What is it Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful artificial opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. It is typically used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery.
This drug is also sometimes used to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids. In its prescription form, fentanyl is known by such brand names as Actiq, Duragesic and Sublimaze.
Whether bought illegally or prescribed by a doctor, fentanyl is a highly addictive drug. It changes the structure and function of the brain in a way similar to other opiates.
Street Names for Fentanyl
There are many and varied street names for fentanyl or for fentanyl-laced heroin. This prescription medication is sometimes mixed with heroin or cocaine to heighten their effects.
- China Girl
- China White
- Dance Fever
- Murder 8
- Tango and Cash
History of Fentanyl
Fentanyl was first developed in 1959 by Dr. Paul Janssen under a patent held by his company Janssen Pharmaceutica.
This powerful analgesic was quickly adopted in the medical setting. In the 1960s, fentanyl was introduced as an intravenous anesthetic under the brand name Sublimaze. Following the popularity of Sublimaze, other brands of fentanyl were developed and included Sufentanil, Alfentanil, Lofentanil and Remifentanil.
During the 1990s the fentanyl patch was developed, which could deliver the drug to a patient transdermally. The Duragesic patch can be worn on the skin and is useful in the management of chronic pain.
Next, other delivery devices were developed with examples including the Fentora Buccal tablets and the Actiq lollipop.
What are the Effects of Fentanyl Addiction?
Addiction to prescription medication can be just as debilitating as addiction to street drugs. Just like with other drugs, dependence develops at different rates with some people using daily from the start and others letting periods of time elapse between doses.
Every addict’s path into addiction varies. This is a complex disease with many underlying layers which coupled together with trauma, abuse, depression and anxiety make it difficult to diagnose and treat without effective residential care.
- Severe gastrointestinal problems, including bowel obstruction and perforation.
- Weakened immune system.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Changes in the brain chemistry – short term
- Changes in the structure and function of the brain – long term
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Disturbed sleep
- Unhealthy eating habits/malnutrition
- Memory loss and reduced intellectual capacity
- Lying to yourself/denial
- Apathy /Exhaustion
- Memory loss
- Mood Swings
- Potential increase in risky behaviour
- Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Lack of interest in work/school
- Lack of interest and ability in maintain relationships/friendships
- Damaged relationships with family members
- Lying to others
- Damaged self-esteem and self-worth
- Damaged relationship with self
- Lack of interest in life
- Inability to function in life without the drug
- Continued use despite negative consequences
The signs and symptoms of fentanyl addicton get progressively worse over time and there will be no resolution until effective addiction treatment and aftercare are sought.
Withdrawal from Fentanyl
Withdrawal from fentanyl is similar from withdrawing from any other opiate. Some of the extended release forms of the medication such as the Duragesic patch mean that it will take longer for the symptoms to kick in.
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can include
- Tearing up
- Runny nose
- Stomach cramps
- Pain in joints and/or muscles
- Muscle weakness
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Elevated heart rate
- Increased respiratory rate
The Two Stages of Withdrawal – Acute and Post-Acute
There are often two stages of withdrawal from fentanyl. The first stage has immediate acute symptoms and these are usually both physical and psychological. During stage two, former users experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms or PAWS.
These refer to a number of psychological symptoms which can last for weeks or months after the user has stopped taking the drug. This is one of many reasons why residential treatment is the most effective way to treat fentanyl addiction.
Post-acute withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Anger or emotional outbursts