Tag Archives: opioids

Why is fentanyl so dangerous?

America has been in the midst of an opioid epidemic since early 2017 and fentanyl has been at the forefront of this public health emergency. The amount of deaths caused by fentanyl begs the question why is fentanyl so dangerous?

What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid which is 80-100 times more potent and powerful than morphine. It is a very effective pain reliever initially in use to treat cancer patients. When it was first discovered in the later half of the 20th century, pharmaceutical companies claimed that the drug would not be addictive. However, fast forward to 2016, where 42,000 Americans were killed by the drug. Many understood that the drug posed a major threat to public health and safety.

How does fentanyl work?

Like other opioids such as heroin, fentanyl works by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain. Opioid receptors are primarily responsible for the feelings of pain in the body, hence why it is a very effective pain killer. However, fentanyl also causes the release of dopamine. Dopamine helps encourage the repetition of behavior which we find appealing, such as eating, drinking or in this case, doing drugs. Fentanyl also creates a euphoric high which comes from the immense release of dopamine and pain-killing characteristics of the drug.

Fentanyl can also cause a variety of unpleasant side-effects such as:

  • Drowsiness 
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia 
  • Heachaches 
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite

More serious side effects include:

  • Breathing problems (shallow, raspy or no breathing)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Physical dependence and addiction

Fentanyl vs morphine

Fentanyl and morphine are chemically similar and are both opioids with effective pain relief abilities. The difference between the two and between fentanyl and other opioids is the strength of the drug. For example, codeine is a relatively weak opioid in comparison to morphine. Heroin is about two to five times stronger than morphine and fentanyl is approximately 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Not much else is stronger than fentanyl except for carfentanil which is an additional 100 times stronger than fentanyl and is typically an elephant tranquilizer. 

Fentanyl is categorized as a schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) which means it has some potential for medical use but also has addictive qualities. 

fentanyl

Why is fentanyl so dangerous?

Fentanyl is a highly addictive substance. It can cause extreme physical and psychological dependence which can make it impossible to live without. While most people understand that it is dangerous, they may not understand why or how it is capable of killing. Opioids are central nervous system depressants similar to alcohol. It slows brain and nerve function which in turn can slow down critical organ function such as the heart and lungs. An overdose is the body’s adverse reaction to an overwhelming stimulus such as taking too much of a drug. The most common cause of death with fentanyl is a fatal overdose where the CNS becomes overwhelmed and the individual’s lungs stop functioning correctly. 

During the height of the opioid epidemic, drug dealers were lacing marijuana and cocaine with fentanyl without anyone knowing which caused a massive surge in fatal overdoses. Even a very small quantity of fentanyl laced in marijuana or cocaine can cause someone who has never had the drug before to experience an overdose. This is because our bodies build a tolerance or resistance to drugs and as time and usage increases, so will the dosage. 

fentanyl opioid overdoses

Fentanyl and alcohol

Mixing substance is polysubstance abuse and greatly increases the chance of experiencing a fatal overdose. In most polysubstance use cases, the secondary drug of choice is alcohol. Mixing alcohol and fentanyl can be extremely dangerous as they are both strong central nervous system depressants and the combined enhanced effects of the two drugs can overwhelm the body’s critical organs. The overwhelming depressant effects can cause breathing to completely stop and prevent oxygen from being circulated around the body. Even if the overdose does not become fatal, it can cause permanent brain and organ damage. 

How long does fentanyl stay in your system?

Fentanyl has a half-life of 8-10 hours which means it will take 8-10 hours for the initially ingested amount of fentanyl to reduce by 50%. In other words it will take 8-10 hours for 10mg to effectively reduce to 5mg in your body. While the half-life is only 8-10 hours, fentanyl can be detected in the body via blood, urine and hair tests much longer after that. 

why is fentanyl so dangerous

Treatment

Why is fentanyl so dangerous? It is a highly addictive and powerful drug. Very small amounts are frequently in other drugs now and increase risk of overdose and death. Fentanyl addiction is difficult to overcome alone, if not entirely impossible for most. Withdrawal symptoms are severe and require professional treatement.

Most addiction is the result of mental health issues or vice versa. This is a co-occurring disorder. With co-occurring disorders, it is important that both the addiction and mental health issue be treated. Whether someone is coping with mental health and addiction, or just one, working with a professional will ensure that you receive the proper treatment you deserve. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact us today.

DXM and Kratom

Popular culture and media is bringing the issue of cough medicine abuse to light. Unfortunately, rather than presenting the dangers of abusing or mixing cough medication, many forms of media tend to glorify the drug. It is reported that 1 in 20 teens have taken DXM to achieve a recreational high. Some users choose to take the stance that its a ‘better’ addiction than alcohol or opioids- however, abusing any medication carries serious risks and consequences. Increasingly, people are experimenting with a combination of DXM and kratom.

What is DXM?

Dextromethorphan or more commonly known as a DXM is an over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medication. DXM is from a derivative of morphine, a very powerful opioid, but is not technically an opioid. Due to the effects it can have, it behaves like an opioid without the painkilling effects. It is effective at suppressing the average cough and creates some sedation which can help sick individuals relax or fall asleep. Unfortunately, when taken in much higher doses, DXM sometimes causes individuals to experience a euphoric high which is then sought after. 

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), DXM is an antitussive (a type of medication used to stop a cough) found in over 120 cold medications (such as Vicks 44, NyQuil, Robitussin). The typical dosage is 15-30mg taken 3-4 times a day. When abused however, individuals can end up taking 100-1500mg a day. The DEA provides a ranking of “plateaus” which describes how users can manipulate different doses to achieve different effects.

  1. 100-200mg → Mild stimulation
  2. 200-400mg → Euphoria and hallucinations
  3. 300-600mg → Distorted visual perceptions, loss of motor coordination
  4. 500-1500mg → Dissociative sedation

The DEA will schedule certain drugs it deems to be dangerous and hazardous to the public’s health under its own classification system. For example, Methamphetamine is considered a schedule 1 drug and therefore is very dangerous. DXM is not classified under this system. It is typically found in liquid form but illicit websites and users have begun selling the drug in capsule or powder form.

DXM Side Effects

Some side effects of DXM include:

  • Sweating
  • Rashes or red, blotchy skin (not an allergic reaction)
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired judgment
  • Reduced cognitive ability
  • Nystagmus, or rapid eye movements
  • Visual disturbances
  • Liver damage
  • Disorentiation

In high doses, the effects of DXM mimic those of Ketamine and PCP. A DXM overdose is possible if an individual takes enough of it. Given its suppressive effects, it can cause slowed breathing and critical organ function. 

How Long Does DXM Stay In Your System?

Testing for DXM is rare because of its common use as a cough suppressant. However, the drug can trigger false positives for PCP. DXM has a half-life of around 4 hours. A substance’s half-life is the time it takes for the chemical to reduce to 50% of its original size. Given its half-life elimination time, it can be assumed that most users can get rid of the chemical around 16.5 and 33 hours. While the chemical itself may be gone, this does not mean that traces cannot be tested for. 

DXM can be detected in:

  • Urine 24-48 hours after ingestion
  • Blood 3-24 hours after ingestion
  • Saliva does not apply as most OTC medications are taken orally
  • Hair up to 90 days after ingestion

What is Kratom?

Kratom is a plant found in Southeast Asia which is beginning to find its way into U.S. markets. Its leaves contain a chemical which produces a psychotropic (mind-altering) effect. The use of kratom is still pretty minimal in the U.S. but as of now, there is no nationwide ban or enforcement of the drug. In fact, most users can buy it online, although some states have banned the substance. According to the National Poison Data System, between 2011-2017 there were 11 deaths associated with kratom use.

dmx and kratom

Kratom’s effects are unpredictable. It is possible to use as a stimulant in lower doses, but can also have a heavy sedative effect when taken in higher doses. The lack of research on the effects of kratom makes it difficult to fully understand the negative side-effects. However, users can expect to experience:

  • Disrupted sleep
  • Increased energy and alertness
  • Drowsiness
  • Cough suppression
  • Pain reduction
  • Psychosis
  • Weight loss

While not all of these effects are necessarily negative, some negative short-term effects include:

  • Tremors
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation 

How Long Does Kratom Stay In Your System?

There is currently no drug test for kratom. However, the duration of the chemicals presence in your body lasts due to:

  • Frequency of use
  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Body fat
  • Metabolic rate
dxm and kratom

Mixing DXM and Kratom

It is possible to abuse both DXM and kratom to provide a sedative effect on the mind and body. While DXM may do a better job at this than kratom, mixing the two substances can greatly enhance the suppression effects. If taken at the same time, bodily function and critical organs may slow down to a dangerously low point, putting the user at risk of an overdose. The use of Naloxone has been proven to work against a patient overdosing on DXM and may save their life. 

Treatment

Cough syrup addiction and the tendency to mix it with other drugs as seen in popular culture presents a serious risk to those who do not understand the dangers. If you or a loved one is struggling with cough syrup abuse or addiction, please contact us today so we can begin the journey to a sober life.

Percocet Addiction

Opioid drug addiction and abuse has been on the rise in the US for some years now and is responsible for more deaths than motor accidents. Opioids also account for a majority of overdoses and have become a major problem in the US. Opioid addiction is a very concerning issue which many people do not fully understand. However better knowledge of the effects and dangers of drugs may help prevent users from falling victim to the drug. It is important to recognize Percocet addiction and take it seriously.

What is Percocet?

Percocet is the brand name for the combination of oxycodone (an opioid) and acetaminophen (commonly seen in brand name Tylenol). The acetaminophen present in Percocet helps boost the effectiveness and potency of oxycodone. Percocet is prescribed to individuals who are dealing with moderate to severe pain and can also be prescribed to those who struggle with chronic pain. 

Percocet can have some severe side effects even if taken responsibly, such as:

  • Hypothermia
  • Vomiting
  • Visual disturbances
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased thirst
  • Hypo-tension or hypertension
  • Slowed/repressive breathing
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
percocet addiction

Why are opioids so dangerous?

Opioids relieve pain by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain which activates them. These receptors are a part of a system of proteins known as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). They work great as painkillers but can be very dangerous given their addictive nature. When opioids are taken, most people will feel a slight euphoric high. It will calm them down and make them feel relaxed. The issue is that users will build a tolerance to opioids.

percocet addiction

A tolerance is when your body essentially gets accustomed to the chemical and will develop a resistance to its effects- prompting users to take more for the drug to be useful. If someone is abusing this drug just to achieve a high, they run the risk of developing a tolerance and continually increasing their dosage to achieve the same high. At a certain point, the drug will become overpowering and cause an overdose. Most overdoses will cause the complete suppression of the central nervous system which in turn causes critical bodily functions such as breathing to completely stop.

Abuse vs Addiction: What is an addiction?

In the world of drug use, abuse and addiction can mean different things and it is important to understand the differences as it can determine what kind of treatment you need.

 Abuse

Abuse is the misuse of any drug. Instances of abuse include:

  • Taking more than the prescribed amount of a drug
  • Taking someone else’s prescriptions
  • Using non prescribed drugs to alleviate stress or experience a euphoric high

Taking any drug in a manner inconsistent with its labeling can be considered abuse. However, you are usually able to stop your habits relatively easily which is one of the key differences between abuse and addiction.

Addiction

An addiction is considered to be a chronic disease which is characterized by compulsive drug use and the inability to stop using even when the negative effects are known. Given that addiction is a chronic disease, it is common to see former addicts relapse. In fact, addiction has similar relapse rates as other chronic diseases such as type II diabetes.

Percocet addiction is no different. Users who have become dependent on the opioid will find it difficult to effectively become sober- but that does not mean it is not possible. 

percocet addiction

How long does Percocet stay in your system?

Percocet has a half-life of around 3.5 hours. A substance’s half-life will determine how long it takes for the substance to reduce to half of the taken dose to eliminate from your system. However, the substances that make up Percocet and that are unique to the drug (also known as metabolites) can have a longer half-life. It takes around 19 hours for the drug to leave your system. However, it is possible to detect for some time after that. 

Generally, it is possible to detect Percocet in your system via:

  • Saliva 1-4 days after ingestion
  • Urine 3-4 days after ingestion
  • Hair upto 90 days after ingestion

Keep in mind that these figures are for Oxycodone and by extension all opioids. There are a lot of other factors which may affect how long Percocet can be detected in your body such your weight, usage history and metabolism. 

Percocet Addiction Help and Treatment

As previously mentioned, addiction is a chronic disease which has a high potential for relapse. Therefore it is always recommended that anyone seeking treatment do so under the supervision of a professional who is trained to assist individuals who are on the road to recovery. Further, with the risk of withdrawals, it is never recommended that you try and go ‘cold turkey’ on your own. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, please contact us today so we may begin your path to a sober life, together.