This powerful opioid painkiller isn’t as well known as some other drugs, but it’s just as dangerous when misused.
You hear a lot about the growing problem of prescription addiction these days, but the name fentanyl rarely makes headlines. Despite its low profile, fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opiod stronger than morphine. Typically used to treat severe pain, this drug is often prescribed after surgery or to help those suffering from chronic pain. Another group that turns to fentanyl is those who show a great physical tolerance to opiates.
While fentanyl is legal, the way it works is similar to illegal drugs like heroin. All opioids act upon specific receptors in your brain and spinal cord to decrease the feeling of pain and to reduce an individual’s emotional response to those pain impulses. Unlike heroin, fentanyl can be delivered to the body through a patch or even a lollypop (there’s also the traditional route, via a pill). On the black market, fentanyl patches are most popular as they can be cut up or eaten and the gel inside the patch can be smoked. Because of its status as one of the most potent opioid analgesics, fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance.
Even though the name may not be a household word, the drug has been around for decade. It was actually introduced in the 1960s as an IV anesthetic under the trade name Sublimaze. In the mid ‘90s, the Duragesic Fentanyl patch was introduced to provide slow-release pain relief over the course of several days. The lozenge or lollipop form followed, under the name Actiq, providing fast-acting relief of breakthrough pain.
Along with that power to alleviate pain comes a powerful warning from the Food and Drug Administration, which has issued public health alerts that the use of fentanyl can be habit-forming. The FDA warns that the transdermal patch is “only intended for treating persistent, moderate to severe pain in patients who are opioid-tolerant, meaning those patients who take a regular, daily, around-the-clock narcotic pain medicine.”
The warnings come as a result of several reports of deaths and life-threatening side effects the agency has received. In 2006, the FDA began investigating several respiratory deaths linked to fentanyl use. More common side effects of fentanyl include diarrhea, nausea, constipation, dry mouth, abdominal pain, hallucinations, anxiety and depression.
Because fentanyl is thought be more powerful than street heroin, some heroin dealers mix fentanyl with low-grade heroin to add bulk and make their product more potent. Mixing fentanyl with other drugs, including cocaine or heroin, can be very dangerous, and the trend has caused an outbreak of overdoses in several regions.
Drug Addiction Help at La Paloma
If you or someone you love needs treatment for an addiction to prescription painkillers like fentanyl, call La Paloma at the toll-free number on our homepage. Someone is there to take your call 24 hours a day and answer any questions you have about treatment, financing or insurance.