Fentanyl, which is sold under brand names like Fentanyl Transdermal System, Duragesic, and Sublimaze, is a highly potent opioid that’s prescribed as a painkiller. Because of how powerful this drug is, and because of how addictive it can be, it’s typically reserved for severe pain, such as what a person might experience after a major accident, injury, or surgery.
As with other opioids, fentanyl causes users to feel highly relaxed and euphoric, and this experience is part of the reason why fentanyl is so highly abused. Although fentanyl is typically reserved for severe pain, there were still over 7.5 million prescriptions written for this drug in 2008, and between 2013 and 2016, the number of deaths attributed to fentanyl use increased by 540%. Overdoses from drugs like fentanyl are currently the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50, and unfortunately, fentanyl use and abuse are on the rise, so it’s important to understand and recognize the signs and symptoms of fentanyl abuse to get help to those who need it.
Fentanyl vs. Heroin
Fentanyl and heroin are both opioids, which are a class of drugs that act on opioid receptors in the brain. Opioids are powerful painkillers that are highly addictive, and this holds true for both fentanyl and heroin. While very similar, heroin is a natural opioid that’s derived from the seeds of the opium poppy, while fentanyl is a synthetic drug. Moreover, whereas heroin is a schedule I drug (meaning it has no medical uses and is illegal), fentanyl is a schedule II drug, which means it’s controlled but has licit medical uses for pain relief.
These drugs also come in different forms.While both are available in white powder, fentanyl can also be in liquid, lollipop, tablet, and patch forms.
Both drugs are fast-acting and create a short and intense high, and both carry the risk of overdose. However, fentanyl is by far the more powerful drug – while heroin is about five times more potent than morphine, fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine, and this means the risk of addiction and overdose are much higher.
Physical Signs & Symptoms of Fentanyl Abuse
When a person is misusing fentanyl, there are a number of classic symptoms of abuse and addiction. In terms of physical signs to watch for, fentanyl abuse symptoms include:
- Developing a tolerance to the drug
- Taking increasing doses of the drug or for longer than what was prescribed
- Experiencing cravings or withdrawal symptoms when drug use ceases
- Failed attempts to stop using
- Dedicating large amounts of time to obtaining, taking, or recovering from fentanyl use
- Continued use of the drug despite the negative consequences and effects
- Declining health and getting sick more often
- Difficulty walking
Psychological Signs & Symptoms of Fentanyl Abuse
On top of the physical symptoms, fentanyl abuse also takes a psychological toll, which means it affects people mentally and emotionally as well. Some of the most common psychological signs & symptoms of fentanyl abuse are:
- Feelings of euphoria
- Lack of motivation
Behavioral Signs & Symptoms of Fentanyl Abuse
Fentanyl addiction causes personality and behavioral changes as people become dependent on, and addicted, to a drug. For instance, if a person used to have an outgoing and happy-go-lucky personality, that same person might become quiet, withdrawn, and secretive while addicted to fentanyl, because the time and energy that was once spent on friends, family, and relationships is now dedicated to drugs. Other behavioral signs of fentanyl abuse include:
- Apathy about school, work, and other responsibilities
- Neglected appearance and hygiene
- Financial troubles, stealing, or legal troubles
- Visiting multiple doctors for multiple prescriptions
- Poor professional or academic performance that leads to getting fired or expelled
- Neglecting commitments
- Ignoring old friends in favor of drug-using friends
- Exercising poor judgment
Physical Effects of Fentanyl Abuse & Risk of Overdose
Fentanyl is a potent drug, and it comes with equally powerful side effects, including both physical and psychological ones. Many opioids have very similar physical effects, including:
- Constipation and urinary retention
- Itchy skin
- Slowed breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constricted pupils
- Bowel obstruction
- Dilated pupils
In terms of the mental effects of fentanyl addiction, common fentanyl abuse signs include:
- Mood changes
- Abnormal thoughts
One of the most alarming consequences of fentanyl abuse, however, is the increased risk of overdose. Signs and symptoms of an overdose are:
- Lack of response to pain
- Extreme fatigue
- Respiratory arrest
- Cardiac arrest
- Difficulty swallowing
- Cold or clammy skin
Mixing Fentanyl with Alcohol and Other Drugs
Although fentanyl is dangerous enough on its own, some people mix it with other substances, and this can have fatal consequences. Heroin and cocaine are often combined with fentanyl, to enhance the effects of the high. This also increases the danger of overdose and death. When combined with other drugs, especially central nervous system depressants like alcohol, fentanyl abuse can lead to respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest, and heart attack. Moreover, prolonged drug abuse can lead to a shortage of oxygen in the blood, and this can lead to permanent brain and organ damage.
Get Help Today
Being able to recognize fentanyl abuse symptoms could potentially save a life. Opioids like fentanyl are highly effective and highly addictive drugs, and it doesn’t take long for a person to go from regular use to abuse to dependence and addiction. Once this happens, a trusted drug treatment facility can provide the support, therapy, and resources a person needs to get clean and get on the path to recovery. Help is available, and it is possible for people who are addicted to this drug to get clean and stay sober. Call today to learn how Futures of Palm Beach can help.