Deadly Mix: Fentanyl with Other Drugs

Fentanyl addiction is a growing concern in the United States.

It’s a highly addictive substance that is available by prescription, or on the street, which can lead to fentanyl addiction. One of the things about illegal fentanyl that is most concerning is that it’s often used to cut or increase the potency of other drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, or cocaine. Drug users can be unknowingly ingesting fentanyl, which makes many drugs even more dangerous and potentially lethal.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times more potent than morphine. Medical professionals prescribe fentanyl to treat patients with severe pain, specifically after major surgeries. Fentanyl is also used to treat chronic pain in patients who have a tolerance to other opioids. It’s usually administered as a shot, a patch, or a dissolvable lozenge.

Like other opioids, fentanyl works by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors, which are responsible for controlling pain and emotions. When someone takes fentanyl, it blocks the pain receptors in the brain and increases dopamine levels which create feelings of relaxation.

After taking opioids repeatedly, the brain starts to develop a dependence on the drug, which decreases the sensitivity and the response. Over time, the brain becomes unable to feel pleasure from anything else, which is what leads to addiction.

Fentanyl makes users feel extremely euphoric and relaxed. But the drug also has a number of side effects, which range from mild to severe. People who take fentanyl may exhibit symptoms including:

  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain or vomiting
  • Swelling of the extremities
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Fainting
Although fentanyl is technically a prescription drug, it’s also made illegally and sold on the streets. Illegal fentanyl is typically sold as a powder, dropped onto blotter paper, made into a nasal spray, or made into a pill. Because the drug is so strong, fentanyl users become addicted very quickly.

Today, fentanyl is one of the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths in the United States. In 2018 more than 31,000 people died from overdoses related to synthetic opioids. The rate of overdose deaths increased by 10% from 2017-2018.

Fentanyl use has shown to be more common in certain states. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the states with the highest rate of fentanyl abuse include New Hampshire, West Virginia, Massachusetts, and Ohio.

What is Fentanyl?

Because fentanyl is so potent, drug traffickers often lace it with other illegal drugs to increase the potency. An extremely small amount of fentanyl is enough to cause an overdose, and if someone unknowingly takes a drug mixed with fentanyl, it can be deadly.

mixing fentanyl with other drugs

For example, heroin and fentanyl look almost identical, so drug dealers often lace heroin with fentanyl to increase the potency. Synthetic marijuana can also be laced with fentanyl and other toxic substances without the person knowing. Fentanyl can be found in a lot of illegal drugs, including:

  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • MDMA
  • Xanax
  • Oxycodone

In recent years, finding drugs laced with fentanyl has become increasingly common. In a study of 10 states, more than half of all people who died of an opioid overdose tested positive for fentanyl, according to the CDC.

Lacing illegal drugs with fentanyl is a way for drug traffickers to make more money and keep their customers coming back for more. Fentanyl is already affordable to buy off the streets, and its accessibility is one of the reasons why fentanyl addiction is so widespread.

If you are considering treatment for yourself or a loved one, call us today.

Fentanyl Overdose

In the United States, opioids are the leading cause of drug overdose deaths. In 2018, almost 70% of the 67,367 drug overdose deaths involved an opioid. Between 2017-2018, the rate of drug overdoses involving a synthetic opioid—including fentanyl— increased by 10%.

Because fentanyl is so potent, overdosing on the drug is very easy. Just one 2 milligram dose of fentanyl is strong enough to kill an adult. When fentanyl users buy the drug illegally, there’s no sure way to determine what the potency is, and how much of the drug they are ingesting.

However, fentanyl is one of the only drugs that has an antidote. If someone is overdosing on fentanyl, they can be given naloxone to reverse the effects of the drug. Naloxone is a nasal spray that quickly binds to opioid receptors in the brain and blocks the effects of the drug. Many first responders, including EMTs, carry naloxone in the event of an overdose call.

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

It is possible to overcome fentanyl addiction, but it’s not easy. Most fentanyl addicts who try to get sober fail because their reliance on the drug is so strong. Withdrawal symptoms can begin as early as 12 hours after the last dose.

Some of the common symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal include:

  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Chills
  • Aches
  • Stomach cramps
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Anxiety

Withdrawing from fentanyl can be a very uncomfortable process, and it usually needs to be done under medical supervision. In a medical detox program, some patients are tapered off fentanyl by taking smaller, scheduled doses of another opioid. It usually takes about one week to taper off fentanyl, but the side effects of withdrawal can last much longer.

After detoxing, most recovering addicts will enter a Partial Hospitalization Program, and then move into an Intensive Outpatient Program. At Nexus Recovery, clients in our Intensive Outpatient Program receive treatment at our Los Angeles facility 3-5 days per week, for 3-4 hours per day.

Once a client has been sober for a period of time, they can enter our Outpatient Program to focus on accountability, peer support, and goal setting. All treatment plans are personalized for the needs of every client and are reviewed and updated on a weekly basis.

If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, get help today. At Nexus Recovery, our mission is to provide tools and support for every client’s seamless transition into a meaningful and fulfilling life of sobriety. Get in touch with us online or call us at 310-881-9151.

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