Understanding Fentanyl: The Deadly Opioid Crisis

Human beings have always had an unhealthy relationship with addictive substances. But as a society, in the modern era, with the tools capacities available to us in the Information Age, we have always had an ongoing crisis when it comes to drug use and overdoses.  However, in recent years, fentanyl has emerged as a potent and deadly player in the ongoing opioid crisis. This synthetic opioid, originally intended for medical use as a pain reliever, has tragically become synonymous with overdose deaths and addiction. In 2022, the number of deaths from fentanyl overdose in the US surged to 73,654, surpassing by more than double the fatalities recorded in 2019, three years earlier.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid analgesic, similar to morphine but significantly more potent. It was first synthesized in the 1960s and is typically used medically to treat severe pain, such as that experienced by cancer patients or those undergoing surgery. Its high potency makes it effective in small doses, but also significantly increases the risk of overdose.

Fentanyl has played a major role in exacerbating the opioid crisis. Illegally manufactured fentanyl, often produced in clandestine laboratories, has flooded the illicit drug market, leading to a surge in overdose deaths. Its potency makes it attractive to drug dealers seeking to maximize profits, as small amounts can be mixed with other substances like heroin or cocaine to increase their potency. It also presents a challenge for those you want to come off the drug due to the severe, and oftentimes dangerous fentanyl withdrawal symptoms

Fentanyl represents a significant challenge in the ongoing opioid crisis, but it’s not insurmountable. By implementing comprehensive, evidence-based strategies focused on prevention, treatment, and harm reduction, we can mitigate the impact of fentanyl and save lives. It will require collaboration across sectors and a sustained commitment to addressing the underlying factors driving opioid misuse and addiction. With concerted effort and compassion, we can work towards a future where fentanyl no longer casts a shadow of despair over our communities.

Identifying Fentanyl Use Disorder

Fentanyl use disorder presents itself in various ways. Physically, individuals often experience persistent fatigue. Even when taken as prescribed, fentanyl can induce profound euphoria followed by drowsiness as its effects wear off. Besides drowsiness, frequent users may display additional physical symptoms, such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Swelling in the hands or feet
  • Constricted pupils
  • Insomnia
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lack of coordination
  • Excessive sweating
  • Muscle pains

Cognitive symptoms may also emerge. Difficulty focusing, memory problems, and impaired judgment are common, particularly during intense cravings. Some individuals may even experience suicidal thoughts.

While fentanyl initially induces intense euphoria, it often leads to a severe crash. Many users report losing interest in activities they once enjoyed and frequently express feelings of depression.

The impact of fentanyl on overdose deaths cannot be overstated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, are now the leading cause of opioid-related overdose deaths in the United States. The death toll continues to rise, with devastating consequences for individuals, families, and communities across the country.

Managing Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms occur when an individual who is physically dependent on the drug reduces their dosage significantly or ceases its use altogether. Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms associated with fentanyl are akin to those experienced with other opioids, encompassing:

  • Muscle and bone aches.
  • Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns.
  • Heightened sensitivity to pain.
  • Feelings of dysphoria.
  • Irritability.
  • Involuntary leg movements.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Chills.
  • Goosebumps.
  • Perspiration.
  • Excessive yawning.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Watery eyes.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Fever.
  • Intense cravings for opioids.

The onset of fentanyl withdrawal symptoms typically occurs within 6-12 hours after the last dose. The acute phase, characterized by the most severe symptoms, usually peaks between days 1 and 3 and gradually diminishes over approximately one week. However, post-acute fentanyl withdrawal symptoms, which persist beyond the acute withdrawal period, may endure for weeks to months. These can include sleep disturbances, anxiety, anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure), and ongoing dysphoria.

Managing fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can be challenging, as the discomfort and pain associated with it often drive individuals to return to fentanyl or other opioid use to alleviate symptoms. Abrupt cessation without medical supervision can lead to heightened risks of relapse, overdose, and overdose-related fatalities. The American Society of Addiction Medicine strongly advises against discontinuing opioid use disorder (OUD) without medical guidance. They recommend seeking professional assistance for OUD treatment, which may involve supervised detoxification, withdrawal management, and a combination of pharmacological and behavioral interventions.

Get free from adduction with rehab at Better Tomorrow

Better Tomorrow Treatment Center’s modern, evidence-based addiction care is designed to foster the personal growth needed to sustain a lifetime of recovery. Find the insight and strength required for the rewarding sober lifestyle your or your loved one deserves. If you or a loved one wants to start their recovery journey, with drug treatment in West Palm Beach, Florida, please contact us at (888) 653-1149, or head over to our website and scroll down to the bottom of the page and fill out our 100% confidential information form and a compassionate member of our team will reach out to you. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *