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Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opiate – many times more powerful than morphine. The drug is recommended for use in patients with extreme cancer pain, who also show a tolerance to the analgesic effects of less potent narcotic pain relievers.

Fentanyl in all forms is extremely dangerous to anyone inexperienced with opiates. The potency of the drug makes the risk of a fatal overdose a real possibility for anyone who does not already have a significant tolerance to opiates. Fentanyl is a schedule 2 narcotic – a drug with the highest possible risk for abuse, addiction, and fatal overdose.

Fentanyl is most typically administered either in transdermal patches, such as Duragesic, or through the lollipop like Transmucol Actiq. Fentanyl is a widely abused medication, and can be bought at the street level. Street sales of Fentanyl include legitimate pharmaceutical medications that have been diverted, and Fentanyl produced in illegal laboratories.

Fentanyl - The Effects

Fentanyl induces a powerful euphoria and sense of well being; in addition to its analgesic properties. The effects of the drug are very similar to heroin, although the half life of Fentanyl is shorter.

The Risks of Fentanyl Overdose

Fentanyl is an incredibly powerful medication, and should never be given to anyone who is not already opiate tolerant. An inexperienced user trying Fentanyl risks overdose, respiratory depression, and death.

Fentanyl is also not recommended for anyone with a weakened respiratory system, regardless of their tolerance level on comparative opiates, and as such is not recommended for post surgical pain management.

The risks of overdose increase greatly when the transdermal patches are abused. The transdermal patches are designed to deliver a constant and steady dosage of the medication, over a long period of time. The medication can be extracted and injected in larger doses for a more intense experience. There is enough Fentanyl in a Duragesic patch to kill, and this method of abuse has proven quite deadly.

Fentanyl is also sometimes mixed with other street drugs, to intensify the effects. Common mixtures include Fentanyl and cocaine or heroin. This method also greatly increases the risks of a fatal overdose.

Fentanyl Withdrawal and Detox

Fentayl is as potent as heroin, and also as addictive. Users taking Fentanyl for more than a few days risk a serious physical dependency, and a very uncomfortable period of withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms of Fentanyl will include:

  • Pain
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Restless legs

Withdrawal symptoms will subside within a week, most people will need to detox from Fentanyl under medical supervision, and with medications for symptoms management.

An alternative to a "cold turkey" detox involves the use of Suboxone or methadone, in opiate replacement therapy. Substituting either methadone or Suboxone for the Fentanyl allows addicts to participate fully in daily life, free from withdrawal symptoms, as they slowly taper down off of the substitute narcotic.

Fentanyl addicts who abuse the medication recreationally will often need addiction counseling and therapies to learn how to avoid a relapse to Fentanyl, or a substitute drug of abuse.

Fentanyl is dangerous and potent, and inexperienced recreational users should never attempt the drug. The risks of a fatal overdose are very real.

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Page last updated Nov 01, 2011

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