It’s classified as a schedule II controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which means it has a high potential for abuse and can lead to psychological and physical dependence.
The prescription opioid is also considered an opioid agonist that provides analgesia (pain relief) for those struggling with severe pain after surgery. Fentanyl is available under the brand names Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze.
Fentanyl As A Synthetic Opioid
Fentanyl is classified as a synthetic opioid. This means that instead of being derived directly from the opium plant, it’s made in a lab from man-made substances.
Synthetic opioids act on the same receptors as natural opiates do so they work just as well for pain relief.
But while the drug does have a medical use, the pain management medication is also distributed illegally on the drug market.
Illicit fentanyl is often added to other illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines to make them more potent. Unknowingly taking a drug that has fentanyl mixed in can easily lead to a life-threatening overdose.
Like other synthetic prescription drugs, fentanyl use can lead to a number of side effects that include drowsiness, sedation, and trouble breathing.
Fentanyl Use, Synthetic Opioids, & Public Health
Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, affect public health and contribute to the opioid crisis as they are the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019, 73 percent of opioid-related deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
This likely includes several synthetic drugs that are fentanyl analogs/analogues like acetyl fentanyl, furanyl fentanyl, and carfentanil, which have a similar chemical structure as fentanyl but can be even more potent and increase the risk of a fatal overdose.
Some of these analogs don’t even show up on drug tests and need special toxicology testing to be detected. This can be problematic when law enforcement or healthcare professionals try to figure out what someone overdosed on and treat them accordingly.
If you’re abusing fentanyl either by taking a higher dosage than prescribed or by buying it from a drug dealer on the street, you’re increasing your risk of an overdose.
An overdose can occur by taking too much or by unknowingly taking a drug that is laced with fentanyl. If left untreated, an overdose can be fatal.
Signs of a fentanyl overdose can include:
- respiratory depression
- stopped breathing
- smaller pupils
- unable to respond or wake up
If someone is showing any of these signs, call 911 immediately and wait for emergency help to arrive. They may administer naloxone (Narcan) which will reverse the effects of the opioid overdose.
Synthetic Opioid Addiction Treatment
If you or a loved one live with a fentanyl addiction or another opioid use disorder, there are several forms of treatment available to you.
Buprenorphine and methadone bind to the same opioid receptors in the brain as fentanyl but instead of setting off the opioid effects, they reduce cravings for substance use and ease withdrawal symptoms.
Naltrexone is another MAT medication often used for treatment because it blocks opioid receptors and prevents fentanyl from having any effect.
Therapy for opioid addiction can lead you to change your behaviors and attitudes toward drug use and help you increase healthy habits.
For information on our outpatient substance abuse treatment programs, please contact us today.
Northeast Addition Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.