Fentanyl is a manmade narcotic used as pain reliever, generally, after a surgery or as a part of any medical treatment. In other words, it is a potent synthetic opioid drug used to relieve pain. Some branded drugs are composed using Fentanyl. It is stronger than morphine but it can be fatal in case of addiction or overdose. Fentanyl is a very potent drug and it comes with its own signs and symptoms of abuse, though many are commonly found across all drug abuse users. 

What are the methods of administering Fentanyl?

This drug can be administered in any of the following ways:

  • Through Tablets
  • Applying Skin Patches
  • Through drug Injections
  • Nasal spray
  • Sprays administered sublingually 

How does Fentanyl Work to Relieve Pain?

Fentanyl relieves pain by increasing the dopamine level. Fentanyl binds the opioid receptors present in the brain, thereby, blocking these pain receptors. As a result of which dopamine is released and due to the artificially developed euphoria (feeling of happiness), the patient feels relaxed and simultaneously the ability of the body to feel the pain diminishes, therefore the body can’t sense the pain.  

What is Fentanyl abuse?

Although, it relieves pain, but carries a high risk of addiction. Whether it is used for medical purpose or recreation, the pleasure it provides makes a person addicted to it. Some people who don’t have any reason to take fentanyl, use the drug just for pleasure. Consequently, the body starts demanding a regular dosage. 

At a certain point of time, a tolerance level is reached. Here, the effect of regular dose diminishes and a higher dose is required to relieve the pain. Whatever might be the reason behind taking fentanyl, may it be, recreational or any medical treatment, the tolerance level keeps increasing, thereby, developing an addiction to it. This is known as fentanyl abuse.

The addicted start losing control over their behaviour. Their performance at work deteriorates and they start feeling depressed. Development of fentanyl disorder is a serious issue and needs professional treatment to overcome it. The onlookers wisely identify the symptoms and signs of fentanyl abuse, so that the person can be treated for recovery. 

Signs & Symptoms

The “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, 5th edition ( DSM-5)”, acts as a major implement in diagnosing mental health and addiction disorders. According to this manual, an addicted person tends to develop a substance use disorder, if he/she shows any two out of the eleven symptoms (mentioned in the manual) within a span of 12 months. These 11 symptoms are as follows:

  1. An addicted person tends to spend his/her entire day, money, time and energy to obtain fentanyl which is then gradually introduced to oneself abusively. 
  2. Taking fentanyl for an extended period of time than previously intended. In other words, a person who initially consumed fentanyl recreationally slips to an addicted consumption.
  3. The addicted or abused have a desire to quit the substance but is unable to do so.
  4. He/she craves to take fentanyl.
  5. He/she is unable to achieve the obligations at work, home or study.
  6. Despite the problems encountered by consumption, the addicted continues to use the drug.
  7. The addicted withdraws himself/herself from social or recreational activities in order to obtain fentanyl.
  8. In spite of the physical or psychological disorder, the addicted continues to use fentanyl.
  9. The patient is aware of the dangers associated with fentanyl abuse, still, he/she continues to do so.
  10. The body develops a tolerance level such that it demands a higher dose. 
  11. The occurrence of withdrawal symptoms when the consumption of fentanyl or a similar drug is stopped.

Other Signs & Symptoms

Apart from the signs and symptoms mentioned above, there are many others associated with fentanyl abuse. For a better understanding these have been categorised as follows:

  • Behavioural symptoms
  • Withdrawing oneself from activities which were ones crucial to one’s lifestyle.
  • Feeling lethargic
  • Drawing oneself towards dangerous or risky activities
  • Withdrawing oneself from social gatherings
  • Slurry speech
  • Becomes irresponsible
  • Thought are abnormal
  • Telling lies
  • Hallucination ( visual, audio and tactile)
  • Nervousness
  • Clumsiness
  • Physical Symptoms
  • Abnormal heartbeat ( slow heartbeat)
  • Respiratory disorders ( slow or shallow breathing) ( due to blocking of opioid receptors which control breathing also)
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Problem in maintaining body balance
  • Gastrointestinal disorder
  • Severe constipation for a long time
  • Pain in chest
  • Shallow breathing
  • Shivering
  • Muscle twitching
  • Seizures
  • Convulsions
  • Loss of energy
  • Numbness
  • Cognitive symptoms
  • Confused state of mind
  • Disorientation
  • Unable to concentrate properly
  • Due to confusion, the judgement is impaired
  • Impaired memory
  • Ideation of suicide
  • Psychosocial symptoms
  • Mood swings
  • Euphoria or dysphoria
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Change in behaviour

Fentanyl abuse can occur in any condition, may it be a prescribed pain management plan or recreational intake or ingestion as supervised by a doctor. Prolonged use of this drug results in building a tolerance level, which gradually increases with regular intake and individual starts demanding a desired high. 

Withdrawal effect

With the ingestion of fentanyl, the body starts making adjustments. Harmful side effects start erupting. In order to promote survival, people wish to withdraw it, but by this time the body has started deteriorating itself. As a result of which, withdrawal of the drug also has side effects. Some of the withdrawal symptoms are as follows:F

  • Feeling restless
  • Watery eyes
  • Yawning
  • Irritation
  • Pupil of the eyes are widened
  • Fast breathing
  • Cramps in stomach
  • Sweating or chills
  • Blood pressure shoots up
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Muscle pain

The drug should be withdrawn under the supervision of a medical practitioner. They withdraw the drug gradually with medically assisted therapies. 

Final thoughts

Fentanyl, a potent opioid narcotics, is lethal when administered to the body above prescribed dosage. The effects give pleasure, which makes the body demand more of it. Gradually, the patient develops an addiction. Fentanyl abuse can lead to death. It is advised to look for fentanyl abuse symptoms and seek medical advice at the earliest moment possible.

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