Fentanyl received national attention in 2016 when it was identified as the drug that killed the pop star Prince. It is an extremely powerful drug used to treat chronic pain and it can be extremely addictive. In recent years fentanyl abuse has become a serious problem in communities throughout the United States. Sadly, like Prince, many others have lost their lives as a result of abusing this drug.
The Uses and Effects of Fentanyl
First synthesized in Belgium in the late 1950s, fentanyl is an opioid that was developed to treat pain. Chemically it is similar to morphine but it is 50 – 100 times more potent. It is a prescription drug often employed after surgery for pain management taken by injection or orally as a lozenge. It can also be administered by a transdermal patch. Fentanyl is marketed under trade names that include Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora and Sublimaze. Street names for the drug include
- China girl
- China white
- dance fever
- murder 8
- Tango and Cash
Like all synthetic opioids, fentanyl works by binding to receptors in the brain that regulate pain and emotions. In addition to pain reduction, fentanyl can produce a state of euphoria and relaxation. However, if someone begins to abuse this drug, it can cause other effects which can be extremely unpleasant. Fentanyl abuse side effects include:
- False sense of well-being
- Feeling anxious
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
In extreme cases of abuse, fentanyl overdoses can be fatal as the drug causes respiration to slow and stop, which can kill the user.