Fentanyl addiction is a life-threatening disease that negatively affects the user’s health and well-being in a variety of ways. Fentanyl itself is a synthetic opioid that has tremendous potential for abuse and addiction and is most often found outside of medical practice in a form similar to that of heroin.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), currently, fentanyl use is involved in as many as half of all fatal substance-related overdoses in the U.S. Because fentanyl is an opioid, addiction frequently occurs subsequent to the user first becoming addicted to a prescription painkiller.
Fentanyl, like its close relative heroin, can produce central nervous system (CNS) depression that decreases neurological activity in the body and invokes desirable effects such as relaxation and euphoria. Illicit fentanyl can be as much as 50 times more potent than heroin, however, and can lead to serious complications such as oversedation, respiratory arrest, coma, and death.
Fentanyl is addictive because it works on brain neurotransmitters that are responsible for feelings of reward and well-being. When these chemicals flood the CNS, they produce a euphoric “high”, and the body reacts by craving more of the drug in an attempt to sustain this effect.
When used regularly, fentanyl leads the user into a state of dependence, a condition in which the body becomes unable to function properly without the drug’s presence in the system. Upon cessation of use, the user’s body fights to regain stability, and this internal conflict contributes to several days of highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
Drug tolerance occurs when the person’s nervous system develops a need to use greater amounts of the drug in order to achieve the desired high. Simply put, repeated exposure to a drug such as fentanyl can quickly result in a diminished response from the body and the user then finds it difficult to get high using their typical method.
After a period of continual use, brain receptors impacted by fentanyl become desensitized. Users who continue to increase their dose and frequency also significantly raise the risk of exacerbating their addiction and experiencing a potentially fatal overdose.
Fentanyl addiction is a condition that cannot be cured, but users who undergo treatment can recover and enjoy long-term sobriety.
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