Fentanyl – What Is It and Why Is It So Dangerous?

by | Sep 1, 2020 | Prescription Drugs

Tablet showing the chemical formula of the opioid Fentanyl.

One of the most publicized topics in the news today is opioid overdose death, particularly in regards to the opioid fentanyl. So, what is fentanyl and why is it so dangerous? 

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a type of synthetic opioid that’s 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was made to manage pain in cancer patients through the application of a skin patch. Since it has strong opioid properties, it’s also diverted for substance abuse. It’s put into heroin to make it more potent or to disguise it as very strong heroin.

Many individuals think they’re buying heroin, but don’t realize they’re buying fentanyl and this often leads to overdose deaths. 

How and Why Fentanyl is Used In Medicine and What It Does

When a doctor prescribes fentanyl, it’s typically provided as:

  • A patch you put on your skin
  • A shot
  • A lozenge you suck on

Like morphine, heroin, and other opioids, fentanyl binds to your body’s opioid receptors located in the areas of your brain that control emotions and pain. When it binds to these receptors, it raises dopamine levels in the reward centers of your brain and causes intense relaxation and euphoria.

What Makes Fentanyl So Dangerous? 

There are various reasons why fentanyl is so dangerous, including:

  1. It’s Often Abused and Part of the Opioid Epidemic

Fentanyl is highly addictive due to its potency. Even if you take fentanyl prescribed by your doctor, you can still become dependent on it which can cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the drug. You can become dependent on it without being addicted, but sometimes, dependence does lead to addiction.

  1. It’s Potent and Can Potentially Cause Overdose

When a person misuses fentanyl, it can be incredibly fatal, even in extremely tiny doses. In its purest form, it comes in white powder form with crystals that resemble table salt. Since a lot of street drugs are “laced” with other substances, illicit drug makers are beginning to use fentanyl when they manufacture heroin. This causes individuals to overdose accidentally because they don’t realize the heroin they just bought contains lethal amounts of fentanyl.

Deaths that involve other synthetic narcotics like fentanyl continued to increase with over 31,335 overdose deaths in the year 2018.

Why Is Fentanyl So Addictive? 

Fentanyl is highly addictive because of the following reasons: 

  1. Fentanyl is a strong synthetic opioid that’s similar to morphine, but way more potent (50 to 100 times as mentioned previously).
  2. Fentanyl affects your central nervous system to a substantial degree. It causes excess amounts of dopamine flooding and alters your brain chemically over time. Because of these neurochemical changes, if you’re prescribed fentanyl, you could become dependent on it.
  3. Once you develop a tolerance to the drug’s narcotic properties, you’ll depend on it in order to feel “normal”, which requires you to take more of the drug to experience the previous sensations.
  4. The stronger a drug, the quicker you become addicted. Fentanyl has a direct effect on the reward system of your brain. It causes your brain to produce dopamine in more abundance than it normally would.

Contact Soul Surgery Today

If you or someone you know is misusing opioids, especially fentanyl, call Soul Surgery. We provide a large range of drug and alcohol treatment programs that will provide you with all the tools you require for living an addiction-free life.

Soul Surgery
Soul Surgery Integrative Medicine Addiction Centers works with clients to bring healing and recovery for those suffering with drug and alcohol use, current or past trauma, mental health issues, and other life experiences. Located in Scottsdale, AZ, we provide addiction treatment, drug and alcohol detox, dual diagnosis treatment, mental health treatment, and medication assisted treatment on both an inpatient and outpatient basis.

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