Fentanyl: A Big Part of the Opiate Epidemic

Fentanyl is an opioid that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin, just 2 milligrams of powdered fentanyl can be deadly. Last year, authorities seized at least 668 kilograms of fentanyl — that’s enough to kill every American.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 33,091 people died from opiate overdoses in 2015, accounting for 63 percent of all drug overdose deaths that year. Recently, a report from the CDC found fentanyl and other synthetic opioid drug deaths, other than methadone, rose 72 percent from 2014 to 2015.

It’s a schedule II prescription drug and is used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery, typically for those resistant to other opioid pain relievers.

Why Teens Abuse Opioids

Like other opioids, fentanyl works by binding to the body’s opiate receptors, which are found in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. The drugs increase dopamine levels in the brain’s reward areas, creating a state of euphoria and relaxation. From early adolescence through the mid-20s, the brain develops unevenly, resulting in mood swings, jumps between groups of friends, drastic changes in style, and prone to risk taking.

The judgment and emotion areas are the ones that are most likely to lead to drug abuse. Teens and young adults have extremely strong, fluctuating emotions that can contribute to higher emotional problems, this coupled with a lowered ability to judge what is a smart decision, can cause individuals to turn to the relief that opioids provide.

The Dangerous Results of Abuse

Fentanyl’s effects mirror those of heroin, including drowsiness, nausea, confusion, constipation, sedation, tolerance, addiction, respiratory depression and arrest, unconsciousness, coma, and death. The side effects of taking dangerous opioids are typically ignored, though everyone learns that there is a strong possibility for death.

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