Fentanyl is an opiate receptor agonist, which means it binds the opioid receptors in the brain. The drug increases the dopamine levels in the central nervous system, producing feelings of euphoria. As a prescription drug, other known effects of fentanyl include:
- relieves pain
- decreases the perception of suffering
- produces a state of relaxation
- gives out a feeling of well-being
Classified under as a Schedule II prescription narcotic drug, doctors prescribe fentanyl to treat moderate to severe pain. About 50 to 80 times more powerful than morphine, fentanyl is often given to people who have physical tolerance to opiates.
The drug affects individuals differently and varies depending on:
- the user’s overall physical health (height, weight, and genetic make-up)
- fentanyl dosage
- the user’s tolerance for the drugs and whether they are used taking opioids
- when other substances are taken along with other drugs like other drugs or alcohol
The drug works within minutes from the time the user takes the drug. As a short-acting drug, its duration usually last for about 30 to 90 minutes. Fentanyl depresses both the respiratory system, coughs reflexes and constricts the pupils. Fentanyl also comes in different formulations and forms such as:
- oral tablets
- nasal sprays
Doctors usually administer fentanyl transdermal patch for patients who need continuous medication to relieve pain. It adheres to the skin easily and releases the drug gradually. The patch releases fentanyl through the skin and into the bloodstream in about 48 to 72 hours.
The patch is used for patients who already build tolerance to opioid therapy. Once absorbed in the skin, fentanyl still has an effect for about 13 to 24 hours after the removing the patch.
Street names for fentanyl include:
- China girl
- Drop dead
- Murder 8
- China white
- Serial killer
Fentanyl is marketed under brand names of:
- Fentanyl citrate
Medical use of Fentanyl
Health care professionals use fentanyl as an anesthesia for medical surgeries and as a pain reliever. Under a Schedule II controlled substances, the Food and Drug Administration or FDA warn the medical community about prescribing the drug. The agency stretches out the importance of:
- proper patient profiling
- giving out dosages
- screening of candidates for patients that can potentially abuse fentanyl
When taken exactly as prescribe, the drug is safe to use even with fentanyl skin patches. However, if they use the drug outside the prescription, they can easily develop addiction disorders. Patients taking fentanyl as severe pain treatment can build tolerance then eventually addiction. They might not develop addiction by their own choice. However, some chemical reactions may dictate behavior of becoming too dependent to fentanyl.
Improper use, drug storage and drug disposal can lead to serious adverse result including death and drug overdose. This applies to a seemingly harmless fentanyl patches. This is why an addiction treatment center is of great importance.
Some of the appropriate medical use of fentanyl includes:
- Pain management treatment for people who suffers from moderate to severe pain. These cases sometimes involve people who needs constant and round-the-clock pain reliever.
- Doctors use fentanyl as an anesthesia agent for people undergoing major surgeries. The drug is also used for patients with heart complications.
- Used as a powerful anesthesia whenever needed for:
- Fentanyl is a breakthrough for cancer patients who need opioid medications for their persistent pain which cannot be treated with other opioids.
- Used as a pain reliever for people who already have opioid tolerance over other narcotic drugs.
Illegal use of Fentanyl
Fentanyl abuse started during the 1970s and drastically increased over the years. Distribution of illegitimate pharmaceutical companies added to the problem. People can purchase the drug online or from street dealers. Even discarded transdermal fentanyl patches can still produce generous amounts of the drug.
Users can still get fentanyl from patches when they remove the gel substance from the patch. User may:
- eat the gel
- stick it under the tongue
- smoke it
- prepare it for injection
Fentanyl can produce more respiratory depression than heroin, making the drug more deadly. It would turn out hundreds of time more deadly if manufactured in illegal laboratories. Long-time users of cocaine or heroin may not know the difference of street heroin enhance with fentanyl. The potency of mixture of these drugs is still unknown. Taking it can result to accidental overdose even death.
Side effects of Fentanyl
Users usually smoke, snort, ingest, and inject fentanyl. A single dose of 0.5 mg of fentanyl will provide euphoric sensations similar to a 20 mg of heroin.
Doctors also consider the patient’s age in administering correct dosage for the drug. Older people are more likely to experience the drug’s dangerous side effects compare to younger users. The drug affects the respiratory system and produces effects like:
Side effects of fentanyl include:
- Constricted pupils
- Slowed respirations
- Decreased heart rate
- Dry mouth
- Stiff muscles
- Problems concentrating
Fentanyl transdermal patches can cause:
- swelling in the area where over patch was applied
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