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Fentanyl is not a new drug but has become very popular over several years, taking many lives. Unfortunately, simply touching this drug could lead to overdosing and death.
How does fentanyl affect your brain and body?
Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that can prevent pain signals in various pathways along with the brain and spinal cord. This is why it was first prescribed as a pain reliever.
Fentanyl increases dopamine in the brain, creating feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Essentially it takes over your body’s built-in system of endorphins by binding to your opioid receptors in a similar way your endorphins do but at a much more intense level.
This may sound like a fun time, but under fentanyl’s influence, it blocks your brain’s ability to detect CO2 build-up in the body. With CO2 building up in the body, it can cause a person to quit breathing.
Common side effects of fentanyl include chills, dizziness, fainting, vomiting, constipation, and difficulty urinating.
In addition, fentanyl is much more potent than other opioids. It is about 100 times stronger than morphine and about 50 times stronger than heroin. For drugs to be effective, they have to pass the blood-brain barrier. This barrier allows small fat-soluble substances to pass, blocked by polar water molecules.
Both heroin and morphine are lipid-soluble but have water-loving polar groups that allow them to pass the blood-brain barrier much slower. Whereas fentanyl is not polar and fat-soluble, entering the brain within seconds means it only takes minimal amounts to get high.
How Lethal is Fentanyl
This is why fentanyl is so dangerous because a lethal dose is only 2mg or what would be the equivalent of two grains of salt.
You have to be very precise in getting the dosage right. Otherwise, it can easily lead to an overdose. There have been instances where first responders overdosed because of touching fentanyl or accidentally inhaling some of its dust.
Fortunately, if given in time, Naloxone can counteract the overdose saving the person’s life as it blocks the opioid receptors.
Science has a hard time keeping up with all of the new fentanyl analogs being produced, such as Carfentanyl which is about 10,000 times stronger than morphine and has been cited for its possible use in chemical warfare.
Today, drug overdoses throughout North America are rising exponentially. Opioids seem to cause this profound increase in overdoses and death. The opioid death rate is higher than gun death rates, HIV deaths, and even car crash deaths.
Overdosing on Opioids
A significant factor is doctors overprescribing people opioids which can cause addiction in people who have no predisposition for addiction. In addition, people prescribed opioids might sell or give them away, or they might be stolen, getting into the wrong hands.
Although doctors have slowed down prescribing these narcotics, many people have become addicted, seeking out more through the black markets. With opioids in demand on the drug market, drug dealers turned to cheaper option solutions. Unlike heroin, which is synthesized from poppies, fentanyl is 100% synthetic to be made anywhere for cheap.
This has led to the popularity of safe consumption sites where people can safely administer drugs. They are supported by counselling, anti-consumption drugs, and other forms of rehabilitation.