Years ago if you asked the average American what fentanyl was, odds are they wouldn’t be able to tell you. Most would probably assume it was some important medical compound found only in hospitals. It almost sounds like the name of some edgy chemical you’d associate with either Breaking Bad or the Unabomber. Sadly, gone are the days of such blissful ambivalence.
Today, America has a more realistic idea of what fentanyl is.
Most adults and young people have at the very least heard the horror stories about this now intensely infamous drug. If you have a television or a smartphone, odds are you have at least glimpsed the headlines. Because in the last few years the devastation caused by this powerful synthetic drug has spread all over the country, and cost countless lives.
Using data from the National Vital Statistics System, researchers have shown an involvement of fentanyl in opioid overdose deaths has quickly skyrocketed:
- 2010- 14.3% of opioid overdoses involved fentanyl
- 2016- 46% of opioid overdoses involved fentanyl
With nearly half of opioid-related overdoses, fentanyl is now involved in more deaths than:
- Prescription opioids- 40 % in 2016
- Heroin- 36.6 % in 2016
More than one drug is commonly involved in many of these deaths. Therefore, in some cases heroin and fentanyl are both accounted for. However, we can see how fentanyl has a growing presence that can definitely be felt, as dozens of thousands of Americans are dying every year due to exposure to this deadly drug.
So if you’re still unclear as to what exactly fentanyl is, let us look at how to better understand where it comes from and why it is so lethal.
Pain Medication Origins
Some people were indeed ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding fentanyl because it has actually been around for a very long time. The synthetic opioid is used as a pain medication, and in some cases combined with other medications for anesthesia. It has been used for years by hospitals, doctors, and even veterinarians to treat patients and puppies.
- 1960- Fentanyl was first created by Paul Janssen
- 1968- Fentanyl was approved for medical use in the United States
- 2015- 1,600 kilograms/3,500 pounds of fentanyl were used globally
- 2017- Fentanyl was the most widely used synthetic opioid in medicine
On its own, the substance typically looks like a white powder. As a medicine, fentanyl is available in a number of forms, including:
- Skin patch
And it may be hard for some to believe, but it’s true that one of the deadliest chemicals on the street today can actually be found in lollipop form for medical use.
The drug is such an effective painkiller because it is typically considered to be approximately 75% stronger than morphine for a given amount. However, there are fentanyl analogs such as carfentanil (carfentanyl) which can actually be as much as 10,000 times stronger than morphine. When translated to the illicit drug world, that means fentanyl and its derivatives blow heroin out of the water when it comes to potency and risk.
As a medication, fentanyl can be useful in treating chronic pain patients when utilized correctly. Pre-surgical and post-surgical use of powerful pain management medications is sometimes a necessary step to helping patients recover. In fact, fentanyl patches are on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, meaning it is considered one of the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.
Black Market Poison
Despite the seemingly altruistic intentions behind the invention of fentanyl, it has been used illicitly since the mid-1970s. Now, there are more than 12 different analogs of fentanyl that have been identified as being illegally made and used recreationally. The synthetic opioid is used through:
- Taken orally
Some people who abuse opioids do seek out fentanyl. Fentanyl is sometimes sold on the black market after being diverted from legitimate medical supplies. Recently drug manufacturers have also been accused of racketeering in order to boost sales of fentanyl. Even the gel from inside the transdermal patches may be ingested or injected. Those fentanyl lollipops have also made their way into the illegal drug trade.
But a large number of people who end up using fentanyl do it unintentionally. It has been used to adulterate or ‘cut’ heroin, and it has been pressed into counterfeit pain pills and sedatives sold on the illicit drug market. More recently there has been a rise in overdose deaths among cocaine users involving the drug, which suggests that fentanyl is being heavily cut into cocaine as well.
So why are dealers using it? To name a few reasons:
- As mentioned before, it is extremely potent
- It is easier to smuggle into the U.S.
- The drug is very cheap to produce
In China, carfentanil was not a controlled substance until March of 2017, meaning it had been legally manufactured and sold over the internet up until barely a year ago.
While it is a profitable move for drug traffickers, it is a life-threatening variable for drug users. Variations of the compound can be so strong they are incredibly poisonous. Simply breathing air with atomized fentanyl in it, or touching a contaminated surface can kill you.
Because of the massive reach of the outbreak, it is important than ever to be aware of the symptoms of fentanyl overdose. These warning signs can include:
- Difficulty thinking, speaking, or walking
- Excessive drowsiness
- Frequent fainting spells (nodding off)
- Throwing up
- Pale face
- Blue- or purple-colored lips, fingernails, or extremities
- Choking sounds
- Pupil size reduced to small black circles in middle of eyes
- Low blood pressure
- Slowed heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Hypoventilation (slow, shallow breathing)
- Respiratory arrest
Adding to the terrible risk of coming into contact with illicit fentanyl or one of its derivatives is that opioid overdose antidotes like naloxone are not as effective when trying to reverse the effects. Sometimes an individual will require multiple doses of naloxone to be revived, ance revived a new overdose can actually occur when the initial dose of naloxone wears off. It is critical that someone who experiences an overdose received medical treatment immediately.
The nation has been caught up in a growing opioid crisis for years now, serving a shock to the healthcare system and public health officials everywhere. As the death toll climbs and more people are suffering and dying every day it is crucial that we raise awareness and take action to address drug abuse and addiction. One of the essential tools to fighting back is effective and innovative treatment options. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Wait a second, so you’re telling me a member of the Grateful Dead the band did drugs?! That is just too crazy to be true, right? Well either way it was something of a shock when Bob Weir, the Grateful Dead rhythm guitarist hinted at a painkiller addiction in a recent interview he had given in a inclusive magazine article.
This past August many ‘Dead-Heads’ and other fans were in for a little bit of a letdown when Weir suddenly canceled tour dates for his solo band, Ratdog. The cancelation extended well into the next year, and subsequently many feared that he might be suffering some serious medical issue. As a pleasant surprise it turns out that he may have been in the beginning stages of trying to clean up his act. In his interview he said,
“I had to take painkillers for a shoulder issue for a number of years, and that’s something I’m still dealing with,”
Weir had actually first suffered his shoulder injury in April of 2013. He had been performing at a Furthur concert with fellow Grateful Dead artist and famous bassist Phil Lesh. At one point in the show Weir had collapsed mid-song. But like any good rock-star he took it in stride, and continued to perform in a chair. However, despite his resolve Weir canceled the next day’s concert.
The Exposing Interview
The interview touched upon many subjects, and of course drugs were no stranger to this side of the conversation. The Grateful Dead guitarist even included another recent disclosure that he had on occasion to carried some of Jerry Garcia’s heroin around for him while the band was on tour. So obviously opiates were not off the table or out of the question at one point. Heroin may have been a different brand in a different time, but prescription painkillers cut it pretty close.
Weir went on to explain this kind of thing as a regular routine for him in the glory days of the Dead.
“I used to be his bagman. At the beginning of the tour, he would tell me, ‘Okay, no matter what I say, no matter what I do, just give me this amount. Every now and again he would invite me to join him, and I would. But I never got into it.”
So at one point Weir was not ashamed to admit his involvement in this type of method of ‘painkilling’ with heroin and opiate pain medications being so closely related. Weir elaborated on his experiences using drugs with his old band mate, and what feelings he closely associated with the aspect of their relationship on a personal level. He said,
“It was fun to go into his world on a given evening after a show, but it’s not a place I found I wanted to stay—or at least that part of his world. It was fun going into that little corner of his world where he didn’t let other folks in. A place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
At this point if Weir has sought professional treatment remains only a speculation, but he did step outside the typically stigma of the type of rock-star he is to offer a bit of advice to today’s youth about drugs,
“Bottom line: you’re better off straight. Stay the hell away from heroin; it’ll take you out. It’ll ruin your life. Meth, the same thing. Cocaine—stay away from cocaine and any of the addictive drugs. Try not to take sleeping pills in your life. If you have a chronic pain issue, better to figure out how to deal with it other than with pain medication.”
So as a man of such a past to be stepping outside what may be expected of him, by many who assume what a man in band like Grateful Dead is, Weir took the opportunity to suggest another way for those who have yet to cross the line he has admittedly dabbled with for some time now.
Whether or not he was abusing them, or had developed a more serious addiction related to his painkillers, is a mystery but regardless sometimes it seems the world could use more rock-stars willing to stand up and speak out against drug abuse from their own experience. Another great rock star trying to spread a different message.
Too many incredible and talented people have suffered and been claimed by the disease of addiction. Not just musicians and actors, but every day people who develop serious drug or alcohol problems slip through the cracks and don’t ever find their way back. Prescription painkillers are one of the greatest offenders, and they claim more lives now than ever, but there is always a way out. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
It is quite a common occurrence that many people end up with a prescription pill addiction due to being prescribed powerful narcotics that are supposed to “help” them with their chronic pain. Often times it can be scary for a chronic pain patient to realize how far into a painkiller addiction they have gone. That is why most drug treatment centers offer a specific approach for people with chronic pain.
The cold, hard truth is that there a lot of people living with chronic pain issues. Common pain conditions are chronic back pain, usually due to an injury, or nerve pain as a result of a medical condition, such as diabetes (a condition known as neuropathy) or even as a consequence of a botched medical procedure such as surgery.
Unfortunately, the main way that we treat chronic pain in this country is by prescribing potent narcotic painkillers. This has become more and more of a trend in recent years. Painkillers such as oxycodone (Oxycontin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and Fentanyl were initially developed to treat the most severe type of pain and for only a short duration, an example of these situations being major surgery.
This isn’t to say that your condition isn’t real or that it doesn’t cause you anxiety. There are many people in your position. The good news is that there are things you can do, instead of relying on these powerfully addictive drugs, to manage your pain.
I’m Addicted to Prescription Pills But I Have Real Pain, What Can I Do?
Prescription Pills: Addiction vs. Physical Dependence
When you have been taking prescription pills, such as narcotic painkillers, for an extended period of time, you will develop a condition known as physical dependence. This means that your brain and therefore your body have become reliant on these powerful drugs. If you have ever tried to stop, you probably experienced some very uncomfortable symptoms – diarrhea, sweating, body aches, runny nose, chills, anxiety, insomnia – known as withdrawal syndrome. This is an indication that you have become dependent on your medications.
Also over time, you might build up a tolerance to your prescription pills, meaning that the initial dose you were prescribed doesn’t seem to be working as well anymore. Your doctor might prescribe more pills or stronger dosages of pills. When you start taking more than you are prescribed in order to feel better, this is an indication of the beginnings of an addiction. If you find that you are looking for other ways to get more pills (i.e. doctor shopping or buying them on the street) and that you are experiencing negative consequences, such as loss of your job, legal problems, and problems with family and loved ones, then your addiction to prescription pills is in full swing.
You realize, I’m Addicted to Prescription Pills But I Have Real Pain, What Can I Do?
There are many people in your position and there are many things you can do without the use of these kinds of prescription pills. First thing’s first, though. You will need specialized treatment in detoxing you from these narcotic medications in a safe and effective way. Medical detox and rehab is available for people in the very same situation you are in. Once you are detoxed, this can be a very useful period in the treatment of your chronic pain; you can see what your actual pain level is without the prescription pills masking your pain. From there, you will be given options to consider going forward with your treatment.
Pain Medications Don’t Work
Prescription painkillers are just a stop-gap anyway, meaning that they don’t treat the underlying problem of your chronic pain. They act like a Band-Aid, merely covering up the symptom of your condition – the pain – with a temporary “fix.” And, in fact, pain management that relies on prescription pills actually makes the pain worse over time.
So, instead, your doctor can prescribe different medications that have a lower risk of causing addiction or abuse issues that can be just as effective in managing your chronic pain. There are non-narcotic medications that treat pain safely and effectively.
Counseling Can Be an Effective Tool
At a drug treatment for people with chronic pain, you will receive specialized counseling to assist you with addressing your addiction to prescription pills. It’s important to recognize that being addicted means that you have a psychological attachment to the drugs you were taking and that, by simply detoxing from them, you might still experience this attachment. That’s because narcotic painkillers actually alter your brain in profound ways and it will take learning new information to re-wire your brain. This is where counseling comes in.
Besides addressing your addiction, the counseling sessions can also address your chronic pain by:
- Reducing the pain
- Reducing pain related behavior
- Improve daily functioning
- Reduce stress and distress
Alternative Therapies Treat Chronic Pain
Going to a drug treatment program for your prescription pill addiction can introduce you to alternative therapies that will both support you in your recovery from addiction as well as treat your pain symptoms. Alternative therapies such as specially-tailored exercise programs, yoga, acupuncture, acupressure, sound therapy, and massage therapy are just a few ways in which you can decrease your overall pain level while at the same time improving your mood.
Treatment for prescription pill addiction and chronic pain aims to help you become your healthiest self so that you have an improved quality of life – all without the need for prescription narcotics.
I’m Addicted to Prescription Pills But I Have Real Pain, What Can I Do? Help is Available
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, or needs help getting off prescription pills and seeking alternative pain management, Palm Partners can help. Please call 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an admissions specialist today.
Living with chronic pain limits what you can do. Chronic pain can interfere with your ability to work, play with your children, walk or even take care of yourself.
Chronic pain can cause what is known as disuse syndrome, which is the medical way of saying “use it or lose it.” To avoid pain, many people limit the amount of things they do in a day. Eventually, this causes weakness, which leads to even less activity, and a cycle is formed and chronic pain becomes impossible to cope with.
You may think that there is no hope for the relief of your chronic pain, but those who don’t create a gam-plan for coping do nothing but spiral downward in their pain. Many people continue to live healthy, productive, and happy lives in spite of their chronic pain. This is because they have found ways to cope with chronic pain, either through medications, alternative treatments or a combination of the two.
If you suffer from chronic pain, here are some tips on coping with it.
Medications and Alternative Treatments to cope with chronic pain
Used alone or combined with medications, alternative and complimentary treatments (CAM’s) can be a powerful tool in learning how to cope with chronic pain. Some examples of commonly used CAM’s for chronic pain are:
- Magnetic therapy
- Energy medicine
- Herbal medicine
Managing Stress to cope with chronic pain
Stress causes muscle tension, which can increase the amount of pain you feel. Allowing your muscles to relax reduces strain and decreases pain sensations. Learning to relax your body can help you control your pain without the use of additional medications. Relaxation is a pain management tool that can be used on its own, or in combination with other treatments.
Yoga and guided imagery are useful in decreasing stress and muscle tension, major contributors to the intensity of chronic pain. Yoga uses a series of poses combined with deep breathing to relax your mind and your body. Guided imagery uses meditation to calm your mental state.
Medication to cope with chronic pain
There are so many types of medications that control chronic pain; it can take months to find the one that works best for you.
You may be worried about taking medication for the rest of your life, as well as living with its side effects. You may also be concerned about prescription drug abuse. Yet most non-narcotic pain medications are safe and effective when taken correctly. There are many pain medications on the market today that are non-narcotic and will not have any addictive properties.
Find support to help cope with chronic pain
One in 10 Americans has suffered from chronic pain at some point in their lives. Chances are that someone close to you understands exactly what living with chronic pain is like.
Finding a support group or even a supportive friend can help you learn to cope with chronic pain. They can give you advice and tips on what techniques and products worked for them and be a sympathetic ear when you need to talk. There’s a lot of anger and frustrating that happens as a result of chronic pain so the stronger your support system the better chance you have of moving forward and healing.
If you or a loved one is in need of drug, alcohol and/or chronic pain treatment please give us a call at 800-951-6135.