Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate painkiller that is much stronger than morphine or heroin – in fact, it is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.
This drug is only given to those people who are already taking opiates for pain. A person who uses or abuses this drug who is not accustomed to taking opiates is very likely to kill himself (or herself) due to its strength. It takes effect quite rapidly but then its effects pass off rather rapidly as well.
Some people who are already taking long-lasting opiates for pain will take fentanyl for what’s called “breakthrough” pain, or pain that breaks through the opiate barrier. It is very dangerous to inject this drug outside of a medical environment, so fentanyl is usually prepared in forms that make it difficult to overdose.
For example, a person suffering cancer pain may get a fentanyl lollipop that dissolves very slowly. Fentanyl is also used to help people deal with cancer pain. Some forms of fentanyl are very fast-acting. People suffering from chronic pain may be provided with patches that release the drug over 24 to 72 hours.
Fentanyl is also offered in sublingual film – in other words, a small sheet of film that is intended to be placed under the tongue where it will dissolve. Despite these attempts, there are people who do abuse the drug. They may take more than prescribed or ingest or inject the gel they have squeezed from a patch.
Fentanyl will give a similar result as morphine, oxycodone or heroin, with symptoms like these: sleepiness, fatigue, warmth, itchiness, nausea, vomiting and tendency to nod off.
All opiates suppress breathing, which is how they create death when too much of the drug is taken. When fentanyl is combined with another drug that suppresses breathing, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, this combination can also result in death. A person on this drug will feel anesthetized and oblivious to any problems or concerns.
Opiates are all constipating and they can also quickly create a tolerance, meaning that more of the drug is needed to get the same effect of a smaller dose the last time or last week. All opiates tend to cause euphoria, but this effect can quickly be lost, so that the opiate only causes drowsiness and sedation, but no euphoria. This is part of the tolerance effect.
This is one of the dangers of opiate abuse. A person may take more of a drug like fentanyl, trying to get the euphoria that they are finding elusive until finally they overdose.
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