What is an Opioid?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid, like morphine but can be 100 times more potent. Opioids encompass a broad group of painkillers that work by interacting with the opioid receptors in the brain.

The opioid system is responsible for regulating pain and reward. Opioid receptors are part of the nerve cells (neurons) in the central nervous system (CNS). When an opioid drug, plant-derived or synthetic, is taken, the drug attaches to the receptors and “triggers a series of chemical changes within and between neurons that lead to a feeling of pleasure and pain relief.” 

The opioids attach to the neurons and block the signal of pain. The chemical response by the opioid receptors also signals the production of dopamine, which regulates reward-seeking behavior, attention, and mood. Several drugs fall within this category of opioids, oxycodone, Fentanyl, buprenorphine, methadone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and heroin. 

Synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl are the most found drug involved in overdose deaths. In the U.S., 59% of opioid deaths involved Fentanyl compared to 14.3% in 2010.

“The illegally used Fentanyl most often associated with recent overdoses is made in labs. This synthetic Fentanyl is sold illegally as a powder, dropped onto blotter paper, put in eye droppers and nasal sprays, or made into pills that look like other prescription opioids.” Additionally, many drugs bought on the street contain Fentanyl. Fentanyl is being mixed with heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA. It requires very little Fentanyl to produce a high. According to the DEA, most illegally manufactured Fentanyl comes from Mexico.

Fentanyl is known by many names:

  • Apace 
  • China Girl
  • China Town
  • China White
  • Dance Fever
  • Goodfellas
  • Great Bear
  • He-Man
  • Poison
  • Tango & Cash 

Prescribed by a physician, Fentanyl is administered as a shot, a skin patch, or as tablets. In illegal form, it is sold as a powder, dropped onto a blotter paper, put in an eye dropper and nasal sprays, or made into pills.

Fentanyl’s effects include:

  • extreme happiness
  • drowsiness
  • nausea
  • confusion
  • constipation
  • sedation
  • problems breathing
  • unconsciousness

Because the opioids work on the reward stimulus, over time, a person will seek more Fentanyl or drugs containing Fentanyl. However, research has also shown that individuals with mood disorders are more likely to abuse opioids. “A 2012 survey found patients with depression were twice as likely to misuse their opioid medications.” As stated above, street fentanyl (produced in a lab and sold on the street) has become one of the deadliest drugs in America. 

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020, more than 56,000 deaths involving synthetic opioids (other than methadone) occurred in the United States, which is more deaths than from any other drug class. Synthetic opioid-involved death rates increased by over 56% from 2019 to 2020 and accounted for over 82% of all opioid-involved deaths in 2020. The rate of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids was more than 18 times higher in 2020 than in 2013.”

Because of the potency of Fentanyl, one becomes addicted quickly. For the drug trade on the street, that is good news. For the user, that is dangerous news. As with many drug abuse trends, people dying of overdoses are dying of multiple drug use. Many users are now also injecting Fentanyl. It was found that sudden onset chest wall rigidity and respiratory arrest were present in IV users.

Withdrawal symptoms for Opioids, including Fentanyl

Short-acting opioids (e.g., heroin): Onset of opioid withdrawal symptoms 8-24 hours after last use; duration 4-10 days.

Long-acting opioids (e.g., methadone): Onset of opioid withdrawal symptoms 12-48 hours after last use; period 10-20 days.

Symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Hot and cold flushes
  • Perspiration
  • Muscle cramps
  • Watery discharge from eyes and nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Bone pain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Stomach cramps
  • Intense cravings for the drugs

If you have been taking Fentanyl for a few weeks, you can slowly reduce the amount you take. A physician can help you manage withdrawal symptoms. However, if you have been taking large quantitates of Fentanyl combined with other drugs, you should seek help from a detox and treatment facility. 

After the initial withdrawal has been completed, many people experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome. This can be explained by the fact that Fentanyl accumulates in fatty tissue. This means it takes longer for the body to cleanse itself of Fentanyl, which requires a slower detox. 

The most common post-acute withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Foggy thinking or trouble remembering
  • Urges and cravings
  • Irritability or hostility
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or vivid dreams
  • Fatigue
  • Issues with fine motor coordination
  • Stress sensitivity
  • Anxiety or panic
  • Depression
  • Lack of motivation
  • Less ability to focus
  • Mood swings

If you are not in treatment, you are unprepared to handle these symptoms, which generally trigger significant discomfort, cravings, and relapse. If you have been using large quantities of drugs, including Fentanyl, you may make a potentially deadly mistake users make when relapsing. 

Once the drug has been removed from the body, users will return to the last dosage taken. The body has been cleansed of the toxins related to the drug and will not easily consume the old dosage. The body will struggle to manage the dosage, leading to overdose or death. These post-acute symptoms can last weeks, months, or years. They can suddenly come on years after one has stopped using Fentanyl. A person can manage the symptoms mentioned above with medication, a robust support system, and knowledge about relapse.

In treatment, clients learn about relapse prevention, recognizing the signs of relapse, and what to do about cravings, etc. Treatment programs should always be licensed and accredited with multi-disciplinary staff, including addiction physicians, clinical staff trained in addiction treatment, as well as other experts in stress relief, medication education and management, counseling, group sessions, family therapy, support groups, nutrition and exercise, and aftercare planning.

Call now and speak with one of our trained staff members. They will answer your questions about treatment, help with financial options, and ease your fears. Recovery is work, but it is also a way to regain your life.