Snorting and smoking fentanyl can have serious consequences - including addiction, dependence, and overdose. However, effective addiction treatment can support you in overcoming drug abuse and leading the safe, fulfilling life you deserve.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a highly potent synthetic opioid about 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Doctors usually prescribe fentanyl to treat severe pain, such as pain after surgery. They may also use the medication for patients with chronic or breakthrough pain who are tolerant to other less potent opioid medications such as hydrocodone or codeine.
The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies fentanyl as a Schedule II controlled substance meaning that, while it is medically useful, it has a high potential for abuse. Fentanyl is a highly addictive substance and it is possible to develop an addiction while taking it as your doctor prescribes - however, abusing the drug makes the risk of addiction much higher.
How Do People Use Fentanyl?
Doctors usually prescribe fentanyl as an injection, a skin path, or as lozenges. However, illicit fentanyl is most often found as a powder, a pill, or in blotter paper, eye droppers, or nasal sprays. Fentanyl users may smoke, snort, or orally ingest crushed pills or the powder form.
Many dealers working in the illicit drug market mix fentanyl with other drugs to make them more potent, including cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine (speed).
Why Is Fentanyl So Dangerous?
Fentanyl and other synthetic prescription opioids are the greatest cause of drug overdose deaths in the United States. 150 people die from synthetic opioid overdose each day.
As one of the most potent opioid medications, fentanyl is particularly dangerous because the overdose dosage is likely to be lower than with other drugs. Drug analyses have found that a single pill can contain more than 2mg of the substance, a potentially lethal dose.
Moreover, drug producers often add fentanyl (a cheap substance) to other substances to make them stronger. Many people consume dangerous levels of fentanyl without knowing it.
How Does Fentanyl Affect the Brain and Body?
When opioid users smoke or snort fentanyl, it quickly crosses the blood-brain barrier. Fentanyl binds with and activates opioid receptors in the brain and body, affecting vital functions including emotions, pain, and respiration.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are substances derived from the seeds of various types of opium poppy. Some substances are natural opioids (opiates), made directly from the seeds. Others are made by scientists artificially, using the same chemical structures. These are known as synthetic or semi-synthetic opioids.
Opioids interact with our bodies' opioid system, mimicking natural opioids known as endorphins. The three types of receptors (mu, delta, and kappa) are found throughout the body in our central nervous system and various areas of the brain.
What Are the Short-Term Effects of Fentanyl?
Snorting fentanyl can cause a range of short-term effects, many of which are very dangerous. Because fentanyl is so potent, the overdose risk of fentanyl is particularly high.
Short-term effects of fentanyl include:
- extreme happiness
- problems breathing
Fentanyl overdose happens when you take more of the drug than your body can process, causing serious adverse effects and life-threatening symptoms. Because opioids like fentanyl cause respiratory depression, taking too much can slow or stop breathing. This may reduce the amount of oxygen reaching the brain (hypoxia), risking coma, permanent brain damage, and death.
If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on heroin, you should seek immediate medical attention. Medics can administer emergency treatment to reverse fentanyl overdoses and save the person's life.
What Are the Dangers of Snorting Fentanyl?
Snorting fentanyl contributes to a greater speed of onset and more intense high compared to oral ingestion. Your body absorbs the opioid through mucus membranes in the nasal passages, reaching the brain in a few minutes.
The quicker route allows the concentration of the substance in the brain to increase faster, causing more intense and dangerous effects. When consumed orally, the digestive system can begin to metabolize (break down) the substance before it reaches the brain.
Snorting fentanyl can also cause long-term damage to nasal passages.
What Are the Dangers of Smoking Fentanyl?
Like snorting, smoking fentanyl leads to an increased speed of onset and intensity of high compared to oral ingestion. It's also more difficult to control the dosage which may increase the overdose risk and can cause direct toxicity to the lungs.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Using Fentanyl?
Long-term use of fentanyl can cause a range of serious mental and physical health conditions, including:
- chronic constipation
- breathing problems when sleeping
- heart failure
- weakened immune system
- weight loss
- hormonal and reproductive issues
- anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders
Fentanyl addiction is when you continue to seek and use fentanyl despite any negative consequences. Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by physical changes in the brain that produce strong urges to use a substance. These changes can be long-lasting or even permanent, but addiction treatment can go some way to reversing them and teach you the skills to cope with cravings.
Addiction develops due to the interaction of fentanyl with the opioid and dopaminergic reward systems in our brains. The reward systems are a natural part of how the brain works, helping to reinforce life-preserving behaviors such as eating or having sex. When you engage in these activities, your body releases a small amount of certain neurotransmitters like endorphins (natural opioids) and dopamine, altering neuronal connectivity pathways in the brain and making it more likely you will do the activity again.
Taking fentanyl and other opioids floods your brain with neurotransmitters, causing strong urges to reuse the substance. These urges can be difficult to resist without effective guidance and support.
Fentanyl dependence happens when your body gets used to the presence of the substance and begins to adjust its own functions in response. You build a tolerance to the substance, requiring higher and higher doses to feel the same effects. Over time, you become dependent on the substance to feel normal.
If you then try to stop taking fentanyl or other opioids, you experience a series of withdrawal symptoms as your body readjusts. Opioid withdrawal symptoms are mainly physical and often resemble severe flu. It's dangerous to try and withdraw from opioids alone - but professional detox programs and medical guidance can ensure you detox from fentanyl safely.
Reversing Fentanyl Overdose
The medication Naloxone can be used to reverse fentanyl overdoses, saving thousands of lives every year.
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that attaches to opioid receptors, reversing and blocking the effects of other opioids. It can quickly return breathing to a normal level, even when breathing has stopped completely.
Naloxone is now available as a nasal spray so that it can be administered by members of the public if they recognize symptoms of opioid overdose in another person. Family members, friends, and opioid users themselves may carry Naloxone with them in case of an emergency.
What Is the Opioid Epidemic?
The opioid epidemic refers to the public health crisis of opioid abuse that has gripped the United States in recent decades. The crisis began in the 1990s when pharmaceutical companies persuaded medical institutions that certain synthetic opioid prescription drugs carried a lower risk of addiction compared to illicit opioids like heroin. Medics began to widely prescribe opioid prescription painkillers.
Within years, millions of people in the United States were addicted to opioids and opioid-related overdose deaths sharply rose. In 2020, overdose deaths reached their highest-ever level. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 68,630 people died from opioid overdose (74.8% of all drug overdose deaths).
In the past decade, the federal government has launched various programs aimed to prevent and treat opioid use disorder. While some progress has been main, particularly in dispensing rates, there is a long way to go.
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment
Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is one of the most dangerous drugs available - and addiction can be dangerous. However, effective support is available to help anyone recover from addiction and lead a safe, healthy, and fulfilling life.
Substance abuse treatment programs usually combine a range of evidence-based treatment approaches, tailored to each client's unique needs. Treatment options may involve traditional therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, alongside holistic mind-body methods. Addiction treatment aims to identify and treat the underlying causes of drug abuse, promoting long-lasting, whole-person healing.
Treatment options may include:
- Medical detox
- Talk therapy
- Support groups
- Medication-assisted therapy
- Yoga and meditation
- Dual diagnosis
- Life skills development
Addiction Recovery With Cornerstone
Cornerstone is a premier mental health center in Orange County. We offer an enriching rehab experience that aims to health your entire person. Our team of medical professionals provides evidence-based approaches in an individualized treatment plan made just for you, helping to restore you to the best version of yourself.
Our facilities represent a private paradise: open and modern, they promote calm reflection while inspiring you toward permanent recovery. Re-start your life today by calling us for a confidential assessment and take the first steps to freedom.