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Fentanyl addiction is one of the leading causes of death by drug overdose in America. In 2016 there were just over 20,000 deaths from overdose of fentanyl out of a total of just over 60,000 total deaths. Often times drug overdoses are seen as totally self inflicted and unreasonable, however, fentanyl is a substance much more powerful than other medically approved drugs, and the illicit creation of its varying forms in underground drug labs yields something much closer to a poison than to a painkiller

Fentanyl addiction stems from opioid addiction and is categorized in the same class. One of the most well known and commonly used painkillers is morphine. It is extremely useful in medical situations, but it also hazardous because of its addictive potential. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Inconsistencies in street production of the substance sometimes creates something multitudes stronger. Further, the drug is so easily absorbed by our bodies, it is almost impossible to reverse an overdose once it is happening.

Fentanyl addiction, can be identified in an individual by discovering 2 of 11 symptoms within a 12-month span. These symptoms are in line with any opioid addiction. Everyone is unique and often habitual drug users develop coping mechanisms to hide their drug use. In the case of fentanyl, this can be deadly because of how strong it is.

  • Emphasizing further drug use over fixing the problems it has caused
  • Participation in routine work, school or social activities dwindles or becomes non-existent
  • Adding greater risk to the drug use, such as driving while under the influence
  • Increasing use to mediate the psychological problems that fentanyl caused
  • Tolerance presence or increase
  • Symptoms of withdrawal when use stops or when dosage or strength is less
  • “Recreational” usage of fentanyl, where dosages are unmonitored and frequency of use increases over time
  • Persistent failure to stop or decrease usage of fentanyl despite a desire to do so
  • Pursuit and usage of fentanyl occupies much of the individual’s time
  • Constant desire and or ache for using fentanyl
  • Destruction of individual’s ability to maintain their work, home or school obligations

Fentanyl addiction will render most individuals unable to participate in most things related to a normal life because of its potency. Side effects include nausea, constipation, confusion, and sleepiness, but the most dangerous result is respiratory depression. This happens because the drug is an extremely potent sedative to the point that it may relax the body’s nervous system so much that inherent mechanism for breathing shuts down, the individual loses oxygen and quickly dies. In a medical setting, administration of the drug is closely monitored and used only in the most extreme cases of pain, but outside of this setting, drug use is simply risking their life.

Teresa Sabo

The author Teresa Sabo