Fentanyl is a highly-addictive opioid painkiller that is extremely powerful. Like heroin, Fentanyl has a high risk of addiction, accidental overdose, and death.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a skin patch that is used to treat severe pain. It is one of the most powerful opioid painkillers, around 30-50X more powerful than heroin and 50-100X more powerful than morphine. Fentanyl can be administered in several forms, such as:
- Actiq® (lozenge on a handle)
- Abstral® (sublinqual tablet under the tongue)
- Duragesic® (skin patch)
- Onsolis® (film that dissolves in the mouth)
- Fentora® (tablet between the gums and cheek)
- Sublimaze® (fentanyl IV injection)
How Does Fentanyl Work?
Fentanyl binds to opioid receptors in the brain and other parts of the body that control pain. This boosts dopamine levels in the brain’s “reward system,” producing a state of euphoria and relaxation. The effects of Fentanyl resemble those of heroin. Like heroin, Fentanyl is highly addictive — but because Fentanyl is so much more powerful than heroin, it is very easy for someone to accidentally overdose on it.
Symptoms of Fentanyl Overdose
- Slow, shallow breathing or stopped breathing
- Smaller pupils (black circles in the middle of the eyes)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Decreased urge to breathe
The problem with Fentanyl is that a person who uses it continuously for more than a few days will develop a tolerance, which means they need more Fentanyl to achieve the same positive effects. Their body may also stop producing its own “feel-good” chemicals and start relying on Fentanyl to function properly. Unless the person takes a higher dose of Fentanyl, they will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal can be so severe that a person becomes addicted and they can’t stop taking Fentanyl without professional help.