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Information on Fentanyl

FentanylWhat is a narcotic that is 100 times more potent than morphine and nearly impossible to stop once it gets into your blood stream? No, it is not heroin, but you’re close. It is Fentanyl.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid analgesic medicine. It is a narcotic prescribed to patients, usually cancer patients, enrolled in Fentora REMS. Those enrolled have agreed to all risks associated with taking this drug and have agreed to keep the medication out of the reach of pets, children, and people with a history of drug addiction.

Fentanyl buccal is the medicine’s generic name and refers to either a pill or film that dissolves in your mouth. Fentora and Onsolis are the brand names for Fentanyl.

Why is This Drug Prescribed?

Fentanyl is usually prescribed to cancer patients using it to treat “break through” pain. Because it works so fast and has such short lived results, patients may take the drug up to four times a day at the onset of pain. This medication is prescribed to patients when their bodies are no longer responsive to other pain medications or they have a reaction to other medicines such as oxycodone or morphine. Patients experiencing side-effects from morphine generally react better to Fentanyl.

People with an opiate tolerance are the only ones that should be prescribed and taking Fentanyl. It can cause severe side-effects, including death, to anyone not already opioid-tolerant.

Fentanyl is not generally prescribed for back pain or migraines. It is a “last resort” pain medication. In addition to being prescribed for acute, break-through pain, Fentanyl is also used as an anesthesia in operating rooms and intensive care units in hospitals across the country. In these situations, the drug is usually dispersed intravenously.

If prescribed in skin patch form, the drug is released into the bloodstream steadily to provide a 48 to 72 hour pain-free period. It may take up to 12 hours for the patch to begin working though.

Fentanyl is also prescribed as a lozenge (Actiq) in the form of a “lollipop” on a stick. The stick is rubbed on the inside of the patient’s cheek for best results, usually within 15 minutes. This is sometimes used to treat patients with chronic pain including arthritis and severe back pain.

A buccal pill or a film that melts in the patient’s mouth can also be prescribed. If the seal is broken on the buccal pill or it is opened and not taken within 15 minutes, the pill must be flushed down the toilet. Buccal means “cheek” in Latin. The pill is dissolved in the patient’s mouth similarly to the lozenge. Digesting Fentanyl will have less effective results and it should not be chewed or swallowed whole.

How Does The Drug Affect the Body?

Narcotics affect different people in different ways. Some may feel very tired while others may experience a feeling of euphoria. While the side affects differ, how it reacts in the body is the same. It triggers pain receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and gastrointestinal tract to ignore the pain. The opioid receptors tell the body that it is no longer in pain. The heart rate decreases, blood vessels open wide, breathing slows, and the patient can relax in comfort.

If using the patch, be very aware of the size of the patch as that determines the dosage. Too much Fentanyl released into the bloodstream too quickly can lead to an overdose and even cause death.

How Does Fentanyl Affect the Body When Abused?

Heroin is the most widely abused opioid. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin. Street dealers sometimes combine Fentanyl with heroin to create “magic” or “the bomb”, a deadly mixture.

Abuse can lead to addiction or overdose.

Abusers will generally experience euphoria, drowsiness, and extreme lethargy. Other side affects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Itching or skin irritation
  • Swelling of extremities (hands, feet, ankles)

How is Fentanyl Dangerous?

Fentanyl is dangerous because it is very addictive. Because the drug is used by those with a tolerance, it is easy to acquire a tolerance to even higher dosages. The euphoric pain relief may occur with the first dose and within as little as two days, the patient may require two or three times as much to alleviate their pain and get the euphoric, comfortable feeling.

It is also important for patients to NOT abruptly stop taking the drug. This can cause severe withdrawal symptoms including:

  • Extreme irritability
  • Violent behavior
  • Anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Stomach cramps
  • Sleep disruptions or inability to sleep

Using a recreational version the drug can be even more dangerous because it is often an illegally manufactured version of the product mixed with heroin, oxycodone, or morphine. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and heroin is a very popular recreational narcotic. You can see the appeal that this drug has with addicted persons.

People may overdose and die from:

  • Mixing it with other narcotics
  • Receiving too much Fentanyl from the skin patches
  • Mixing the drug with other medications such as sleeping pills

Once too much enters the bloodstream, it is nearly impossible to stop. The results are nearly always fatal. There have been several accidental overdoses of Fentanyl because it is such a powerful drug that works so quickly.

You should also mention to your doctor if any of the follow apply to you before being prescribed Fentanyl:

  • History of alcohol abuse
  • Depression
  • Low blood pressure
  • Breathing problems
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Seizures or epilepsy

How Does One Go About Getting Help for Addiction?

Patients using Fentanyl or those using Fentanyl as a recreational drug should never abruptly stop using the drug. The withdrawals can be severe. Taking more Fentanyl than prescribed can be dangerous and fatal. It is best to get professional help when dealing with such a powerful addiction.

Addicts are not capable of making rational decisions. Inpatient treatment administered by professionals is the best way to recover from a Fentanyl addiction. Being arguably the strongest pain medication available, it is an attractive substance to both patients with severe, chronic pain and those seeking a more euphoric high than any other narcotic can deliver.

A medical professional can manage dosages and slowly begin to wean the addict off the drug. While the addiction happens fast, the recovery from addiction is a slower process that requires daily attention. Those opioid receptors in the brain will be screaming that they’re in pain and that they need Fentanyl.

The best way to avoid addiction is to:

  • Not use any prescription drug for illicit purposes, use only if prescribed
  • Use only in the amount prescribed. Never take it upon yourself to take more than prescribed if the pain persists

Always call your doctor first and never assume that the dosage is the same if you switch dosage types (i.e. switch from buccal form to Actiq). The dosage will be different depending on how the drug is administered.

Fentanyl is on the DEA controlled substances list.

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