Although fentanyl is considered safe and effective when used and monitored in a medical setting, it carries a high abuse potential.
Fentanyl analogs – designer drugs nearly identical to the original – can be manufactured and mixed with or substituted for heroin. Because fentanyl and its analogs are incredibly potent, accidental overdoses and deaths are increasingly common.
Fentanyl is sometimes mixed with heroin. Because it is much more potent than heroin, there is a hugely increased risk of overdose and death.
In this article, we will discuss the medical uses of fentanyl and its side effects. We will also cover abuse of fentanyl, addiction, and overdoses.
Here are some key points about fentanyl. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid that is very effective at relieving moderate-to-severe chronic pain.
- Oral formulations of fentanyl contain an amount of the drug that can be fatal to a child.
- The difference between a therapeutic dose and a deadly dose of fentanyl is very small.
- There are many illegal analogs and derivatives of fentanyl that are much stronger than the prescription version.
- Recreational users often use fentanyl as a substitute for heroin.
What is fentanyl?
Fentanyl binds to the body’s opioid receptors, increasing dopamine levels in the central nervous system.
The increase in dopamine produces a state of relaxation, relieves pain, decreases the perception of suffering, and promotes a feeling of well-being (euphoria).
A schedule 2 prescription narcotic analgesic, fentanyl is roughly 100 times more potent than morphine.
It is used to manage pain during surgery; it is also used to treat moderate-to-severe chronic pain syndromes in people who are already physically tolerant to opiates.
Fentanyl depresses the respiratory centers and the cough reflex and constricts the pupils. It can work within minutes to relieve pain and produce sedation. Fentanyl has a short duration of effect – just 30-90 minutes.
Fentanyl affects everyone differently. The effects are dependent on an individual’s size, weight, overall state of health, the amount that is taken, whether fentanyl is taken in combination with other drugs, and whether the person is used to taking opioids.
Medically prescribed fentanyl is available in a variety of formulations, including lozenges, lollipops, oral and nasal sprays, and injections.