Why Fentanyl Is So Dangerous

It’s often the case that opioids like heroin get most of the spotlight when it comes to addiction and deadly overdoses, but there is one opioid that is more potent and dangerous than most others, and that’s fentanyl. Fentanyl played a role in the death of musician Prince, and the illicit use of this incredibly strong opioid is becoming more of a problem in states around the U.S.

Fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid meaning it’s manmade, is estimated to be anywhere from 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine according to the DEA, although other groups estimate that it’s even higher. It’s also thought to be up to 50 times more potent even than heroin, and because its use and abuse are on the rise, deaths related to the drug are also going up.

There are statistics showing that in many states fentanyl is involved in as much as 75 percent of overdose deaths, which show the staggering impact of this dangerous, deadly drug.

So why is fentanyl so dangerous? What is it about fentanyl that makes it more dangerous than other already-deadly opioids?

Why Fentanyl Is So Dangerous
First, when looking at why fentanyl is so dangerous, it’s important to consider how the drug acts on the brain.

Fentanyl acts in the same way on the brain as other opioids, in that it binds to opioid receptors and crosses the blood-brain barrier. This is how it’s able to create a sense of euphoria and deep relaxation for the user.

While fentanyl may act in the same general way as other opioids, the speed at which it takes effect is one of the ways it’s distinctive.

Fentanyl binds incredibly quickly to opioid receptors, and that’s what makes the effects feel even more euphoric, but it’s also one of the reasons why fentanyl is so dangerous and so addictive.

Also because of the potency of fentanyl, it takes a much smaller amount of the drug to the have the same effect that would be seen with other opioids even including heroin. Because of this, fentanyl is measured in micrograms instead of milligrams.

The difference in potency is another one of the significant reasons why fentanyl is so dangerous. When fentanyl is taken illicitly, meaning it’s bought off the streets, there’s really no way for people to know how much they’re getting.

They might not even know they’re taking fentanyl at all, so even the smallest amount can lead to an overdose. That’s something most people don’t realize about why fentanyl is so dangerous. It’s not that fentanyl itself is inherently more dangerous than another opioid like heroin, but it’s really just that its potency is so much greater that when it’s taken outside of a medical setting, there’s a high potential for overdose.

There are also physical reasons why fentanyl is so dangerous along with the fact that a relatively small amount can create a big impact very quickly.

One of the primary physical reasons why fentanyl is so dangerous is the respiratory depression it creates. This is the case with all opioids, although again, it can happen with a much smaller dose than other opioids.

If someone takes something over the therapeutic dose of any opioid including fentanyl their breathing can slow to the point that they die. With fentanyl, this is the case, but it happens much faster, and it can happen with just a small amount over a therapeutic dose.

There’s also something else that can play a role in why fentanyl is so dangerous which is called wooden chest syndrome or chest wall rigidity. For whatever reason, as part of the slowing of respiration, when someone rapidly injects fentanyl intravenously they’re at risk for this condition. When this occurs, the chest and abdomen muscles tighten and become so rigid that even doing CPR is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

These reasons why fentanyl is so dangerous also go along with the fact that it’s considered a high-risk drug regarding addiction and dependence. Because of how it crosses the blood-brain barrier so quickly, tolerance can develop very quickly as well, which makes the person using the drug feel as if they need larger doses to get the same euphoric high. This then puts them at a high risk for overdose.

Why Fentanyl Is So Dangerous
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