Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
What does fentanyl do to a person?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It's typically used to treat severe pain, especially after surgery, or to manage pain in individuals with chronic illnesses who have developed a tolerance to other opioids.
When used under medical supervision, fentanyl can effectively relieve pain. However, when used illicitly or without a prescription, it can have severe, and even fatal, effects. Here's what fentanyl can do to a person:
Physical Effects: In the short term, fentanyl can induce feelings of relaxation, euphoria, and decreased perception of pain. However, it also slows breathing and can lead to unconsciousness or death from respiratory failure, particularly in high doses or when combined with other substances that depress the central nervous system.
Dependency and Addiction: Fentanyl is highly addictive. Regular use can lead to physical dependence, where the body requires the drug to function normally, and psychological addiction, where a person feels a compulsive need to use the drug despite its harmful consequences.
Overdose Risk: Due to its potency, the risk of overdose with fentanyl is high, especially if a person mistakenly believes they're taking a less potent opioid, as illicit fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs. Overdose can lead to severe respiratory depression, unconsciousness, and death.
Withdrawal: Once a person becomes dependent on fentanyl, stopping its use can result in withdrawal symptoms. These can include muscle and bone pain, sleep problems, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, and uncontrollable leg movements.
Long-Term Health Effects: Chronic fentanyl use can lead to an array of health problems, including severe constipation, increased sensitivity to pain, confusion, depression, and increased risk of infections due to needle sharing (if injected).
Due to its potency and high risk of overdose, non-medical use of fentanyl is extremely dangerous. If you or someone you know is struggling with fentanyl or other opioid use, it's crucial to seek professional help immediately.
Are there racial inequities of the treatment of addictive disorders?
Yes, racial inequities do exist in the treatment of addictive disorders, reflecting systemic disparities that pervade many aspects of healthcare. These inequities can occur across multiple dimensions, including access to treatment, quality of care, and outcomes. Here are some ways in which these inequities manifest:
- Access to treatment: Racial and ethnic minority groups often face barriers to accessing substance use disorder treatment. These barriers can include factors like limited availability of treatment services in certain communities, lack of insurance or underinsurance, economic challenges, and lack of transportation.
- Quality of care: Even when individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups do access treatment, they may not receive the same quality of care as their white counterparts. This could be due to factors such as a lack of culturally competent care, bias or discrimination within the healthcare system, or treatment approaches that do not adequately consider cultural or community-specific factors.
- Treatment outcomes: Racial and ethnic disparities also exist in treatment outcomes for substance use disorders. For example, research has shown that African American and Hispanic individuals often have lower rates of successful completion of substance use disorder treatment programs compared to white individuals.
- Criminal justice involvement: There is a disproportionately higher rate of criminal justice involvement for substance use issues among people of color, particularly among African American and Hispanic populations. This can impact access to quality treatment, as well as long-term outcomes such as employment and social reintegration.
- Research gaps: Historically, much of the research on substance use disorders has primarily involved white participants, leading to a lack of data and understanding about the unique experiences, needs, and treatment responses of individuals from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Facts about fentanyl
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that has garnered significant attention in recent years due to its role in the opioid crisis. Here are some essential facts about fentanyl:
Potency: Fentanyl is estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin. Due to its high potency, it is prescribed in micrograms (mcg) rather than the milligrams (mg) typically used for other opioids.
Medical use: Fentanyl is primarily used in medical settings to manage severe pain, such as chronic pain or breakthrough pain in cancer patients. It is also used as an anesthetic during surgical procedures. Fentanyl is available in various forms, including transdermal patches, lozenges, tablets, and injections.
Illicit use: Fentanyl has become a significant concern in the illicit drug market due to its potency and relatively low production cost. Illegal fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, or counterfeit prescription pills, increasing the risk of overdose for unsuspecting users.
Overdose risk: Fentanyl's potency makes it particularly dangerous, as even a small amount can cause an overdose. Signs of fentanyl overdose include slow or shallow breathing, unresponsiveness, pinpoint pupils, cold and clammy skin, and loss of consciousness. Fentanyl overdoses can be fatal if not promptly treated.
Naloxone: Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is an opioid antagonist that can rapidly reverse the effects of a fentanyl overdose by displacing the drug from the opioid receptors in the brain. Due to fentanyl's potency, multiple doses of naloxone may be necessary to reverse an overdose effectively.
Fentanyl analogs: There are numerous fentanyl analogs or derivatives, such as carfentanil, acetylfentanyl, and furanylfentanyl. These analogs can have varying potencies, often significantly stronger than fentanyl itself, which can further increase the risk of overdose and fatalities.
Legal classification: Fentanyl is a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States, indicating that it has a high potential for abuse and dependence but also has accepted medical uses. Illicit fentanyl and its analogs are often classified as Schedule I substances, indicating that they have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
Addiction and dependence: Fentanyl, like other opioids, carries a risk of addiction and physical dependence. Chronic use can lead to tolerance, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effect, and withdrawal symptoms if usage is reduced or stopped abruptly.