In 2016, drug deaths involving synthetic opioids have risen from 3,000 to more than 20,000 within three years. That is a 540% increase in numbers. In these synthetic opioids, the leading killer drug is fentanyl. Together with methamphetamine and cocaine-involved deaths, it has become a part of the drug overdose epidemic that kills people faster than the HIV epidemic, at its peak.
There are many reasons why fentanyl should not be your first choice, when you are dealing with chronic pain. Here, we’ll know more about this dangerous drug, its dangers, and the natural alternatives to fentanyl that many should look for instead.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic or man-made opiate pain reliever prescribed to patients with severe pain or injury. It is also for those who have undergone surgery and are in need of instant pain relief. Moreover, it is 50x stronger than heroin and 100x more potent than morphine.
There are two types of fentanyl: pharmaceutical grade fentanyl and non-pharmaceutical grade fentanyl.
Pharmaceutical grade fentanyl is also prescribed to manage acute and chronic pain associated with advanced cancer. The illegal non-pharmaceutical grade fentanyl is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine to increase its effect. Users may or may not know if their drug is laced with other chemicals. With the heightened effects of fentanyl without the user’s knowledge, the drug can become extremely dangerous.
Street fentanyl, can also mask itself as other drugs, such as: oxycodone, a painkiller and anxiety medication Xanax. Unfortunately, this creates an alarming increase in fentanyl-related deaths.
The Different Forms of Fentanyl
There are different ways of taking fentanyl. You can find them in the following forms:
Fentanyl transdermal patches are placed on the chest, the back, the upper leg, or upper arm to ease the pain. It is changed every 72 hours.
Fentanyl lollipops are often given to patients who are at least 16 years old and to those who have formed a tolerance to other opioids. It is combined with citric acid or confectioners sugar to make it sweet.
● Dissolvable film
Using the tip of a finger, a film is pressed against the cheek and held for 5 seconds. Another film can be pressed on the other side of the cheek if prescribed.
● Pills that dissolve in the cheek
A fentanyl pill is placed above a rear molar tooth between the upper cheek and gum, or under the tongue. The film is left to melt and take effect.
The fentanyl is sprayed under the tongue and held for 30 to 60 seconds.
These various forms can also be used illicitly through different methods. Some abuse the drug by melting the gel from the patch and use a hypodermic needle to inject the substance directly into a vein. Other users boil the patches and drink the “tea”.
Fentanyl Side Effects
The primary reason for taking fentanyl, is to instantly ease the pain. This relief, however, happens in 30 to 60 minutes. That is already after a single intravenous dose of up to 100 micrograms.
For as short as 30 minutes of pain relief or euphoria, a user increases his/her risk for experiencing the long-term side effects of fentanyl such as:
● Drug dependence
Fentanyl users may develop a habit of using the drug. Long-term users become tolerant to the recommended dosage and will need higher doses, which will continue to increase during usage. Drug dependency can lead to much more painful effects, especially when a user tries to stop the habit. Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Fast breathing rate
- Fast heart rate
- Teary eyes
- Intense drug cravings
- Loss of appetite
- Sleeping problems
- Blood pressure increase
- Muscle aches and back pain
- Dilated pupils
● Respiratory problems
The user may experience shallowness, difficulty, slowness, and suspension of breathing.
● Muscular problems
The muscles can become weak and prone to involuntary contractions that may cause accidental injury. Swollen joints and back pain are also included.
● Skin problems
When a transdermal patch is used, one can experience irritation and redness at the application site.
● Gastrointestinal problems
Fentanyl is a strong synthetic opioid that, just like the other opioids, can cause opioid-induced bowel dysfunction (OIBD). This dysfunction, which happens most likely to chronic opioid users, comprises of symptoms, such as: constipation, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, gastro-oesophageal reflux, delayed digestion, abdominal pain, flatulence, bloating, hard stool, straining during bowel movement and incomplete evacuation.
Even more advanced symptoms include: urine retention, urine inconsistency, fecal inconsistency, and fecal impaction..
● Cardiovascular problems
Opioid therapy has been associated with a 77% increased risk of cardiovascular problems, such as: heart attack and heart failure.
● Central nervous system and psychological problems
Opioid neurotoxicity can lead to various consequences, such as: falls and fractures. Furthermore, fentanyl causes respiratory depression that deprives adequate oxygen supply the body and also the brain. When the brain lacks oxygen and gets more carbon dioxide, the blood glucose rises. Both of these changes result to slower changes in the brain’s temperature and activity. The abnormal changes in the brain activity can bring the user to experience hallucinations, insomnia, depression, and confusion.
Fentanyl Overdose Symptoms
Chronic use of fentanyl, may leave the user wanting stronger dosages that could lead to a possible overdose. Having knowledge on overdose symptoms can help you find out easily if someone requires immediate assistance.
Fentanyl overdose symptoms include the following:
- Pale face
- Blue to purple-colored lips and fingernails
- Limp body
- Difficulty in breathing
- Difficulty in thinking and speaking
Natural Alternatives to Fentanyl
Ideally, it is advisable to avoid frequent usages of fentanyl or other synthetic opioids, unless used as an acute anesthesia or recommended by your doctor. If you are looking for a painkiller to solve chronic pain issues, opt for more natural remedies.
Here are a few natural alternatives to fentanyl when you want to get rid of chronic pain:
The spine encases the central nervous system, which controls how you process and experience pain. With chiropractic treatment, your spine is adjusted back to its aligned state. The aligned spine leads to better functioning body parts, including the bones, joints, and tissues, as all of these are connected. Remember the spine is the central rod from which the body is adjoined. Adjustment also decreases inflammation that creates chronic pain.
Your body can modulate pain with the help of acupuncture. The needles inserted activate the body’s ability to control pain, decrease inflammation, and encourage the body to heal itself naturally by working with energy channels and meridians.
A good massage can ease tight muscles, which have been painful for days or even months. Massaging an area, enhances the blood circulation and releases natural painkillers of the body. It can also calm your mind and promote better sleep.
● Herbal pain killers
There are plants that can provide the relief you need, without giving you serious side effects that you will have to deal with for a long time. Here are some of the best herbal painkillers that can help you:
Turmeric contains the phytonutrient curcumin, which is a safe anti-inflammatory component for your body.
Ginger can help reduce muscle pain, due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
● Green tea
Green tea is rich in antioxidants that can fight off the pain you are feeling.
Arnica is a popular natural ingredient found in massage oils. Most athletes prefer this oil due to its anti-inflammatory properties, which loosen tight muscles after intense workouts.
Diet can make a big change in how your body can respond to pain. The first step is to get rid of pro-inflammatory foods, followed by consuming more natural anti-inflammatory foods, such as organic fruits and vegetables. Avoid pesticides.
Eating the right way is like a natural medicine to heal each and every part of your body in a beautiful manner.
Don’t Underestimate Your Body
Painkillers are helpful in bringing a fast, but short relief from different types of pain you may experience from head to toe. However, your body has the ability to produce its own natural pain relievers called endorphins. Endorphins can be activated with the help of some natural methods, like chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, and even exercise like yoga.
Your body can do so much more than relying on synthetic opioids. Enhance your own healing power by treating and feeding your body and mind the right and natural way.
Primary: Natural alternatives to fentanyl
Secondary: Fentanyl side effects
Natural pain relievers
Fentanyl overdose symptoms
Herbal pain killers