Confronting Fentanyl – Our Nation’s Next Big Drug Epidemic

Written by Journey Pure Staff

If you’ve read the newspaper or watched your local news over the last couple of years, you’re surely aware of several heartbreaking stories involving Fentanyl. This synthetic opioid is one of the most potent painkillers available today. Learn more about how Fentanyl addiction is crippling communities and destroying lives across the country, and what steps we can take to fight back.

What is Fentanyl?

As of 2012, Fentanyl is the most widely used synthetic opioid in the field of medicine. It is most commonly used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery. Typically, fentanyl is a very safe surgical anesthetic when monitored closely; however, its potency requires careful measurements, making it extremely unsafe to administer when deluded, as is done in street use.

Although fentanyl maintains a wide index for medical use, its potency and rapid onset—50 to 100 times more potent than morphine according to this resource—have made it a popular drug amongst recreational users and addicts. Fentanyl has a similar chemical make-up to heroin; however, due to its strength, it tends to produce significantly more respiratory depression, making it more dangerous and prone to overdose. Illicit drug dealers will often combine heroin and fentanyl together in order to increase potency or compensate for low-quality heroin. Fentanyl has been linked to thousands of deaths in the United States and has led to a widespread investigation of both legitimate pharmaceutical markets as well as street markets for the drug—specifically in Rhode Island, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, & Connecticut. In its prescription form, fentanyl is known as Actuq, Durgesic, & Sublimaze. Street names for fentanyl or for fentanyl-laced heroin include Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, TNT, & Tango and Cash.

How is it used?

When used in medical applications, fentanyl is often administered in the form of injection, lozenges, or a transdermal patch. Although some pharmaceutical forms of fentanyl make it into the illicit drug trade, most of the black market forms of fentanyl are non-pharmaceutical and are produced in pop-up or clandestine laboratories. The non-pharmaceutical forms of fentanyl are often sold as a powder, spiked on blotter paper, mixed with or substituted for heroin, or sold in tablets that mimic other less powerful opioid drugs. In non-medical applications, people usually swallow, snort, inject, or absorb fentanyl through the mouth.

How does it affect the brain?

Fentanyl works the same as heroin and other opioid drugs. Once ingested, fentanyl binds to the opioid receptors in the regions of the brain that control emotion and manage pain. In this regard, the drug amplifies dopamine levels in the brain’s reward center and produces a state of euphoria and relaxation. Overall, fentanyl has similar effects to heroin, including euphoria, drowsiness, nausea, confusion, constipation, increased tolerance, sedation, respiratory depression and arrest, addiction, unconsciousness, coma, and death.

How can you get help?

Although fentanyl withdrawal is rarely “life-threatening”, it can be an immensely uncomfortable process. People who have been using fentanyl, or similar opioid-related drugs, have likely developed a physical dependence on the substance and are therefore likely to experience nausea, hot & cold chills, physical aches, and pains, as well as intense cravings. Professional medical supervision during detoxification can help to ease withdrawal symptoms, curb the intensity of cravings, and reduce the odds of relapse.

At JourneyPure at the River, our trained medical staff is prepared to support you through the detoxification process. We have an expert team of medical doctors, clinicians, psychiatrists, nurses, and mental health technicians available around the clock. Many of those struggling through active addiction report that withdrawal is the biggest obstacle to recovery; however, with Journey Pure’s ongoing monitoring, advanced medical care, and empathetic support, you can ensure a more easeful beginning to your recovery journey.