Updated: Aug 12
The Rising Addiction Infecting Our Country
Illicit Fentanyl: Hiding in Plain Sight
Part of the grave problem with fentanyl abuse rests in the illicit manufacture of the drug. Unlike its prescription form, illicit fentanyl may be created on the “street,” mixed with a variety of other drugs or substituted for heroin. As the prescription drug becomes combined with these street drugs, the substance’s strength increases. Essentially, fentanyl abuse may be hiding behind the abuse of heroin and other opiates.
For those who suspect or know of someone who suffers from fentanyl abuse, learning to recognize the drug, the signs of abuse, and associated symptoms is the first step in getting help and preventing a tragedy.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is an opioid medication, which may be used as part of anesthesia to prevent pain after surgery, or to help reduce generalized pain, explains Drugs.com. When used outside of the medication’s directive, fentanyl abuse may lead to a variety of problems. In some cases, combining fentanyl with other opioid drugs may result in death, asserts the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Furthermore, the incidence of fentanyl overdose increased 80 percent from 2013 to 2014, reports the Centers for Disease Control. To curtail this disturbing trend, family members, friends, and other loved ones must understand how to recognize fentanyl abuse, the health effects of the drug, and why it can be easily hidden among today’s “street” drugs.
Recognizing Fentanyl Abuse
Fentanyl abuse rarely begins with extremely high doses. For example, synthetic opioid abuse may be the result of “borrowing” a friend’s medication for minor pains or taking a little beyond the prescribed dosage. As explained by the Mayo Clinic, and the most common indicators of fentanyl abuse include the following behaviors:
Resorting to additional measures to obtain the substance, such as stealing, forging, or selling prescriptions.
Unexplained, excessive mood swings.
Unusually energetic or relaxed.
Recurrent episodes of “losing” filled prescriptions.
Seeing multiple physicians in order to obtain multiple prescriptions.
Purchasing the drug through an illicit means, outside of an accredited pharmaceutical establishment.
Health Effects of Fentanyl Abuse
Fentanyl functions by binding to opiate receptors in the body, especially in areas of the brain that are responsible for the control of pain and emotions. When the opiate binds to these receptors, dopamine levels in the brain increase. As a result, a person experiences pain relief and a euphoric sensation, which defines addictive properties. These addictive characteristics result in biological changes to a person’s body and ability to think and act in a given situation. The abuse of fentanyl may include the following health effects:
Constipation, changes to bowel habits, or the unexplained presence of blood in the stool.
Reduced rate of respirations, or respiratory arrest (stops breathing).
Reduced heart rate.
Decreased blood pressure.
Excessive drowsiness or a sedated state.
The development of tolerance.