Why is Fentanyl so Addictive and Dangerous?
If you were to ask anyone what the most addictive and dangerous opioid is, there’s a fair chance that heroin would be their guess. While heroin is certainly one of the most addictive and dangerous opioids available, it does not claim the number one spot on what is a very unfortunate list. That dubious honor goes to fentanyl, which is responsible for over 100,000 overdose deaths each and every year in the United States.
Like morphine and ketamine, fentanyl was originally designed as a pain killer, and is still used as such in very, very small doses. In larger doses it creates sensations of extreme pleasure. Larger doses, however, can also shut down the body’s systems completely. This leads to a loss of consciousness and even death.
Fentanyl Reacts with the Brain’s Normal Systems in Order to Create Feelings of Intense Pleasure
The brain has a very good system when it comes to pain. As part of that system, it contains a number of what are called opioid receptors. These receptors release natural opioids when the body feels pain and these opioids act as a natural pain killer. Opioids such as morphine, heroin and fentanyl trigger these opioid receptors so that they go into overdrive. This is what creates the intense sensations of pleasure and euphoria.
However, these sensations come at a cost. Once a non-natural opioid is experienced, the brain now expects opioids as part of its natural way of functioning. If the brain does not get what it wants, it releases chemicals that cause feelings of discomfort. These are experienced as cravings and the only way to get rid of these distressing sensations is to add opioids to the brain.
A distressing cycle then begins. As the brain grows accustomed to opioids, the sensations of pleasure released are diminished. This leads to the opioid-reliant person taking stronger doses in order to experience the levels of euphoria they previously experienced. Fentanyl has additional negative effects on the brain too and these effects can lead to death.
There are Intense and Negative Side Effects Associated with the Repeated Use of Fentanyl
As well as feelings of euphoria, fentanyl also creates sensations of drowsiness, insomnia, nausea, slowed heart rate, irregular breathing, and sedation. There is also the risk of death – a dosage of 2 milligrams of pure fentanyl is sufficient to induce a fatal episode. One ounce (the weight of a pencil) is 28,000 milligrams.