Fentanyl is an opioid or narcotic that is often used as an anesthetic to treat pain before or after surgery. It can be taken as an injection, a nasal spray, a sublingual tablet or spray, lozenge, transdermal patch, buccal tablet, or as a transdermal device. Depending on how the drug is administered, effects may be seen more quickly. Most often, however, administration of Fentanyl is overseen by a doctor so that it can be determined that the anesthetic is working properly and you have no allergies or reactions with other medications (such as antidepressants, which can cause what is known as serotonin syndrome if taken at the same time as Fentanyl).
Fentanyl is anywhere between 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, though both drugs work similarly. The Federal Drug Administration lists it as a Schedule II narcotic, which means that it has a very high potential for abuse that can lead to psychological or physical addiction. It has a host of side effects, including constipation, diarrhea, nausea, dry mouth, confusion, drowsiness, weakness, and sweating. However, because Fentanyl is most often overseen by a medical professional, any dangerous side effects (like breathing so slow that it stops), allergic reactions, or overdoses are caught early.
Unfortunately, there is still a population that uses Fentanyl recreationally, and because of its high potential for abuse; this recreational usage can lead to serious addiction. This particular kind of Fentanyl is not prescribed by a doctor, but rather produced in illegal laboratories. In this form, Fentanyl is sold as powder, absorbent blotter paper, a tablet, or a mix with heroin. Similarly to other addictive opioids, Fentanyl works by binding itself to the opioid receptors in the brain, producing a dopamine reaction. This excess of dopamine in the brain causes feelings of euphoria, which is how users can become addicted, and can eventually cause the brain to stop producing as much dopamine. This is what is known as Fentanyl addiction.
Using Fentanyl in this way is extremely dangerous, because Fentanyl slows breathing, and if taken in excess, will eventually cause users to stop breathing. Since it is so potent and can be mixed with other street drugs, it is very likely to cause addiction for those unaware of its effects. Fentanyl addiction treatment often consists of going to an inpatient treatment center to receive specialized care due to the physically addictive nature of the drug. Depending on the patient, withdrawal symptoms may vary, but luckily Fentanyl withdrawal is not lethal very often. However, quitting “cold turkey” is still quite a painful process, and often addicts require the support of specialized staff anyway to quit.
Fentanyl addiction treatment may also involve some long-term therapy for patients who suffer from chronic mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. This therapy is often paired with other healthy treatments, like exercise and meditation. Because so many recreational users of Fentanyl are either anxious or depressed, this type of treatment works better in the long-term so that users can stick to their goals and avoid an eventual relapse.