There are two types of fentanyl, known as synthetic opioids, pharmaceutical grade and illegally manufactured. The illicitly made fentanyl is typically more potent than the pharmaceutical.
The pharmaceutical is for people with severe pain, usually in late cancer stages or post-surgical procedures.
Fentanyl analogs are occasionally more lethal than fentanyl and are involved in more recent deaths. According to a report on drug trafficking in 2019, nearly all fentanyl analogs were illicitly manufactured. In addition, less prescribed fentanyl and fentanyl analogs were confiscated that year, meaning most of the fentanyl was manufactured.
The analogs are chemically similar in structure to fentanyl but made illegally in clandestine labs and typically cut into heroin, cocaine, MDMA, and methamphetamines.
While analogs may be cheaper to produce for people dealing drugs, they can be much more deadly for those who are sometimes unknowingly ingesting fentanyl and analogs since fentanyl identification is difficult.
Overdoses of fentanyl are starting to rise among people who unknowingly took the drug in the form of another drug like cocaine or methamphetamines.
According to recent reports, 52.7% of all overdose deaths involve fentanyl. Compared to OD deaths in 2018, there was an increase from 47%.
What Is Fentanyl Prescribed For
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid prescribed for people with severe pain. Usually, fentanyl is for post-surgical procedures or late cancer pain. However, sometimes fentanyl is given for pain when people have formed a tolerance.
They have a tolerance to lower-strength opioids like morphine and hydrocodone. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Since fentanyl is a powerful opioid, it is prescribed for significant pain relief.
Some reasons that fentanyl may be prescribed are:
- Chronic pain: pain lasting more than six months and is not manageable with other efforts
- Breakthrough pain: a sudden flare-up of pain from cancer or other chronic conditions
- Anesthesia: is often combined with a sedative or a muscle relaxant. And then, it is injected during surgeries that need general anesthesia.
- Active Combat: is given to soldiers in the war who need immediate medical pain relief.
What Are Some Side Effects of Fentanyl
There are some side effects associated with fentanyl use. But, first, let’s discuss the long-term effects of fentanyl use for those that choose IV drug use.
After using opiates for a long time, many people will use the drug intravenously.
Some long-term infections or diseases from intravenous use are:
- Staph infections
- Hepatitis C
- Thrombophlebitis, inflammation of the vein
These are some of the long-term effects of using fentanyl and other opiates intravenously.
Another long-term physical side effect that is common is the damage to the opiate receptors in the brain. After prolonged overdrive, the brain receptors will not function as they used to. After stopping, it can take the brain months to recover from opiate use disorder.
Abstinence leads to the brain naturally healing the pathways and areas damaged from drug use.
Bad breath, dry mouth, and tooth decay are other long-term effects of fentanyl use. Vision can also be affected by long-term opiate use.
Some of the short-term side effects of fentanyl are:
- Lower breathing rate
- Pinpoint pupils
- Difficulty urinating
Common Side Effects
Some side effects of fentanyl are more common than others.
Some common side effects of fentanyl use are :
- Shallow breathing
- Pinpoint pupils
- Pins and needles sensation on the skin
- Mood changes
- Appetite changes
Rare Side Effects
There are some rare side effects of fentanyl use.
Some rare side effects of fentanyl use are:
- Double vision
- Adrenal gland problems
- Painful urination
- Swelling of extremities
What Is the Effect on the Body?
The effects of fentanyl on the body vary from person to person. However, there are some typical effects of fentanyl on the digestive system, respiratory system, and central nervous system.
The central nervous system is slowed when fentanyl enters the body.
Fentanyl affects the CNS by:
- Lowers the level of consciousness
- Causes dependence
- Influences proper thought processing
Digestive system effects of use include:
- Opioid-induced constipation
Respiratory system effects include:
- Respiratory depression
- Slowed heart rate
- Sleep disorders
- Respiratory arrest
Fentanyl use leads the body to become physically dependent. When someone uses fentanyl for an extended time, it can increase tolerance.
Tolerance is one of the main ways it affects the body.
Your body and brain become used to fentanyl. So the next time, you will need higher doses to achieve the same experience.
Additionally, if you stop taking fentanyl suddenly, your body will withdraw from the substance. Tolerance leads to addiction, and the risk associated with overdose becomes higher than before.
Some signs of withdrawal from fentanyl include:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Hot and cold flashes
- Runny nose and sneezing
- Runny eyes
- Restlessness and restless leg syndrome
- Rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
Every individual is different, but withdrawal from fentanyl can be dreadful to try on your own.
There are observation of vitals around the clock to ensure your body safely handles the detoxification process. To keep you safe and diminish withdrawal symptoms as much as possible.
Fear of withdrawal is one of the most significant reasons people with a fentanyl use disorder are afraid to seek treatment.
How Does Fentanyl Affect the Brain
Fentanyl was first designed to cross the blood-brain barrier faster than morphine. Doing this gives the effect of immediate pain relief, euphoria, and sedation.
Once fentanyl is inside the brain, it connects to the opioid receptors in the areas involved with pain, motivation, and reward.
Fentanyl works directly on the opioid receptors in the central nervous system. As a result, it blocks pain signals between the brain and the body. Once fentanyl binds to the receptors, a flood of dopamine releases into the brain.
The dopamine flood is what handles the relaxation and euphoria felt. The problem is that opioid receptors are also in charge of controlling breathing.
So after taking opiates, your body becomes programmed. It wants the feeling repeatedly.
Addiction and dependence then happen without much warning.
A small number of people who take fentanyl have opioid-induced hallucinations. Often the hallucinations may be because of an underlying psychiatric disease or issue.
It may not get reported because people are afraid to admit to hallucinations. This is because people are so scared of the labels of revealing hallucinations.
Opioid-induced hallucinations are typically auditory or visual hallucinations. Tactile hallucinations are not very common.
Why Is Fentanyl Dangerous?
Fentanyl is highly potent. There is a risk of overdose with even small amounts of this drug.
Fentanyl is also cut into other drugs on the street. It is powerful and cheap to produce, so it adds to the potency of heroin. It is cheaper to cut with fentanyl and designer fentanyl.
The most dangerous fentanyl analog is carfentanil. It is 100 times more potent than fentanyl.
An overdose occurs when life-threatening symptoms are present shortly after consuming the drug.
Some signs of fentanyl overdose are:
- Slowed heartbeat
- Blue lips and nails
- Decreased or stopped breathing
- Cold or clammy skin
- Slurred speech
A person overdosing on fentanyl could foam at the mouth. They may look like they are falling in and out of sleep. They could also look as though they are having a seizure.
Hypoxia is when oxygen is not reaching the brain and may lead to a person falling into a coma. Hypoxia can also lead to permanent brain damage or even death.
Naloxone or Narcan is a medicine used to treat a fentanyl overdose immediately. Naloxone will block the effects of the opiate on the brain receptors.
As a result, people may wake up in a withdrawal state and become angry. Therefore, it is essential to treat signs of overdose with naloxone to save lives immediately.
Fentanyl’s respiratory effects outlast its analgesic effects.
How Can You Cope With the Side Effects of Fentanyl
Depending on your reason for taking fentanyl, there are different ways to cope with the side effects. For instance, if you are in a hospital setting and need fentanyl for pain relief, discuss it with your doctor.
However, if you are taking fentanyl recreationally, it would be wise to seek treatment. Treatment is to assist you with stopping the dangerous substance. In a detox setting, you are safe and more comfortable.
Also, if you suspect that a loved one has a fentanyl use disorder, you should learn about the side effects. Then you know what to look for in your loved one’s behavior.
Finally, express that you are willing to help them in any way. You are supportive and want to see them get professional help and guidance on their path to recovery.
Suppose you think you may be struggling with a fentanyl addiction and are worried that you could not get away from it. You should know that many people in your shoes have chosen to live a lifelong path of recovery and are thriving.
Addiction is something that you can overcome, and people do it with the proper help and support.
In 2018, Tennessee providers wrote 81.8 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people in the state which is Tennessee the third-highest prescribing rate in the country for that year.
So if you have an opiate use disorder, you are not alone.
Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction
Professional treatment for fentanyl use disorder will help you withdraw in a safe medical environment.
You can take medications to help curb cravings. In addition, therapy will help you have a successful recovery.
Detox is usually the first step in any treatment process for opioids.
Fentanyl addiction treatment may include buprenorphine (Suboxone) or methadone to help manage symptoms. Here at ReVIDA Recovery, we use Suboxone.
The medications increase the likelihood that people will continue the path to recovery. In addition, inpatient treatment centers offer medical care around the clock, so patients succeed. Behavioral therapy is also an integral part of the recovery process.
You will address any physical or mental health issues you may have neglected while suffering.
Between therapy, medications, and proper care, people are successful.
ReVIDA Recovery® offers medication-assisted treatment (MAT) using medications such as buprenorphine (Suboxone®).
Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) helps people living with fentanyl use disorder fight off their cravings and live a healthier lifestyle.
ReVIDA Recovery® offers buprenorphine (Suboxone®) treatment and counseling to overcome fentanyl use disorder.
If you or your loved one is living with fentanyl use disorder, do not hesitate to reach out. Please call ReVIDA Recovery® today at 423-631-0432.
FAQs About the Side Effects of Fentanyl
How long do side effects last from fentanyl?
Fentanyl is pretty fast-acting, depending on the method of ingestion. You may feel effects within the first 30 minutes. Effects tend to wear off around 4 to 6 hours later. Sometimes if you consume a large dose, the effects could last even longer.
What is fentanyl used for?
Fentanyl was developed to treat chronic and severe pain. It is often used as anesthesia for surgery as well.
What is fentanyl made from?
Fentanyl is a synthetic chemical compound made from piperidine and other chemicals.
The poppy plant produces opium. Opium is a powerful narcotic that synthetic opioids are chemically structured to mimic.