This is especially useful for long term or palliative treatment, as it can offer fewer downsides compared to morphine and is cheaper. Common side effects can include constipation, nausea, drowsiness, sweating, and loss of appetite.
When abused, fentanyl has the potential to produce a variety of other effects. The high that users chase with fentanyl consists of euphoria, relaxation, and drowsiness. When too much fentanyl is ingested, it can have dangerous effects including shallow or laboured breathing, loss of consciousness, dangerously low blood pressure, hypoxia, cardiac arrest, and death.
Why is Fentanyl So Dangerous?
Fentanyl is considered incredibly dangerous due to its extremely high potency and toxicity.
Fentanyl is around 100 times more powerful than heroin or morphine, meaning only 1/100th of a dose of fentanyl will produce similar effects to a much larger dose of other opioids. Fentanyl dosing needs to be extremely precise, with most skin patches or nasal sprays being customised to a specific patient’s biochemistry. This means that is someone else were to take the same dose, they might react a lot more strongly and potentially overdose.
One of the two ways that fentanyl gets out onto the black market is by patients who have been legally prescribed fentanyl either selling it or having it stolen. This fentanyl is pure, and people generally know that they are going to be taking fentanyl, but the highly specific dosing can still lead to overdosing and death.
The other way fentanyl can be obtained illegally is through “street” fentanyl. This is fentanyl that is produced outside of regulated labs and is often sold in the form of a white powder or pills pressed to look like regular pain medication. This is even more dangerous, as the dosing can be very easily miscalculated, as even a single grain of fentanyl can be the difference between a high and death.
Further complicating things is the recent epidemic of other drugs being cut with fentanyl. Reports have shown that other common illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine have been found to be contaminated with fentanyl. This is usually done to extend the inventory for drug dealers, allowing them to increase their profits. This is extremely dangerous, as users looking to use one drug are actually receiving another, meaning they might take too much. If the drug they think they are taking is a stimulant, such as cocaine, the addition of a powerful depressant like fentanyl can place even greater strain on the body and result in death rapidly.
Help For Fentanyl Drug Addiction Is Available
People who experience fentanyl drug addiction might feel like they are on their own, but there is always help available.
Freedom From Addiction is Canada’s leading fentanyl addiction treatment centre, specialising in professional care with a human touch. Our highly experienced medical team are experts in assessing patient status, determining the best course of action, and ensuring patient comfort and peace of mind during the healing process. The serene setting of Freedom From Addiction is highly conducive to rehabilitation, allowing patients to clear their minds and bodies and create the future they deserve. Contact us today to find out how we can help change your life.
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