Opioids are a class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and overdose. While many of these drugs have legitimate therapeutic uses for relieving pain, they are often used illegally to induce a feeling of euphoria. This is especially true of fentanyl, which is a highly potent synthetic opioid.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the drug is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, which is used in hospital settings on patients experiencing intense pain. Because of its potency, fentanyl is often a factor in overdose deaths.
How fentanyl affects the brain
The brain has natural opioid receptors, and drugs like fentanyl, heroin, and morphine act on these receptors when ingested. This leads to a range of effects, including giddiness, nausea, disorientation, drowsiness, breathing issues, and many others. The more of the drug that is taken, the harder it is for the brain to derive pleasure from non-drug sources.
Your tolerance will increase after taking fentanyl for so long. As a result, you will experience withdrawal effects once you stop taking it. Symptoms of withdrawal include pain in the muscles and bones, vomiting, diarrhea, insomnia, and erratic leg movements. You will also experience an intense craving for the drug, which is hard for many people to overcome when in the throes of withdrawal.
The overdose potential for fentanyl is very high due to its potency. When a person takes too much of an opiate, they are at an increased risk of hypoxia. This condition occurs when the brain does not receive the right amount of oxygen. A fentanyl overdose can cause breathing to slow to a dangerous level or even stop altogether, which leads to coma, brain damage, or death depending on how soon a medical intervention is received.