Fentanyl

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Fentanyl (sometimes spelled fentanil) is a synthetic opioid that is used as a painkiller. It also acts as a sedative. It has a short duration of action and a rapid onset. The two most common forms are patches that are put on the skin, and an intravenous solution. Paul Janssen developed Fentanyl in 1960. Fentanyl is about 120 times as potent as morphine; this means, much less Fentanyl is needed to get the same effect.[1]

The effects of the intravenous solution can be seen after three to five minutes. In about twelve hours, the concentration in the bloodstream will have halved.

Fentanyl is also used as a recreational drug. This has led to thousands of overdose deaths each year from 2000 to 2015.[2][3] Deaths have also resulted from improper medical use.[4] Fentanyl has a relatively wide therapeutic index (270)[5] which makes it a very safe surgical anesthetic when monitored carefully. Because it is so potent, finding the right dose to use requires great care: Fentanyl comes as a highly diluted solution. There is also a powder, but its use is impractical without advanced scientific equipment: The effective dose needed and a lethal dose of fentanyl powder placed next to each other would be difficult or impossible to differentiate with the naked eye.

Fentanyl Abuse[change | change source]

Prescription drug abuse has become a widespread problem in the US, partially due to the myth that these drugs are safe simply because they’re prescribed by a doctor. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1 in 5 Americans has used a prescription drug for a non-medical purpose at least once. The problem tends to be most severe amount young people, with 1 in 12 high school seniors reporting recreational use of the opioid Vicodin in the year 2010 alone.

Fentanyl is often sought out by recreational users of less potent opioids like Vicodin or heroin who have already built up a tolerance to their drug of choice and are seeking a new way to experience the euphoric high associated with this class of intoxicants.

Fentanyl Overdose[change | change source]

Opioid overdose is very dangerous due to the way these drugs affect the central nervous system, which controls the heart and respiratory system. As a depressant, opioids slow these essential functions down. If a person isn’t breathing enough and/or the heart isn’t able to pump enough blood to get a sufficient amount of oxygen to the brain, a condition called hypoxia can occur. This is simply a lack of oxygen to essential tissues, causing rapid cell death.

Fentanyl is an especially powerful sedative, so it’s likely for an individual who takes a high dose of the drug to fall asleep. While asleep, others may leave the individual alone and not notice that breathing has slowed or stopped.

Fentanyl Overdose Symptoms[change | change source]

  • Clammy skin
  • Very small “pinpoint” pupils
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slow or irregular heartbeat
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Inability to wake
  • Shallow breathing or no breathing
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Inability to walk or talk
  • Seizures
  • Coma

References[change | change source]

  1. "Fentanyl Addiction Recovery: Side Effects, Withdrawal & Detox". Oxford Treatment Center. Retrieved 2021-02-15.
  2. "'It is a huge issue': 145 fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta so far in 2015". globalnews.ca. August 11, 2015. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  3. Vestal, Christine (1 April 2016). "As Fentanyl Deaths Spike, States and CDC Respond". Pew Charitable Trusts. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  4. Serna, Joseph; Karlamangla, Soumya. "Death toll rises to 9 in suspected fentanyl overdoses in Northern California". latimes.com. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  5. Stanley, Theodore Henry; Petty, William Clayton (1983-03-31). New Anesthetic Agents, Devices, and Monitoring Techniques. Springer. ISBN 978-90-247-2796-4. Retrieved 20 October 2007.