What Is Fentanyl?
History of Fentanyl
Fentanyl was developed in the late 1950s in Belgium. By 1968 it was being used throughout Western Europe and the United States to treat severe pain from surgical procedures. When the FDA approved it in 1968, there were opponents that raised flags about its high potential for abuse to no avail. In the 1970s and 1980s, fentanyl was becoming a staple in relieving surgical pain. It was also used for cancer pain and breakthrough pain in people who were on less potent painkillers. During the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies began making different forms of fentanyl. Once only taken intravenously, there were now fentanyl patches, fentanyl “lollipops,” sprays, tablets, lozenges, and dissolvable films for the tongue.
Though fentanyl abuse and overdose deaths started making headlines in the last decade, people have been abusing fentanyl and overdosing on it since the 1970s. Public health advisories began to surface around 2005 of abuse, overdose deaths, and warnings of potential overprescribing of fentanyl. Around 2013, it became apparent of the wide diversion of the prescription drug as well as the illicit manufacturing of fentanyl. Hospitals began seeing cases of drug overdose deaths of people who had taken heroin not knowing it was laced with fentanyl.
Since then, it’s been a steady increase in deaths related to fentanyl. In 2016, 20,000 of the 64,000 overdose deaths were attributed to synthetic opioids with fentanyl topping the list. In January of 2018, 64% of opioid deaths involved synthetic opioids and by June 2021, 87% of opioid deaths involved synthetic opioids.
How Do People Use Fentanyl?
- Transdermal patches
- Tablets and pills
Other Names for Fentanyl
- Drop Dead
- Murder 8
- China White
- Serial Killer
- Dance Fever
What Does Fentanyl Look Like?
What Does Fentanyl Taste Like?
What Does Fentanyl Feel Like?
How fentanyl affects you depends on the dosage, how long you’ve been taking fentanyl, and your individual physical makeup. Fentanyl’s effects are similar to other opioids, and may include:
- Pain relief
- Problems emptying your bladder fully
- Pinpoint pupils
- Respiratory depression
How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your System?
- How much fentanyl you’ve taken
- How you took it (lozenge, intravenously, etc.)
- Your individual physical makeup
- How long you’ve been abusing fentanyl
What Are Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl Abuse?
The dangers of fentanyl abuse are many. It’s 50 times more potent than drugs like heroin making it riskier than most other opioids. When you abuse fentanyl, you’re increasing your risk of:
It takes a much smaller amount of fentanyl to overdose than other prescription opioids and heroin. Overdose can lead to coma, long-term medical issues, or death.
Opioids like fentanyl impact your cardiovascular system and can increase your risk of heart attack, blood pressure, and heart failure.
Fentanyl impacts your brain’s natural production of neurotransmitters like dopamine that are directly tied to mood and psychological health. Abusing fentanyl depletes these chemicals over time increasing your risk for depression and anxiety.
Fentanyl can damage your frontal lobe, which can interfere with functions like spatial awareness, attention, and memory.
Abusing fentanyl may affect digestive components by inflaming your stomach lining, creating holes in your intestines, and obstructing bowls.
Illicit and prescription opioids can suppress immune cells that are responsible for fighting infections.
Fentanyl Addiction Signs
If you or a loved one is using fentanyl any way other than as prescribed by a doctor, you should seek help as soon as possible. This dangerous addiction does not get better on its own and takes thousands of lives each year. Some signs of fentanyl abuse and addiction include:
- Needing more fentanyl to get the desired effect and increasing it without doctor approval.
- Inability to stop taking fentanyl.
- Doctor shopping for more prescriptions.
- Constantly thinking about fentanyl and when you’ll use it again.
- Buying fentanyl illegally.
- Putting yourself and others in danger while on fentanyl (driving, operating heavy machinery, etc.)
- Depleting your finances or stealing to obtain fentanyl.
- Erratic mood swings.
- Avoiding friends, family, and activities you used to enjoy.
- Experiencing delusions or hallucinations.
- Having withdrawal symptoms without fentanyl.
- Using other drugs and alcohol when you’re taking fentanyl.
- Changes in appetite, weight, self-care, and personal hygiene.
- Feeling confused or foggy a lot of the time.
Becoming defensive if others suggest you have a problem with fentanyl.
Where Do You Get Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction?