Fentanyl is a well-known and strong prescription opioid given to patients to treat cases of severe pain. The drug is also illegally sold and the cases of fentanyl abuse have recently escalated leading to overdose and death. While some form of fentanyl is sidetracked from medical dispensaries for illegal use, but much of the drug being sold on the street is manufactured illegally.
The drug usually stays in your system and shows up on a urine test between 24 – 72 hours from recent use. Hair tests can detect the presence of the drug up to 3 months from first use while blood tests can detect the drug between 5 and 48 hours (depending on how much drug you have in your system).
Overdose of fentanyl has become quite common and a serious concern because it is often mixed with other controlled substances. People who take the drug for recreational use also become addicted which requires special treatment or medication to help quit its use.
Fentanyl – What is It?
Fentanyl is a prescription medicine that is often categorized as a synthetic opioid. It is given to patients to treat severe cases of pain that result from cancer or chronic pain. The drug is extremely strong, almost 100 times stronger than morphine.
The drug is available in many different forms including tablets, injectable, nasal spray, lozenge, patch, and solution. The illegally manufactured Fentanyl is usually sold in powder form, in spiked or blotter paper, as a tablet, or mixed in other controlled substances.
The drug can either be injected, snorted, or swallowed by an individual but some people place it on a blotter paper in the mouth where it gets absorbed through the mucous membranes.
In the past few years, fentanyl overdose cases have significantly risen. For example, in 2017, more than 28,000 deaths resulted from the overdose of the drug in the United States. In another instance, from 2016 to 2017, it was found out that the death rate from overdosing synthetic opioids significantly increased in 23 states. Reports suggest most deaths occurred from the use of illicitly manufactured fentanyl.
The big cause of deaths from the use of fentanyl is due to the fact that the difference between a normal dose and an overdose is very small. In other words, it is quite easy to take the drug in excessive quantities. Additionally, the drug is popularly mixed with other dangerous controlled substances such as heroin and cocaine and it is often done without the knowledge of the user. This is a lethal combination that can result in death if not taken in a safe dosage.
How Does Fentanyl Work?
The drug connects with your nerves and activates certain opioid receptors in the body that are located in specific areas of the brain that control emotion and pain. When it reacts with the receptors, it also increases the release of dopamine from never cells in the brain’s reward center. This results in increased dopamine activity which results in euphoria like feeling for the user. However, the drug is also known to slow down breathing. If it isn’t consumed safely, it can stop the breathing resulting in an overdose or death.
Side Effects of Fentanyl
- Constricted pupils.
- Urinary retention.
- Respiratory depression.
When Does Fentanyl Show on a Drug Test?
Fentanyl drug tests are conducted by large companies and other organizations for several reasons.
A drug test can be ordered by the court in legal situations such as a car accident or a crime.
Some companies require their employees to go through random drug testing to monitor drug use.
Some doctors may conduct a drug test to see if their patients are using the drug within the prescribed dosage.
The recreational effects of fentanyl are felt by the body for a few hours, but the drug can stay in the system for a lot longer and can easily show positive on a drug test. This also depends on the duration of use, the dose, weight of the person, frequency of use, kidney and liver functioning, and urine concentration.
The presence of Fentanyl in the body can be tested through various methods such as blood, hair, and urine tests. An individual can easily test positive for a urine test for 24 – 72 hours after last use. However, when you use fentanyl, it creates a metabolite known as norfentanyl. This can be detected by drug tests for up to 96 hours after last use.
Fentanyl can be tested positive for up to 3 months on a hair test after last use. Blood tests can detect the drug from 5 hours to 48 hours after the last use. Saliva tests, on the other hand, cannot detect the presence of fentanyl so these tests are never taken.
What Happens When You Take Too Much Fentanyl?
Since fentanyl is a very potent drug, overdosing is a real concern. It is also easy to overdose on the drug because the patient often treats it as a regular medicine and often combines it with substances like alcohol or other drugs like Xanax, and Valium. When the drug is combined with these substances, the risk of overdose significantly increases and death by respiratory arrest occurs.
Here are some common signs of fentanyl overdose
- Severely slowed or stopped breathing.
- Blue lips and skin color.
- Cold, clammy skin.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Markedly constricted pupils.
Fentanyl overdose is usually fatal. If you suspect your loved one has overdosed on the drug, call medical help immediately. Medical professionals will inject something called naloxone which is an opioid receptor blocker to reverse the effects of the drug. Naloxone is also available in many different formulations. It can be administered via intramuscular injection, as a nasal spray or through intravenous injection.
For anyone using opioids regularly, it is a good idea to keep naloxone at home in case of an emergency. The person experiencing overdose will likely not be able to administer naloxone themselves so it is important for family members to be available at all times or at least know how to use the medication when the time comes.
Can You Safely Stop Taking Fentanyl?
Individuals can easily develop a physical dependence on Fentanyl. Those who are dependent on the drug will likely experience intense withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop taking the drug. Furthermore, the severity of the symptoms depends on the intensity and length of use.
The withdrawal symptoms of Fentanyl begin 12 hours after the last use. Sometimes these symptoms can last for up to a week. The first three days are usually the hardest to live by.
Here are the commonly experienced withdrawal symptoms of Fentanyl.
- Feelings of depression.
- Muscle pain.
- Loss of appetite.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Runny nose.
- Watery eyes.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Increased heart rate.
Since substance abuse is on the rise, the treatment for these have evolved and are much better now. These treatments now include medications approved for opioid dependence and various therapy sessions. Counseling and therapy are often combined together with medication to help increase the odds of treatment.
For medical treatment, doctors normally prescribe Buprenorphine. This medicine can be administered on its own or with naloxone. The medicine basically triggers the same receptor system Fentanyl does, but with less intensity and acts to reduce the effects of the withdrawal symptoms.
Sometimes Naltrexone is used which is commonly known as an opioid antagonist. It tends to bind the opioid receptors in the body to prevent fentanyl from producing any of its effects.
Behavioral therapies greatly help people adjust their thinking patterns and behaviors after the use of fentanyl. They start developing better-coping skills and they become more adaptive to the new lifestyle.
If you have a loved one who is struggling to give up fentanyl or any other opioid abuse, get help today.