Why is Fentanyl Dangerous?

January 10, 2022

Fentanyl is a dangerous and addictive opioid that is partially responsible for the estimated 100,000 overdose deaths in the past year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While fentanyl is a powerful opioid, it also has medical purposes, leading many people to wonder, “why is fentanyl so dangerous?”

What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. The primary effects of fentanyl are pleasure and pain relief. Unlike other opioids that are made directly from the opium poppy plant, fentanyl is manufactured in a lab, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Fentanyl is a Schedule II Drug according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), so while it does have few legitimate uses (such as for pain relief after surgery), it also has an extremely high potential for abuse and addiction. 

Prescription fentanyl should only be used when closely monitored by medical professionals. If you suspect you’ve developed a tolerance to or dependence on the substance, talk to your care team.

Why is fentanyl dangerous?

Answering why fentanyl is dangerous is as simple as explaining the effects of opioids. Opioids work by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain. These neurotransmitters are responsible for feelings of pleasure and pain, so when this synthetic drug attaches to them, it can relieve pain and induce a sense of euphoria.

Even after the first dose, a person’s body will crave the drug again. This is due to the brain’s reward centers. The pleasurable chemicals released by this process in the brain are reinforcing, enough that the negative effects seem inconsequential to the user.

One of the reasons why fentanyl is so dangerous is due to the side effects of repetitive use. In addition to pain relief and pleasure, here are some of the harmful symptoms of a fentanyl addiction:

  • Drowsiness, insomnia;
  • Nausea, vomiting;
  • Trouble focusing or making decisions;
  • Slowed heart rate;
  • Decreased, shallow or irregular breathing;
  • Sedation;
  • Loss of consciousness;

This list is by no means exhaustive, and does not include the negative effects of fentanyl on your social, work and daily life.

The most dangerous side effect of fentanyl is overdose. Sadly, this is the route that any addiction will take if left untreated. Due to the nature of these substances, as a tolerance builds so will the impact of the drug. Overdose typically is due to a depressed central nervous system.

According to Mayo Clinic, what makes opioids beneficial for some medical purposes also makes them dangerous. Because opioids are so effective at pain relief, an addiction may develop, even when someone is only using the medication that was prescribed.

While fentanyl works like other opioids, it’s also much more potent. The DEA states that fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than morphine and 50 times more powerful than heroin as a analgesic drug.

Why is fentanyl dangerous? Generally, it’s because of the large dosage that many people consume. The DEA states that about 2 milligrams of the pure substance is sufficient to be considered a lethal dose. Among confiscated pills that have been illegally distributed and tested for fentanyl, approximately 42% of them have been 2 milligrams or higher.

Where can I get treatment for a Fentanyl addiction?

While fentanyl is much more potent than other drugs, and even more potent than other opioids, recovery is possible. Treatment will likely include a detox program, inpatient or outpatient services, possibly a stay in a sober living home and wraparound support. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy has proven to be an effective behavioral intervention that will make up a large portion of the treatment regimen. You’ll also have access to support for your career, education, housing, childcare needs, finances and more.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are also three medications that are able to assist with detox from opioids — methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. These substances bind to opioid receptors, blocking the “high” from fentanyl and reducing cravings. 

Take back control

If you’ve struggled with an addiction, you’ll know firsthand how dangerous fentanyl is. Don’t let this potentially lethal substance be in control any longer. Break free from fentanyl with October Road.

With multiple programs to fit your needs and your schedule, you’ll be on the path to recovery in no time. Call October Road today.