Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. It is a schedule II prescription drug, and it is typically used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery. Fentanyl can be prescribed as a patch, lozenge, or injection, and it is also available illegally as a white powder or blue pill. People who misuse fentanyl by taking it without a prescription or by taking it in a way other than prescribed are at risk of overdose and death. When misused, fentanyl can stay in your system for up to 72 hours.
Currently, this deadly drug is sweeping every neighborhood in America, recently causing a new record high for overdose deaths among users. This marks another year in which the United States has seen record deaths, having bested the previous totals for at least the last half-decade.
Aside from its deadly properties, the average citizen knows very little about fentanyl. One of the most effective ways to mitigate the risks associated with any deadly force is to raise awareness and educate the public regarding different talking points, including withdrawal, dependence, and other essential elements. Let’s look a little closer at what exactly fentanyl is and its effects on the individuals who abuse it.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a type of opioid analgesic, also known as a narcotic. It’s made from the powdered sap of the opium poppy and is mainly used to relieve pain. Because it’s so powerful, it’s often mixed with other drugs or sold on its own. It came into use on the illegal market because it’s relatively easy to produce and sells well on the black market.
At wholesale prices, it’s also much cheaper than street heroin for several reasons. Number one, poppy plants don’t require any waiting period to approach a harvest point. This cuts off a considerable amount of time and ramps up production.
Second, because it’s a synthetic product, there are no limits to the amount of this drug chemists can manufacture. In the past, significant distributors were forced to order the product from China, which was the hub for most of the world’s fentanyl. However, this would all change after the Mexican cartels learned how to manufacture their own product.
Currently, the tyrannical Mexican drug cartels produce fentanyl in our backyard. On border cities throughout the southern United States, just on the other side, are massive labs producing some of the world’s most potent fentanyl. This means there’s an almost infinite supply that dealers can get their hands on. With the expertise of the veteran drug smugglers these cartels already employ, fentanyl flows onto the streets of America uninhibited, with no end to the crisis in sight.
What makes fentanyl so deadly is its incredible potency and how it acts on the brain and body. Miniscule amounts are deadly for the novice user, proved by the swollen overdose death numbers that have surpassed the six-figure mark.
Let’s take a look into the effects of fentanyl from the first-person point of view. How does the user feel after taking a dose of fentanyl?
The Effects of Fentanyl
Anybody who has ever researched fentanyl has probably read a generic list of the effects. However, this doesn’t tell us much about the user’s experience, which is required to gain a perspective on this deadly addiction. From a user’s viewpoint, let’s look at the effects of fentanyl firsthand.
1. Immediately After Injection
The user will feel an immediate rush about two seconds after injecting the drug. After about five seconds, the user develops the feeling of “pins and needles” poking them throughout their body. This feeling results from the receptors responding to the painkilling properties of the drug.
2. Initial Effects
After 30 to 45 seconds, the user will feel warm and sometimes sweat at higher doses. These could also be the beginning moments of an overdose.
3. Peak Period
A wave of euphoria rushes over the user as they begin feeling the peak effects of the drug. Their breathing is slowed down, followed by the heart and other functions of the body. At this point, respiratory depression can take hold because of toxicity, leaving the user in and out of consciousness.
Some users experience nausea and may even vomit because of how the drug interacts with the digestive system. Intense itching ensues for many users and is one of the driving forces of the wounds of many opioid addicts.
4. Coming Down
After the peak period, which usually lasts two to three hours, the user will begin feeling the comedown. They may still be groggy and even fall asleep for an extended period. Some users will experience mood swings, and headaches because of light sensitivity are common.
This assumes the user didn’t overdose during the previous phases of the experience. The chances of overdose are incredibly high, and it’s essential to understand the risks of overdose with fentanyl.
Risk of Overdose with Fentanyl
Before the fentanyl epidemic, we dealt with the heroin epidemic. Before heroin, we dealt with the opioid painkiller epidemic. These epidemics led to record overdose deaths, but they were nothing compared to the numbers caused by fentanyl.
The risk of overdose with fentanyl is higher than any other drug we’ve ever seen. Most overdose deaths occur in situations where users get way more than they bargained for.
Heroin users purchase a bag of what they think is unadulterated heroin. However, dealers looking to stretch their profits incorporate fentanyl into the mix or, in some instances, replace the heroin with pure fentanyl.
Even a veteran heroin user with what’s considered a high tolerance will quickly succumb to the bad batch of heroin if there’s enough fentanyl included – and it doesn’t take much. For someone not used to injecting or snorting fentanyl regularly, a dose no more significant than the size of a pinch of salt is enough to send them to the point of no return.
One of the significant risks of overdose with fentanyl is its ability to stand up to the overdose reversal drug Narcan. In the past, most users who required Narcan could rely on one dose to bring them out of respiratory arrest and back from the brink of death. Sporadic cases MIGHT have required two doses, but these were only in the case of a massive injection of heroin.
After fentanyl hit the scene, paramedics began noticing something they hadn’t seen before. Overdose victims were hit with Narcan two, three, and four times and still weren’t coming out of the overdose fast enough. It’s not uncommon to hear about fentanyl overdose victims needing five and six doses of Narcan to keep them from dying.
Even homes or individuals who usually carry Narcan aren’t equipped with that many doses – a prepared heroin user might take two or three doses on them in most cases. If individuals in the immediate company of someone don’t have enough Narcan to reverse the overdose effects, the ambulance won’t arrive on time.
Situations like the one described above are a driving factor in dozens of fentanyl overdose deaths each day. What’s being done to mitigate situations like this?
For starters, test strips exist on the market to try and filter out unwanted fentanyl. This may be the most effective approach instead of arresting and fighting a drug war the government can’t win.
Drug Testing for Fentanyl
Instead of choosing to approach the fentanyl epidemic with an aggressive approach, many cities and states are participating in what’s known as harm reduction. Many places already have a needle exchange program, which many people are already familiar with.
Needle exchange programs, which are still controversial in some forums, aim to reduce injury and the spread of disease among IV drug users. These programs consist of mobile volunteers who set up random hubs on different days throughout urban areas, passing out clean needles, Narcan, and other harm reduction supplies.
Since FTS programs’ inception and widespread availability, some alarming trends have surfaced. An incredibly high number of random batches of narcotics were found to contain lethal amounts of fentanyl – and it wasn’t just heroin.
Batches from marijuana to methamphetamine and cocaine have all been found to contain fentanyl. In addition, several fatal overdose cases are to blame for these drugs containing adulterants, unbeknownst to the user.
These deaths were driving factors in the push to make FTS available whenever drug consumption is possible. Many of the same harm reduction groups that distribute Narcan and syringes have begun adding these fentanyl test strips to their repertoire.
When Will Fentanyl Begin to Show Up On a Test?
Initially, the fentanyl test strips were designed for use in urine analysis tests for probation and parole officers to use on clients. However, because fentanyl can be added to the standard panel-drug test with other narcotics, the exclusively-for-fentanyl test strips could serve in different ways.
How does fentanyl show up on drug tests compared to other opioids? And does this have any effect on its potency or risk for addiction?
Fentanyl does have a shorter half-life than heroin, morphine, and other opioid drugs. However, this doesn’t relieve the withdrawal symptoms and, if anything drives them to come on faster. How long can a user expect this deadly opioid to stay in the system after ingestion, and how soon does it show up on drug tests.
Fentanyl will begin to show up on a drug test almost immediately. Technically, it could take an hour or two because of the time it takes for the drug to enter all relevant body systems.
Another frequently asked question regarding fentanyl abuse is how long it stays in your system. The answer completely depends on the drug’s half-life, combined with how often the user ingests heroin and for how long.
How Long Does Fentanyl Stay In Your System?
Fentanyl stays in your system for varying lengths depending on the system in question. Blood, urine, hair, and saliva are different times the drug expels itself from the body.
The half-life of fentanyl after IV administration is anywhere from two to four hours. This would make the total elimination time somewhere between 11 and 22-hours. However, it’s essential to remember that this is the time it takes for the body to eliminate fentanyl from the blood.
It takes substantially longer for the body to expel fentanyl from the urine, meaning you can still fail a urine analysis even after the drug exits your bloodstream. Besides indicating whether you’ll pass or fail a drug test, the length of time fentanyl stays in your system is significant in terms of withdrawal.
After the drug is expelled from your blood, you begin entering detox and experience the symptoms of withdrawal. It’s essential to be aware of the fentanyl withdrawal timeline to better prepare for any challenges.
The Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline
The fentanyl withdrawal timeline is the window when you’ll experience the worst side effects of detox. This period typically lasts between 7 and 10 days, with varying degrees of severity in between.
12-24 Hours After Last Use
You’ll begin experiencing the initial symptoms of withdrawal, including sweating, anxiety, elevated body temperature, yawning, and intense cravings.
Days 1-3, you’ll begin the gradual increase of the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. This period includes nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, body aches, insomnia, and restlessness.
This is often considered the detox process’s most intense period or peak. Symptoms are usually the most severe during this period, with severe anxiety and dehydration becoming real dangers. It’s essential to try and keep liquids down to avoid dehydration and keep your heart rate and blood pressure as low as possible.
Symptoms begin to decline and trail off until they wear off completely. Throughout the weeks following this stage, you’ll still experience severe insomnia that may cause mental and physical anguish. It’s essential to try to remain active and keep your mind occupied to keep your body somewhat normalized so you can rest.
How Can I Stop Safely Taking Fentanyl?
You can undergo detox and enter recovery from fentanyl abuse in several ways. The least recommended way is cold-turkey or at-home detox.
Several dangers are associated with this form of detox, including elevated blood pressure and heart rate. Complications associated with insomnia can also present challenges. In addition, your chances of relapse are much higher because of the temptation to avoid the pain and discomfort of withdrawal.
Medically assisted detox or medication-assisted treatment for opioids is usually the best course of action when you’re seeking to recover. Both of these, followed by inpatient or outpatient treatment, provide you with the best chances of success.
Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioids
Medication-assisted treatment for opioids is one of the most popular ways to detox from fentanyl. Several options and programs exist to help users recover, and it’s essential to be aware of all avenues to find out what might work best for you.
Methadone treatment includes attending daily dosing sessions at a clinic. You’ll also be required to submit to random drug testing and have once or twice-per-month meetings with a counselor assigned to you by the clinic.
After a few months of continuous participation without failing drug tests, you’ll be allowed to take doses home, earning privileges one day at a time. Methadone is widely considered a successful form of treatment, with the average participation time somewhere around two years. However, the demand for daily participation can be challenging for some clients.
Buprenorphine is available at most methadone clinics as an alternative for clients who don’t want to dose methadone. Alternatively, physicians can open private practices and become licensed to dispense buprenorphine. These clinics are under heavy scrutiny and must comply with all regulations laid out by any state and federal agencies.
Any client who receives Buprenorphine from a private physician must return once per month for appointments and prescription retrieval. Regular visits with a mental health counselor are also required as a form of substance abuse treatment.
These, combined with newer, successful treatment programs with holistic options, can be a great way to battle any substance abuse issue using new methods that treat the mind, body, and soul.
Effectiveness of a Holistic Rehab for Fentanyl
Holistic rehabs like Pathfinders Recovery offer fantastic opportunities to enter recovery. We use traditional methods with a modern twist, incorporating things like equine and ocean therapy, including several other good options for the mind, body, and soul.
It’s essential to healing every part of yourself when you enter recovery. Otherwise, you could be in for a setback through relapse. The entire self needs rejuvenation and reanimation, and holistic rehab for fentanyl is the perfect way to experience this refreshing regimen.
If you’re ready for exciting new-age treatment options with traditional effective mental health options, Pathfinders Recovery is waiting to hear from you. Contact a member of our admissions staff to find out how we can help you begin your recovery journey.