Something that’s powerful is typically thought to be something that’s also good. People think high-octane gas is a little better than standard gas. A baseball pitcher who can throw a ball at 90 mph is often held in higher esteem than someone who can only throw a 70 mph ball. And people who make $70k per year are often considered more successful than those who only make $25k per year. In this country, power is usually considered a very good thing. But not everything that’s powerful is good.
Consider fentanyl. This prescription medication is 50-100 times more powerful than morphine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which makes it one of the most potent painkillers out there. But all of that power can come with some nasty side effects, and many of those consequences have to do with addiction.
Fentanyl is a synthetic drug that’s designed to augment the brain’s natural pleasure chemicals. When users take a hit of this drug, all of the natural processes the brain uses in order to respond to something interesting or pleasant go into overdrive. That’s a great attribute for a person in pain, as that boosted signal could make signals of discomfort a little easier to ignore. But it can be really dangerous if people boost these signals for nothing more than recreational purposes.
A fentanyl boost, repeated again and again, can tweak vital circuitry in the brain, making the brain less likely to produce its own pleasurable signals. In time, the brain might only feel pleasure when fentanyl is present.
This addictive process is possible in people who take various painkilling drugs, including:
But it’s a speedy process to addiction with fentanyl, simply because the drug is so strong. Each hit does so much damage that an addiction can come on very quickly.
Fentanyl comes in many different formats, including pill forms and liquid forms. Abusers might take pills by mouth, or they might crush the pills and snort or inject the powder.
Some users get even more creative with the fentanyl they have. For example, patches made of fentanyl are designed to stick to the skin, delivering a dose of medication at regular intervals. Some users crack open these packets, say researchers writing for the Journal of Forensic Sciences, and they ingest the ingredients found inside.
Whether users take pills or packets, and whether they chew the ingredients or swallow or snort them, all of these users typically need to take in more and more fentanyl with each passing day. That’s because their bodies become accustomed to fentanyl, and the responses users feel with each dose tends to decline with time. Soon, people might need to take in massive doses of fentanyl just to feel normal.
An addiction like this can happen to anyone. In fact, very successful people can (and do) become addicted to substances like this. For example, in a study of medical professionals with a history of fentanyl abuse, published in the Journal of Addictive Disorders, about 75 percent were anesthesiologists. These are very educated, very talented people who have devoted their lives to helping people overcome pain. In theory, they should know just how dangerous drugs like fentanyl really are. And yet, these same people feel compelled to dip into these drugs, and they developed addictions as a result.Since this abuse could happen to anyone, it’s a little meaningless to attempt to develop a profile of who is most likely to abuse this particular drug. Anyone who has access to it, for whatever reason, might be tempted to take the drug for recreational purposes. This isn’t a drug that discriminates.
But people who abuse this drug might share some traits. For example, it’s likely that almost everyone who abuses this drug is short on cash. According to a CBS News report, an average packet of fentanyl costs up to $240, and a user might go through that amount of drugs in a matter of days. Keeping up with an expensive habit like this isn’t easy, and users might have to stoop to crime in order to afford the drugs they’d like to take.
In addition, people who abuse fentanyl may be willing to work very hard to keep the abuse problem under wraps. They might not use the drug in front of friends and family members, as they may not want to hear lectures about why the drug is dangerous. They may not keep the drug in open spaces, so they won’t have to disclose how much of the drug they’ve purchased. And they might resort to code names when they discuss the drug with dealers, so concerned family members won’t know what they’re taking about. The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that these are common slang fentanyl names:
Families that spot these signs of addiction may not be certain if they should step in and bring up addiction and recovery. People are private, and they have the right to make their own decisions, and families might wonder if they’ll be somehow breaking the rules or intruding if they question the choices an adult makes about his/her drug use.While it’s true that people can choose to take drugs, there are very real dangers associated with fentanyl abuse, and those dangers might compel a family to take action, even if doing so seems awkward or uncomfortable.
For example, at very high doses, fentanyl can suppress a person’s instinct to breathe. People just seem to nod off into a deep sleep while taking a great deal of fentanyl, and their body temperatures may cool and their heart rates may slow. Medications can slow or stop this process, but a report from the journal Clinical Toxicology suggests that professionals may need to give staggeringly high amounts of medications to reverse a fentanyl overdose. If ambulance drivers don’t have an unlimited amount of overdose-reversing drugs, and some just don’t, that could mean that people could die due to their drug use.
It’s also important to note that abusing fentanyl is illegal. People who do so may not be intending to break the law or get into trouble with the police. But if they keep abusing the drug, they could face very significant consequences that may involve jail time and a life of embarrassment.
The Drug Enforcement Administration suggests that some 20,034 people abused fentanyl in 2011 alone. If you’re abusing this drug, or you love someone with an abuse problem, you’re certainly not alone. There are many families that are going through the very same situation.
That means there are also a number of medical professionals who are devoted to making life better. The medical community has researched these kinds of addictions extensively, and professionals have developed a number of innovative therapies that could make sobriety easier to attain.
Medical treatments can help to take the pain and discomfort out of detoxification, so you can get sober without feeling really sick. Therapists and counselors can use a combination of medications and therapy to help you to overcome an addiction, along with the underlying medical conditions that might make an addiction worse. And support group leaders can help you to connect with others in recovery, so you’ll be able to find a role model for health in your own life.
Rehab could be a wonderful experience for you, and you can emerge from the process with knowledge you never knew you were missing. We’d like to help you to get started. Just call the number at the top of the page, and our admissions coordinators can tell you more.