Why is Fentanyl So Addictive?

Fentanyl is a rising epidemic in Tennessee – this highly addictive drug is the leading cause of overdose deaths in our state. Just yesterday, a Nashville woman was arrested for murder after supplying a man with a fatal dose of fentanyl-laced heroin. What exactly makes fentanyl so dangerous, and why is such a deadly substance suddenly more common than ever before?

 

Fentanyl Drug Facts

Fentanyl was initially synthesized in a laboratory in 1959. This synthetic opioid is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, and it serves the same purpose: pain relief. Its original intent was to provide relief for patients recovering from surgery. However, in recent years, it has become more widely prescribed for chronic pain patients who have developed a tolerance to other opioids.

You may be familiar with fentanyl’s brand names: Actiq, Sublimaze and Duragesic. It is important to note that even with physician oversight, a person can develop a dependency on this uniquely powerful drug.

Short-term side effects of fentanyl use include euphoria, nausea, drowsiness, confusion, sedation, breathing problems and unconsciousness. Over time, the brain adapts to this drug, making it difficult to feel happiness or pleasure from anything else. However, this isn’t the only issue surrounding this controversial substance.

 

A Growing Public Health Concern

One of the primary concerns surrounding fentanyl is its rising popularity in the illicit drug trade. While many people are legally prescribed this substance in the form of a transdermal patch, lozenge or shot, clandestine labs have begun to manufacture fentanyl as a powder, nasal sprays or pills.

One of the key dangers of fentanyl’s rise is its inclusion in other drugs. A person who intends to purchase heroin, cocaine, MDMA or methamphetamine, for example, may find that their drugs have been laced with fentanyl. Drug dealers are doing this for two reasons:

  1. Fentanyl is a cheap additive that can increase the potency of their product, and
  2. This powerful drug can create an incredible level of dependency with limited exposure, resulting in repeat business.

 

Why is Fentanyl So Dangerous?

If a person does not know that their usual dosage has been cut with fentanyl, their lives are at risk. They may be taking stronger opioids than their body is accustomed to; this increases the likelihood of overdose exponentially.

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the #1 cause of overdose deaths in the United States, as well as within the state of Tennessee. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2017, more than 59% of opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl specifically. This number stands in contrast to the previous statistic: 14.3% in 2010.

An overdose happens when someone consumes a drug that negatively affects their body. When it comes to fentanyl, the cause of death is hypoxia: a decrease in the amount of oxygen that reaches a person’s brain. This is the result of fentanyl’s sedative properties, which can slow or completely stop a person’s breathing.

If you suspect that someone is overdosing on fentanyl, it is important to take action quickly. Those who use opioids, legally or illegally, should always have Narcan on hand. Narcan, a brand-name form of naloxone, works by rapidly blocking the effects of opioid drugs of any type. Because fentanyl is more potent than other opioids, a person may require multiple doses of Narcan to recover. This lifesaving drug is now available online in the state of Tennessee. While administering Narcan, you should also contact emergency services and request medical help.

 

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

If you have developed a dependency on fentanyl, help is available. Facilities like Cumberland Heights offer opioid-specific treatment programs for those in need. Individuals who present with an opioid addiction are eligible for our Safe Start Program (medication-assisted treatment) in the initial phases of their stay.

In addition to using medication to manage opioid cessation, we provide structured care and a variety of personalized counseling options. Modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing can be especially helpful for those looking to address the psychological components of their addiction. Therapy takes place in both individual and group settings, ensuring that residents balance personal, one-on-one care with community-building efforts.

Worried about your own fentanyl misuse? Concerned for someone you love? No matter how you got to this point, we are here to help. Contact Cumberland Heights for a comprehensive, completely free assessment. Our admissions team will work with you to navigate insurance verification, design an individualized treatment plan and schedule your intake and appointments on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Call us today to Recover Life.

Why is it so meaningful to give to Cumberland Heights?

Your gift to Cumberland Heights through our annual and capital initiates gives immediate support to patients and their families. To make a longer term impact a gift to the endowment fund will provide patient assistance funding for years to come.

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