According to a report from the American Medical Association, the country’s struggle with opioids has seen more growth and development into an even larger issue of drug addiction and overdose deaths. The report cites the American opioid crisis as another challenge and concern that has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report discusses an increase in opioid- or drug-related deaths that are more and more related to illicitly manufactured fentanyl. As the country continues to struggle with opioids, learning to recognize fentanyl overdose can be helpful and ensure that treatment can be administered properly and in a timely fashion.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetically created opioid analgesic. An analgesic is a name given to a group of drugs that offer pain relief in some capacity: painkillers. Well-known analgesics can include drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol®), alcohol, marijuana, and morphine.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fentanyl is often used to treat severe pain after surgery or for patients who have an existing tolerance to other opioids. You might also recognize fentanyl by its prescription names that include Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze®.
Not all analgesics are opioids, though some like fentanyl and morphine are. Opioids are a unique classification of drugs that are named after how the drug interacts on a cellular level. Opioids produce pain relief when reaching opioid receptors. Opioids are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States. These drugs have a lot of potential for good but often get misconstrued as being automatically bad and a definitive path to addiction. There is a considerable amount of hesitation and fear that surround prescription opioids, but addiction, though a possibility of any substance, is not inevitable when taking an opioid like fentanyl.
Fentanyl is often compared to morphine, but fentanyl is some 50-100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II prescription. This classification means that the drug has a high potential for misuse and can lead to physical and mental dependence in the user. The feelings that the drug induces may be highly appealing to some individuals who will continue misusing the drug to experience relief and satisfaction from pain or stress. Prescription fentanyl can be administered in numerous ways, including as a shot, a physical patch, or through cough-drop-like lozenges.
Illegally manufactured fentanyl is created in labs and sold under many different forms. Illegal fentanyl can take the form of pills, powder, dropped on blotting papers, and can be added to eye droppers or nasal sprays.
As with any medication, fentanyl has numerous side effects. Not every individual will experience the same side effects the same way, but some of the common side effects of fentanyl are listed below.
Side Effects of Fentanyl
- Extreme feelings of happiness
- Stomach pain
- Confusion or disorientation
- Dry mouth
- Trouble breathing
Fentanyl addiction is a challenging reality that many people can find themselves struggling with. There is help and treatment available for fentanyl addiction. The strong potency of this substance is what makes it an addictive drug. Even an individual who follows the prescription use and dosage instructions may experience withdrawal when coming off the medication.
It’s important to distinguish between dependency and addiction. A person with a dependency to a drug does not necessarily have an addiction. Dependence, however, can be a path to addiction. Individuals who have a challenging time coming off prescription fentanyl due to withdrawal symptoms should alert their doctor and include details about the types and severity of the withdrawal symptoms.
Nobody who has some trouble weaning off fentanyl or other prescription opioids should feel ashamed or embarrassed at disclosing their situation to their doctor. Opioids are powerful substances that have great potential to help people in tough situations. Because of their potency, especially when looking at fentanyl, it’s important to monitor use and dosage to ensure the user remains in good health.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions and learn more about medication that your doctor prescribes you for pain management. Learning about fentanyl prescriptions can help you feel more comfortable taking the medication and have a better understanding of what to expect when you start and stop the medication.
Make no mistake, fentanyl can be incredibly helpful in managing the pain of post-op patients. However, because pain relief is such an appealing feeling and state to experience, some people may begin to crave that feeling of relief. In this way, people get addicted to the feeling that fentanyl brings, not necessarily just fentanyl itself. In continuing to misuse fentanyl or other prescription opioids, an individual is seeking the feeling of relief in order to escape physical or mental pain. The drug may also be viewed as an escape from stress and hardship of everyday life because of the exaggerated feelings of happiness it can cause.
If an individual finds themselves addicted to fentanyl, Vertava Health has options for you. Our treatment program will be tailored to meet your needs and concerns. We have a path forward for you that will enable you to break free from addiction and continue on as a healthier and stronger person.
Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as a few hours after stopping fentanyl. Most opioid users will experience withdrawal symptoms 12-30 hours after the most recent dose.
Some of the most common symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal are listed below. If you experience any symptoms that are not listed, there is a possibility that you could still be experiencing fentanyl withdrawal. To be sure, consult with your doctor and tell them what you’ve been feeling.
- Muscle and bone pain
- Chills and cold flashes
- Back pain or ache
- Extreme cravings for the drug
- Joint pain
Symptoms Of Fentanyl Overdose
Overdosing on fentanyl is possible and it does happen. Drug overdoses occur when the amount of the substance taken poses serious life-threatening symptoms to the user. Overdosing on fentanyl can severely slow one’s breathing or stop it completely.
When an individual has slowed or stopped breathing, the proper amount of oxygen cannot reach the brain. This opens the door for hypoxia, a serious condition that can leave a person in a coma, cause permanent brain damage, and even result in death.
There are a variety of physical symptoms that you can look for in a person in order to recognize fentanyl overdose. Lack of breathing can cause a person’s lips to turn blue. After the lips turn blue, listen for gurgling noises that occur while trying to breathe. Foaming at the mouth is another symptom that may also occur in some overdose cases. The body may also become stiff or move in a seizure-like way, with uncontrolled jerking of the body’s limbs.
Before a person becomes unresponsive and displays the above characteristics, they may exhibit confusion or disorientation with their surroundings or situation.
Because of how incapacitating drug overdoses can be, some people specifically choose not to use when they are by themselves. If an overdose ever occurs, an individual who is by themself may not be able to call for assistance. This is extremely dangerous, especially with fentanyl overdoses that can inhibit normal breathing. Fentanyl overdoses that occur in an isolated situation can be fatal.
The best way to ensure you remain safe while on prescription fentanyl is to follow the dosage instructions on the medicine bottle and alert your doctor immediately if you experience any complications or run into problems with the medication. If you do illicitly use fentanyl, it may be advisable to avoid using it in isolation so that you can have greater access to medical assistance if needed.
Treating Fentanyl Overdose And Addiction
Fentanyl overdoses can be treated using a drug called naloxone. Naloxone is a drug that works to counter opioid overdoses by binding to the opioid receptors and blocking the effects of opioids. It’s important to know that because fentanyl is so much more potent than other opioids like morphine, naloxone may need to be administered several times in order to be effective.
If you come across someone who you believe has overdosed on fentanyl or any other substance, call 911. Receiving medical attention as soon as possible is the best course of action to help an individual in that situation. The faster they receive attention, the lower the chance of more complications by conditions like hypoxia or other reactions.
If you know that opioid use was involved in an overdose case, tell the emergency responders. In cases of overdose, it can be difficult to identify which substance is responsible, since many dealers often cut fentanyl with other drugs like cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine in order to maximize their profit. By informing the emergency responders that opioid use was involved in an overdose, you can help emergency responders understand the situation faster and administer the correct life-saving medication.
At Vertava Health, we recognize the difficulty in seeking treatment for opioid addiction amongst stigma and other concerns. You can make a change in your life. We’re here to support your dreams of a better future and a healthier life where you can leave addiction behind you. Get started today by contacting us for fentanyl addiction treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How much fentanyl does it take to overdose?
The amount of fentanyl it takes to overdose will largely depend on the person. Those who don’t already have a tolerance for opioids can overdose on smaller quantities than those who already have a tolerance for opioid use.
Anywhere between 250 and 1000 micrograms of fentanyl can pose a very high risk of overdose and death to non-tolerant users. At 2000 micrograms, death is almost certain.
It can be very difficult to gauge how much fentanyl is cut in street drugs, due to the often unreliable claims of sellers. The amount of fentanyl in street drugs can span a large range and make the use of these drugs all the more dangerous, since an individual can’t gauge how much of a substance is being consumed.
What is a fentanyl overdose like?
Fentanyl overdose can cause an individual to become unresponsive. Before an individual becomes unresponsive, they may be confused and disoriented. After becoming unresponsive, it has been observed that fentanyl overdose can slow breathing or bring it to a complete stop. This can cause a condition called hypoxia. Hypoxia is a condition in which the entire body is deprived of oxygen. Since oxygen is critical to how the body functions, the lack of oxygen in a person can cause lips to turn blue, result in permanent brain damage, induce a coma, and even prove fatal.
A gurgling-type of breathing may also be observed in fentanyl overdose cases. Foaming at the mouth and seizures may also occur.
If you come across a situation in which you believe an individual has experienced a fentanyl overdose, or an overdose on any drug, call 911. During overdose situations, it’s important to try and get a person medical attention as soon as possible to prevent complications from hypoxia or other serious conditions.
How to treat fentanyl overdose?
Fentanyl overdose is treated with naloxone, a drug that works to counter opioid overdoses by binding to the opioid receptors and blocking the effects of opioids. First aid responders can administer naloxone to counteract the effects of fentanyl. Due to the potency of fentanyl, it may be administered multiple times.
In certain states in the U.S., doctors and pharmacists can prescribe naloxone to people who are not in direct danger of overdose, and some are allowed to dispense naloxone without a prescription. Depending on the state laws, some family members or friends may carry naloxone if they know someone who is prone to overdose. This practice is not accepted in every state, so it’s important to consult with your doctor or pharmacist first.