What Does Fentanyl Do In Your Body?
Fentanyl is a prescription drug also known by the brand names Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze. In recent years a lot of fentanyl has been made illicitly and now most of the fentanyl that is abused comes from underground labs, often from China and other countries. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opiate, which means it is man-made, used to treat severe pain. It was mainly used in clinical settings to assist with anesthesia, however now it is sometimes used to treat chronic severe pain when other opioids are no longer effective, and it is also used to treat cancer pain. Fentanyl has a high potential for abuse and dependency.
Fentanyl can be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and illicit opioid users will usually tell you it is significantly stronger and “better” than heroin. So what damage does fentanyl do once inside your body?
How Fentanyl Affects The Brain
Fentanyl affects the opioid centers in the brain, which alter how your body responds to pain. It works on the central nervous system by telling your brain that you aren’t really in pain.
According to the National Institutes of Health:
Like heroin, morphine, and other opioid drugs, fentanyl works by binding to the body’s opioid receptors, which are found in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. After taking opioids many times, the brain adapts to the drug, diminishing its sensitivity, making it hard to feel pleasure from anything besides the drug. When people become addicted, drug-seeking and drug use take over their lives. (NIH)
The body has natural pain-relieving endorphins that trigger relaxation and well-being. Opioids do the same thing; they control the pleasure and reward center in the brain. When an opioid is taken, the user gets a rush of dopamine – the feel-good hormone – throughout the body. Fentanyl and some other opioids cause a lot more intense rush of dopamine which causes extreme pleasure and relaxation. When these opioids are continuously taken, the brain adapts and becomes less sensitive to them, so more and more is needed to achieve the same effects. This is what leads to dependence and abuse.
What Fentanyl Does to the Body
Fentanyl is very effective at relieving pain, but it is a very powerful opioid and too much can cause respiratory depression, which is slow, shallow breathing, and this can be fatal. Fentanyl also has several other effects on the body. One of the hallmark signs of abuse is intense euphoria, lethargy, and drowsiness individual experiences. Some of the other side effects include:
- Problems breathing
- Extreme happiness
- Extreme fatigue
- Dry mouth
- Weight loss
The intense euphoria the drug gives you leaves users wanting more and more. Many aren’t aware of exactly how much they are getting, and it only takes a very small amount to cause an overdose or even a fatal overdose.
How Long Does Fentanyl Last In Your System
Fentanyl has a very rapid onset (it starts working in minutes), so the body rapidly absorbs it and eliminates it a lot faster than other opioids. Fentanyl is metabolized by the liver and then the kidneys remove the metabolites by flushing them out through the urine.
Fentanyl has a half-life of four to seven hours. This means that half of the amount ingested is broken down and eliminated in four to seven hours. After that, another half of what is left is broken down and eliminated, and then another half of what is remaining is broken down and eliminated. This process continues until all of what has been ingested is eliminated from the system. Most urine drug tests will detect the drug for up to three to four days after the last use. Some of the more sensitive urine tests can detect the drug for up to a week after the last use.
Long-Term Effects Of Fentanyl Abuse
Long-term abuse of Fentanyl can cause brain damage. This happens when a person stops breathing temporarily due to a non-fatal overdose. When the brain gets starved of oxygen repeatedly, it slowly loses function. Opioid-related brain damage is called anoxic brain injury.
Other systems of the body that can suffer from damage due to long-term opioid abuse are the immune system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system, and musculoskeletal system.
Long-term Fentanyl abuse can also cause chronic depression and pain as well. Users don’t realize what is happening in their bodies is actually from the Fentanyl abuse. Some of these issues can be partially reversed with the proper treatment and sustained sobriety.
Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction
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