How Do I Know If Someone Is on Fentanyl?

If you’re wondering how you can know if someone is on fentanyl, you likely already have suspicions. Fentanyl has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons for the past few years, and it’s the drug that’s responsible for the death of music legend Prince, as well as countless others throughout the country.

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If you haven’t heard that much about fentanyl, chances are you will as it begins to outpace the use of heroin in the U.S. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine, but according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse is anywhere from 50 to 100 times stronger.

Classified as a Schedule II prescription drug, fentanyl is used in medical applications to treat very severe pain, particularly after surgery. It may also be used to treat people who suffer from chronic pain but are tolerant to other types of opioids.

Commonly prescribed brand name forms of fentanyl include Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze. Like most drugs, fentanyl also goes by a slew of street and slang names including Apache, China White, Dance Fever and many others.

When someone uses fentanyl, as with other opioids, it binds to certain receptors in their brain that control their emotions and pain. It leads to spikes in dopamine, which makes them feel good and leads to a rush of euphoria after taking the drug.

One of the primary reasons fentanyl is so addictive and dangerous is because the brain and body quickly build a tolerance to the drug, and the person using fentanyl must take higher doses to achieve the same result.

While in a hospital fentanyl may be injected, given as a patch, or offered as a lozenge if someone is using illegal versions of fentanyl it often comes as a pill, powder, or on a piece of blotter paper.

In many states across the country, the use of opioids including fentanyl is rising incredibly fast. In fact, in the state of Ohio, there was more than a five-time increase in fatal overdoses from fentanyl from 2013 to 2014.

In many parts of the country, fentanyl is killing more people than heroin, and there were believed to be more than 5500 deaths in 2014 related to fentanyl. That represented an increase of 79 percent over 2013 according to the CDC. There are ten states where the majority of fentanyl use is concentrated. These are Ohio, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Kentucky, Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire and Indiana.

If you’re concerned about someone using fentanyl you’re not alone, but you may be wondering how you can tell if someone is on the opioid.

So with its increasing prevalence and the dangers associated with its use, how do you know someone is on fentanyl? What are the red flags and warning signs of using fentanyl?

Some of the signs someone is on fentanyl or abusing fentanyl include:

  • While after taking fentanyl someone may experience euphoria they then often feel depressed and confused
  • Slowed heart rate and breathing
  • Weakness and trouble walking
  • Stiffness of muscles
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Shaking
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Itching and scratching
  • Pupils the size of a pinpoint
  • Hallucinations
  • Urine retention
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping problems
  • Swollen arms or legs

While above are signs of someone taking fentanyl, there are also long-term effects that develop if someone chronically abuses the drug. Some of these include very bad gastrointestinal problems, a weakened immune system and the potential for seizures to occur. With chronic use of fentanyl, sedation effects may be increased over time as well.

There aren’t just physical signs that someone is using fentanyl. You may also notice someone is on fentanyl if they go through behavioral or mental changes including paranoia, withdrawing from social connections, a loss of motivation, or personal changes.

Whether someone takes fentanyl exactly as is prescribed by a medical professional, or they abuse the drug, they may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it or take a lower dose. These withdrawal symptoms may be a red flag to friends or family members that someone has a problem with fentanyl, and that their body has become physically dependent on it.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with fentanyl include irritability, chills, sweats, insomnia, anxiety and nervousness, agitation and restlessness.

What’s important for people to realize when they think someone close to them is on fentanyl is that it’s not just the signs of using the drug itself that serve as red flags. Yes, there are behavioral changes that are the result of the drug’s effects on the mind and body, but there may also be behavioral signs of fentanyl abuse that occur because someone is so focused on their addiction.

With fentanyl addiction and abuse of other prescription drugs, people will often do immoral or illegal things to maintain their addiction. This could mean stealing money or stealing pills either from people they know or even places they might work.

Individuals who are abusing fentanyl and other drugs often become incredibly preoccupied with the drug and making sure they get more. This can cause them to withdrawal from friends and family or form new social groups. People who are on fentanyl and are abusing it may also start to have school or work performance declines.

When someone is on fentanyl, it may begin as a medical treatment, and it may move into a dependency that changes their life. Of course, not everyone who is prescribed fentanyl becomes addicted, but if you suspect someone is abusing fentanyl or showing signs of being dependent on the drug, it’s important to explore available resources to help them. Fentanyl is a dangerous drug on its own, and for many people who abuse it, it may also serve as a gateway to heroin, which is cheaper.

There are medical and rehab treatment facilities available to help people who misuse fentanyl, no matter how severe their problem with the opioid prescription painkiller may be.

How Do I Know If Someone Is on Fentanyl?
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