What Does Fentanyl Do to You?

What Does Fentanyl Do to You?

Fentanyl, which is a type of opioid (that’s roughly 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine), is typically used in medical settings to treat severe pain. However, its misuse and abuse have become a significant issue due to its potency and the high risk of overdose.

So, what does fentanyl do to you, and why is it so dangerous? Find out in this article.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, which means it is a man-made drug designed to mimic natural pain-relieving substances found in the body. It’s created via thorough laboratory testing and is much stronger than the majority of other pain medications.

This substance can come in various forms, including fentanyl patches that stick to the skin and release the medication gradually, lozenges that dissolve in the mouth and are absorbed through the bloodstream, or fentanyl nasal sprays and injections for quick pain relief. It’s used for managing severe pain but must be handled very carefully because even a tiny amount can be very dangerous.

Pharmaceutical-Grade Fentanyl vs Illegally Produced Fentanyl

Although both are dangerous when used recreationally, there’s a big difference between pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl and illegally manufactured fentanyl. Key differences include:

  • Quality control: pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl undergoes rigorous testing and is made with strict rules for safety – illegal fentanyl is not.
  • How it’s used: Prescribed fentanyl is for treating serious chronic pain under the care of a doctor. Illegally produced fentanyl is used without any medical guidance whatsoever and can also be mixed in or with other substances, making it very risky to the person using it.
  • Safety: Prescription opioids such as fentanyl are much safer because doctors manage their use, and it’s often only prescribed for a short time. Illegal fentanyl is highly dangerous due to its unpredictable strength and purity, and the user consuming it without understanding how too much can easily lead to an overdose.

What Are the Effects of Fentanyl?

When fentanyl enters your body, it quickly attaches to parts of your brain and body called opioid receptors. These opioid receptors are part of your body’s natural system for managing pain, pleasure, and even some behaviours. Because fentanyl is very strong, it can provide intense pain relief. However, this isn’t the only effect of fentanyl. The truth is that it’s a substance that comes with many risks, especially when used recreationally. See below for more.

Effects on the Central Nervous System (CNS)

Fentanyl affects your central nervous system, which includes your brain and spinal cord. It increases the activity of certain chemicals in your brain, such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

GABA is a chemical that essentially slows down brain activity. So, when fentanyl boosts GABA levels, it makes you feel very sleepy and relaxed. You might even feel so drowsy that you find it hard to stay awake.

This strong sleepiness can make it difficult for your brain to maintain consciousness and control of your body, leading to a significant loss of muscle coordination and overall weakness. This can result in extreme lethargy and an inability to perform day-to-day activities that are normal for you.

Respiratory Depression

One of the most serious effects of fentanyl is how it slows down your breathing.

Fentanyl affects the part of your brain that controls automatic functions like breathing. So, normally, when carbon dioxide levels in your blood rise, your brain will naturally tell your body to breathe more. Fentanyl reduces this signal, so your breathing slows down and becomes shallow. This can lead to low oxygen levels in your blood. The medical term for this is hypoxia.

When your brain and body don’t receive enough oxygen, you’re more likely to feel dizzy, experience headaches, be confused, or lose consciousness entirely. The lack of oxygen can also cause you to collapse as you struggle to stay awake.

Other signs of respiratory depression include:

  • Slow breathing: A significant reduction in the rate of breathing, less than 12 breaths per minute.
  • Weak pulse: A slowed-down pulse may be a sign of respiratory depression.
  • Shallow breathing: Breaths may become very shallow, with minimal chest movement.
  • Cyanosis: A bluish tint to the lips, skin, or nails due to lack of oxygen.
  • Irregular breathing: Breathing patterns will start to become erratic or include gasping for air.

Respiratory depression is a strong sign of an opioid overdose, which means that medical attention is urgently needed.

Cardiovascular Effects

Fentanyl can also significantly impact overall cardiovascular health. It can slow down your heart rate (a condition known as bradycardia) and lower your blood pressure, referred to as hypotension. These cardiovascular effects can cause you to feel lightheaded, dizzy, or even faint.

Bradycardia can reduce the amount of oxygen-rich blood circulating throughout your body, potentially leading to organ dysfunction and other serious health issues. Hypotension (a medical term used to describe low blood pressure) can make these problems even more serious by reducing the force with which blood is pumped to vital organs. From the outside perspective, this can look like weakness, fatigue, and confusion.

These cardiovascular effects can be particularly dangerous when combined with the strong drowsiness and sedation caused by fentanyl. The impaired circulation of blood and oxygen can make matters worse for the depressant effects on your central nervous system, increasing the risk of severe complications.

Substance Use Disorder Development

Fentanyl is highly addictive, even with short-term use.

As we touched on earlier, fentanyl works by binding to opioid receptors in your brain, which leads to intense feelings of euphoria and pain relief. However, your body quickly builds tolerance, meaning you need more of the drug to achieve the same effects.

This can rapidly lead someone to develop a dependence, where your body requires the drug to function normally. Stopping its use can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, such as intense cravings, anxiety, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and muscle pain. These symptoms are both physically and mentally distressing, making it very hard to quit.

The risk of a fentanyl overdose is also extremely high. Even a tiny amount more than the intended dose can be lethal to someone if not treated immediately with naloxone, which is a fast-reacting opioid antidote.

Gastrointestinal Effects

Fentanyl drug use has the potential to cause severe nausea and vomiting, making it difficult to eat and maintain nutrition. In fact, one of the most common side effects is constipation, which occurs because opioids like fentanyl slow down the movement of the intestines.

This can lead to discomfort, pain, and long-term digestive issues if not managed properly.

Psychological and Behavioural Effects

Fentanyl can create powerful feelings of euphoria or intense happiness because it affects the brain’s reward system. This feeling is another reason why fentanyl is very addictive, as users are constantly chasing the high.

However, this euphoria can make you feel detached from your surroundings. You might not be fully aware of what’s happening around you. Fentanyl use can also cause confusion, making it hard to think clearly or stay focused. Hallucinations, where you see or hear things that aren’t there, are also possible.

Over time, using fentanyl can lead to severe anxiety and depression. The changes in brain chemistry caused by the drug can make you feel hopeless, anxious, and detached from reality.

Why Does Fentanyl Make You Bend Over?

As we’ve discussed throughout this article – when someone takes fentanyl, it can make them very sleepy, slow down their breathing, lower their heart rate and blood pressure, relax their muscles, and create a feeling of intense pleasure.

We see a similar effect from spice, which is a synthetic cannabis. However, the main reason why fentanyl users are seen in a bent-over position, almost as if they are frozen, is due to a loss of control over their muscles.

The brain becomes in a sedated state, and the muscles become too relaxed to maintain an upright stance. When you see someone bent over after taking fentanyl, it usually means they are experiencing severe effects of the drug and could be close to overdosing.

Need Help? Don’t Wait – Reach Out Today.

If you or someone you care about is using this substance recreationally, it might be time to reach out for support. Like all opioid drugs, fentanyl is very dangerous, and the chances of an opioid overdose are high.

We can help you find the right support, help you manage the withdrawal symptoms and get back into a place where you’re free from active addiction and opioid dependence. Please call us today on 03301 596 494 to find out more about how we can help you.