Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What is Fentanyl
  3. Fentanyl Abuse in New England
  4. How Fentanyl Addiction works
  5. Effects of Fentanyl Addiction
  6. Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms
  7. Fentanyl Addiction in New England at Avenues Recovery
  8. Conclusion

1. Introduction

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there is an opioid crisis in the United States, and we all should be scared – very scared. There are various opioids that are dominating the corners and creeks of streets today, and one of the rather silent killers is fentanyl.

Well, we won’t exactly call it silent, given the tail of bodies it leaves behind with its addiction and overdose. This menace of fentanyl abuse has touched virtually every part of the country, especially the New England region.

Here, we will consider what fentanyl is, its abuse in New England and the rest of the country, how it works, and fentanyl addiction.

2. What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid analgesic that acts similar to morphine. However, while it may have a similar mechanism of action to morphine, there is a wide gulf in their potencies. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

For those that don’t know, potency measures the amount or concentration of a drug or substance needed to elicit a certain response. So, if drug A requires 20 mg to elicit a response, and drug B requires 5 mg to elicit a similar response, drug B is said to be more potent. Now, consider fentanyl being 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and it starts to make sense to you how dangerous a drug it is.

Fentanyl and morphine are both prescription drugs that are made and abused illegally today. Fentanyl is useful in certain circumstances, particularly in patients with excruciating pain, as an Opioid Pain Reliever (OPR). The problem is when it gets to the wrong hands and starts getting abused.

Common brands of fentanyl are Actiq, Duragesic, Sublimaze, Abstral, etc. Street names for fentanyl include Apache, Crush, TNT, China White, etc.

3. Fentanyl Abuse in New England

Over the last few years, the media in the United States have tried to make up the opioid crisis as one pandemic of sorts – they are absolutely correct. In fact, it’s a pandemic and more. Substance use and addiction are increasing rapidly across the country, which, in turn, corresponds to a greater risk for overdose and deaths.

High mortality rates from opioid abuse used to be associated with the big cities, but that is changing fast. Between 2002 and 2014, the mortality rates from overdose more than doubled in every county in the New England region. One of the major culprits for this alarming statistic is fentanyl.

As of 2016, fentanyl had overtaken heroin as the most common drug in opioid-related overdose deaths. It gets worse. Close to 19,500 people died from fentanyl and other non-methadone drugs. For context, barely 3250 died in 2013 from the same culprits. It is obvious that the use of fentanyl is increasing in the United States, and it’s no longer much of a surprise. However, what may come as a shock to you is that the rapid increase in fentanyl-related deaths has been even more pronounced in Massachusetts, one of the New England states. The other states are also not too far off, with all the six New England states above the country’s average in terms of deaths from opioids.

We really don’t want to bore you, but you need to understand that fentanyl is no joke and has to be taken seriously. It should be treated as dangerously as morphine, heroin, cocaine, and the like because it is as dangerous, if not more, than these other opioids.

4. How Fentanyl Addiction Works

Fentanyl works similarly to morphine, and other opioid drugs, for that. It binds to the body’s opioid receptors, which control pain and emotion in the brain. The drug then alters the normal brain functioning, leading to reduced sensitivity to pain and, at the right doses, euphoria.

The problem with this mode of action is that the body gets used to this new “normal after a while.” Now, the body becomes accustomed to the opioid, wanting it for its normal functioning. This is where addiction sets in.

The person finds out they just can’t stop. But this is just the start of the horror story. With prolonged use of the drug, the user becomes tolerant of the drug and will need larger doses to assure the same effect. Naturally, it will take a fairly long time before truly fatal doses are reached for morphine and heroin, but this is not the case with fentanyl.

Because fentanyl is more potent than morphine, using high doses even remotely close to other opioids will spell disaster. Before long, the person overdoses on fentanyl, and it will lead to respiratory depression. This leads to hypoxia, which is a condition where limited oxygen reaches the brain. And then a coma. And then brain damage. And then death. See, horror story.

Another thing that makes fentanyl dangerous is that it is rarely used as a standalone drug. Many times, users take it to augment the euphoric effects of other opioids. With increasing tolerance to the drugs, the doses of the opioids the abuser takes will increase, including fentanyl.

Because fentanyl is usually just in the shadows, it will be difficult to fully realize the damage it is causing, particularly to respiration, until it is too late. And too late may mean death.

5. Effects of Fentanyl Addiction

While the end result of using consistently high doses of fentanyl is typically death, there are some effects that accompany fentanyl addiction which should serve as a call for help. Some of these effects are:

  • Euphoria
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Constipation
  • Respiratory disorders

Aside from these effects, some other signs and symptoms of general addiction may follow fentanyl abuse. Some of these signs include:

  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Uncharacteristically poor grades and work reviews
  • Financial difficulties

6. Withdrawal Symptoms of Fentanyl

“Well, just stop.” Some people don’t fully grasp the concept of withdrawal symptoms fully. These are the symptoms that accompany abrupt withdrawal from an abused substance, particularly one on which the body is dependent and has developed tolerance.

People with fentanyl addiction can experience the following if they abruptly stop taking the drug:

  • Muscle pain
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of coordination and muscle control
  • Diarrhea
  • Cold flashes

As you may imagine, having these symptoms, especially multiple ones at any given time will be very unpalatable, explaining, in part, why it is usually so difficult for addicts to stop.

7. Fentanyl Addiction Treatment in New England at Avenues Recovery

An addict cannot just discontinue the use of a drug they are addicted to mainly because of withdrawal symptoms. But there are still ways to overcome addiction – gradual ways.

The first step is visiting a doctor or professional. This is an absolute necessity. These professionals have dedicated their careers to helping people overcome addiction, and they will most likely know the right step to take for any addict. Usually, it can go either or both of two ways – medication or non-medication.

Medications like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone can help overcome opioid addiction. It may sound a little weird to use a drug of abuse to treat the addiction of another drug of abuse, but if professionally done, you can pull it off. The principle here is that these other medications can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, giving a milder effect than fentanyl. With time, the patient can be fully “weaned” off the medications. There are also special medications, like naloxone, that can actually tackle fentanyl’s effects head-on and help reverse a fentanyl overdose.

The other way is through the use of behavioral therapies and counseling. Again, this has to be left to professionals. These professionals can help the addict develop the right life skills and habits that will eventually get them across the line.

Proper clinical treatment, supplemented at times by a medication regimen is many times the best course of action. The addiction professionals staffing Avenues Recovery at New England can help you formulate your unique path to sustained recovery from fentanyl addiction. Join a community committed to battling addiction, second chances, and the very top of professional clinical addiction treatment.

8. Conclusion

There are many opioid pain relievers today, and virtually all of them are abused in some way or the other. While some gain all the recognition, opioid drugs like fentanyl are silently making their way to the summit of all opioid-related deaths and health conditions, especially in New England, as the stats suggest. This is why it has become a necessity for everyone to have basic knowledge about fentanyl and its effects on the body.