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Fentanyl is a drug that you might have heard about in recent years. There’s a rising problem of fentanyl abuse which has caused the number of fatal drug overdoses to skyrocket over the past few years.  Fentanyl is prescribed as a drug to treat severe, chronic pain most commonly in the form of a patch or liquid.   Due to its potency, it has found its way to the streets.  It’s there where it is often mixed with other drugs like heroin and cocaine, increasing the propensity for overdose.

Many times, the addict is not aware that the drug they’re taking has been laced with Fentanyl until it’s too late.  Read on to find out more about fentanyl and why so many people are abusing it.Sad woman on the bus looking through window

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is an opioid drug, which means the drug interacts with the opioid receptors in the brain. This is what creates the drug’s impact on the body. It can produce feelings such as euphoria, relaxation, pleasure, and pain relief. In that regard, it’s similar to the drug known as morphine, but fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and highly addictive.

As an opioid, it’s easy to compare the drug to heroin, which is a much more widely known opioid. Many people are surprised to learn that fentanyl is a far stronger drug than heroin; up to 50 times stronger. It can be used legally as a prescribed drug or illicitly by addicts who’ve purchased it from street dealers.

What’s it Used For?

There are two main uses of fentanyl. But even the legitimate and legal use of the drug is heavily regulated. Because of the strength of fentanyl, doctors don’t prescribe fentanyl as a long-term painkiller.  It can be used, short-term, by people who are suffering from severe chronic pain. It can also be used to ease post-surgery pain. By binding the opioid receptors in the brain, it drives up dopamine levels and increases feelings of euphoria and relaxation.

Because of the way it impacts the brain, it’s a drug that many people get addicted to. That feeling of euphoria is addictive, and dependencies can form pretty quickly. It’s often mixed with other drugs that can make it even more potent and even more dangerous. It’s a rising form of substance abuse in the United States today.

Why is it Being Abused by So Many People?

There are a few reasons why fentanyl substance abuse is on the rise right now.   First of all, even with prescribed, short-term use, people can unwittingly become addicted to the medication.  When the medication is no longer prescribed, the patient may begin to feel the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal and pain.  Rather than going through the withdrawal and sometimes living with pain, the person chooses to purchase fentanyl illegally from a dealer.  When purchasing the fentanyl from a “street” source, the user has no idea what’s in it, what it’s mixed with, and if it will make them feel better or cause an overdose.  It’s the sheer strength of the drug that makes it much easier for addictions to develop once usage starts.

The United States current administration has called on China, where the bulk of the illegal drug is manufactured and exported from, to seek the death penalty for distributors.  While impeding the source of the drug is helpful, the desire of the addict to seek treatment for their addiction instead of simply changing drugs is the real key in stemming this wave of addiction and death.