Mankind has used countless methods to cure diseases and alleviate symptoms. One of the most common of these symptoms is pain. Opium poppies and their derivatives, such as morphine, have created the most successful class of pain relievers. They are known as opiates or opioids. One of these, fentanyl, is gaining in popularity, but what is fentanyl and why should you know?
What is Fentanyl and What is it For?
In the mid-1900’s, scientists worked to find a synthetic replacement for morphine in order to meet a growing medical demand. The result was fentanyl. This medication is nearly identical to morphine when looked at chemically. However, the differences between them make fentanyl anywhere from 50 to 100 times more potent than similar doses of morphine.
Fentanyl is used by medical professionals to treat severe pain, chronic pain problems, or as part of anesthesia during and after surgical procedures. All of this may leave you wondering how fentanyl works to reduce pain.
How it Works
Fentanyl works in the same way as many other opiates and opioids. It travels through the bloodstream and into the brain. Once there, it bonds to specific receptors in the brain. This causes an imbalance in brain chemicals. The result is feelings of euphoria and relaxation, as well as reduction in pain signals. However, these same receptors also help control breathing and other bodily functions. This presents an opportunity for side effects and other dangers that cannot be ignored.
Like all medications, fentanyl has several related side effects. These range from minor to serious in severity, with the most serious ones being life threatening. The side effects include:
- Sweating and/or itching
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle stiffness
- Dizziness or vision problems
- Increased blood pressure
- Slowed breathing and/or heart rate
- Allergic reaction including hives, swelling of the face, tongue or throat, and difficulty breathing
- Tolerance, or the need for more of the medication to achieve the same effect
- Dependance, which results in withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop taking fentanyl
- Stopped breathing or heartbeat that may result in death
These side effects are all very possible when taking fentanyl. The fact that it is so potent makes the likelihood of the more serious side effects more common. However, these are not the only dangers.
The biggest danger in taking fentanyl comes when it is taken unknowingly or when it is abused. The abuse of prescription fentanyl is relatively rare, because of how tightly controlled it is. However, it is relatively easy to produce in illegal laboratories. It is then often mixed with heroin or other illicit opiates to produce aa more profound high and get people hooked faster. Unfortunately, this illegally produced fentanyl is often even more potent than the prescription versions, resulting in fatal overdoses.
Also, the chemical nature of this drug allows it to be absorbed through the skin. This puts peace officers, medical personnel, and even children at significant risk of accidental exposure and fatal overdose. The extremely dangerous nature of this drug shows just how important it is for you to know what is fentanyl.