Fentanyl Addiction in Pittsburgh, PA: What is It and What Do I Need to Know About It?


Fentanyl

Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous drugs in the country. Addiction treatment for fentanyl is becoming more and more requested as people are becoming dependent on this drug. Some states, like Ohio, even have booths set up at music festivals and other events notorious for drug use that provide kits to test for impurities and additives to drugs like MDMA. MDMA is considered a party drug by many people and sometimes dealers put fentanyl in the drug. Fentanyl is sometimes added by drug dealers and/or importers to drugs like but not limited to: cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. This is done to add to the initial strength of the drug. 

Fentanyl is about 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. In most instances, people purchasing these drugs are unaware they are also ingesting fentanyl and greatly risk overdose. 

Let’s take a look at fentanyl to gain a better understanding of the risks of this substance. Let’s also look at treatment options.

What is the Original Use of Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a prescription opioid that is used in a medical setting for patients who are dealing with extreme pain. Often patients who are prescribed fentanyl have developed a strong tolerance to other opioid pain treatments. Therefore, fentanyl is used as a “break-through” pain reliever. 

In a medical setting though, it’s use is heavily supervised and there is little to no risk. In many cases, fentanyl is often seen as the only relief for patients suffering from chronic pain.

How Much Fentanyl is Deadly? 

Unfortunately, the difference in dosage between therapeutic fentanyl and an overdose portion is very small. As little as 2 to 3 milligrams can kill a person who has not developed a tolerance. One milligram is about the size of a grain of sand. 

Why do People Become Addicted to Fentanyl so Easily?

Since fentanyl is from the family of opioids it acts the same way as other opioids such as oxycodone, oxycontin, morphine, and even heroin. This means that it actively attaches to the receptors in the brain that regulate pain and pleasure. Opioids activate pleasurable feelings and thats why people enjoy them.

Some victims of addiction have accepted the existence of fentanyl gladly, others do not like it as they were not aware fentanyl was what they were ingesting. All people who are victims of addiction would like to know what is in their drugs. Some people would not take a particular batch of drugs if they knew fentanyl was in it. Unfortunately, if the person does not have a testing kit there is no way to know if there is any fentanyl in the substance except to take the drug.

Fentanyl affects everyone differently, depending on the person’s size, weight, overall health, mental health, and what other drugs have been taken. This means that someone who is taking fentanyl for the first time will not know if it will hurt them.

Why is Fentanyl in Other Drugs if It is So Deadly? 

One of the reasons that fentanyl can end up in other drugs like heroin and cocaine is the dealer or bagger intentionally adds it to increase the user’s high and sell a potentially more profitable product in the future if the buyer ends up liking it. When this is done the client often knows about the additive. However, they may not have built up a tolerance or may misjudge the potency of the drug and their ability to handle that amount of the drug and overdose. Fentanyl is cheaper to produce than heroin and other drugs which is a big incentive for drug dealers to push the product. 

Fentanyl may also end up in some drugs because the person bagging the drugs, do not wipe down their table between chopping different substances. They might chop fentanyl and then immediately chop cocaine or heroin without enough clean up in between.  

Another risk is sometimes people will share needles when they are injecting fentanyl. Sharing used needles can spread illnesses like HIV, hepatitis C, and other infections.

What Are Some Examples of Intentionally Harmful Fentanyl Sales?

In Arizona, there is a lot of “Percocet” coming across the border from Mexico that is made of fentanyl with no oxycodone or acetaminophen (the two active ingredients in Percocet) in them at all. These drugs are being marketed on the west coast as authentic Percocet and people are dying. It is only a matter of time until these “Percocets” reach Pittsburgh if they have not already. These pills are being sold because they are cheaper to produce than actual Percocet.

How Many People in PA Overdose from Fentanyl Every Year from Fentanyl? 

In eight Pennsylvania counties, including Allegheny, fentanyl overdoses make up 60% of overdose deaths. Heroin accounted for 43% of overdose deaths in the area, and cocaine accounted for 32%.

How Do You Take Fentanyl?

Prescription fentanyl can be given to patients in many forms:

  • Patches
  • Pills
  • Lozenges (known as lollipops)
  • Nasal spray
  • Buccal film
  • Intravenous liquid

Illicit forms of fentanyl are often created in an illegal lab and are in a powder form. This type of fentanyl can be smoked, snorted or injected. Illicit fentanyl is extremely dangerous as the strength varies greatly and is extremely easy to overdose.

Drugs are also notorious for lowering inhibitions. Often this can cause the drug user to put themselves in dangerous situations like going in search of dangerous people who might have drugs to get another high, having unprotected sex, sharing needles, and/or getting in trouble with the law. 

What Shouldn’t I do When Trying to Recover from Fentanyl at Home?

The most important thing you can do for someone who is addicted to fentanyl is to get them medical help. Medical help in the form of a medically assisted detox can be found at reputable rehabilitation clinics. Going through an online course on how to detoxify and otherwise treat yourself can be not only a waste of precious time, it can be deadly.

Going “cold turkey” can have deadly side effects, any amount of detoxification can lower tolerance. Many people overdose because they attempt to take the same amount of fentanyl or other drugs as they did before detoxifying or attempting to detoxify. The temptation to relapse is strongest within the first 48 hours. Slowly weaning yourself off addictive substances is extremely difficult without proper supervision under the care of medical professionals.

How Do I Help Someone Who Doesn’t Want to go to Drug Rehab?

Unfortunately, your loved one might not be ready to admit that they need help yet. Here are some important ways that you can help your loved one:

·       Take care of yourself first. 

It is like when you are on an airplane and the instructions on the oxygen mask instruct you to secure your own mask before your child’s. It is tempting to secure your child’s mask first but you have to consider what happens if get even worse. If you are not in a healthy position your child is left alone and can only rely on other passengers and airplane staff. You cannot care for your loved one if you are not taking care of yourself. You have rights as a caregiver.

·       Carry Narcan on yourself and encourage other people in your loved one’s life to carry it.

Giving your loved one a kit might help too. While they will not be able to use it on themselves, another person might find it on them and be able to administer it according to the directions on the package.

Narcan will instantly reverse the symptoms of an opioid overdose. It is also important for the person to get medical attention quickly. Narcan has saved many lives. You can see the drug information on their website.

Narcan is available over the counter at the pharmacy in Pennsylvania.

·       Learn CPR

Knowing CPR can be critical to keeping your loved one alive after an overdose while waiting for an ambulance or other medical personnel. 

·       Be aware of manipulative actions or words on the part of your loved one.

Some drugs, like heroin (which is often mixed with fentanyl), make individuals so addicted that they will even engage in criminal activities to get drugs. While it is important to know that it is the effect of drugs and not your loved one.

·       Do not enable

It is important to not enable your loved one. Enabling is when someone helps someone else not have to face the consequences of their actions. People who enable often think that their loved one will eventually come around on their own. The only way to get help for people with substance abuse problems is to get them professional help. Drugs are not only mind-altering, but they are also often behavior-altering. 

***Remember, it is in you and your loved one’s best interest to get admitted to a rehabilitation clinic as soon as possible.

Do I have to go to Rehab to Quit Drugs? 

Getting off drugs like fentanyl is almost impossible without the help of trained medical professionals because addiction is a medical condition. Opioids and other drugs cause complex interactions in the brain. It is hard if not impossible for someone who is not medically trained to manage their medical tapering and/or detoxification from addictive substances. It is also dangerous.

Can I Quit Drugs Without going to Drug Rehabilitation?

There is a lot of misinformation out on the internet that promises that certain essential oils will cleanse the body of fentanyl, or that you can just drink sports drinks and bear through fentanyl detoxification. This information is not only false, but it is also dangerous.

Essential oils may be good for some things, but keeping someone safe while their body detoxifies itself from drugs is not an area in which they are applicable. While the body does naturally rid itself of substances like cocaine it does take about a week of total abstinence from any addictive substances for the process to be almost complete. Medical tapering is a medical practice. Trying to taper with methadone at home is not effective and it will be essentially trading one addiction for another.

When Will the War on Drugs Stop? 

Drugs and drug addiction are not problems that will go away any time soon. Here at DreamLife Recovery, we are at the forefront of the struggle against destructive drugs like fentanyl. Fentanyl and other opioids have destroyed too many lives and our goal is to not let them destroy anymore.

Fentanyl is not a drug that is soon to go away. It is being pushed on us and our loved ones because it is cheap, easy to transport, and effective in low quantities, basically cutting down on shipping costs because of potency.

Why Are People Reluctant to get Help for Their Addiction?

Often people who give up very addictive substances like heroin and fentanyl describe stopping the drug as “losing a good friend” because the drug is sometimes either all they have left and/or it is the only thing left in the world that matters to them.

Make no mistake about it. Drugs are not your friend. They are substances that people have abused over the years to the point that their medical use is almost overshadowed by the harm they bring to the people who do not use them for good. Let us help you. Let us help you win your fight. 

When you are ready for help, contact our website or call us at (844) 402-3592. Let us help you live the life you’ve always dreamed of.

References:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/308156.php

https://www.drugs.com/illicit/fentanyl.html

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/nea898/how-much-fentanyl-is-actually-in-cocaine

https://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2019/04/29/Pennsylvania-Research-fentanyl-varied-effect-opioid-heroin-drug-users-behaviors/stories/201904260107

https://caregiver.com/articles/caregivers-bill-of-rights/

https://www.narcan.com

Article Reviewed by Lidice Morales

Lidice MoralesLidice Morales, an honors graduate from the Kaiser University, has made a name for herself as the Director of Nursing at several behavioral health facilities and as the Director of Operations for Detox MD. Now she is the VP of Operations at DreamLife Recovery. She strives for better patient care through constant self-improvement and furthering her education. Her steadfast work ethic and passion in the field has remained the most important aspect of her professional career; showing dedication to not only the acquisition of new knowledge, but also its mastery. Lidice believes that a professional work atmosphere fosters cohesion and malleability amongst herself and her coworkers; thereby increasing both the level of patient care and quality of life.

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