Why Is Fentanyl So Dangerous to Mix?
By: Zinnia Healing Editorial Staff | Edited By: Rebecca Hill
Fentanyl is a highly addictive opioid intended to help individuals experiencing extreme pain. It is primarily prescribed after a large operation or to manage pain in cancer patients.
While your doctor can prescribe fentanyl, there are many areas of concern when taking the drug.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, synthetic opioids (like fentanyl) are the primary cause of increases in fatal overdoses in the United States. During the 12 months ending May 2020, fatal overdoses increased 38.4% from the previous year.
Fentanyl has become so dangerous because of how easy it is to abuse. The drug can be bought online or sometimes taken from individuals who already had their prescription filled.
While fentanyl is hazardous on its own, it is increasingly dangerous when mixed with other substances. This page will outline what fentanyl is and the areas of caution and concern when combining it with other substances.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 80 to 100 times more powerful than natural opioids such as morphine. A doctor typically prescribes fentanyl to help relieve pain after surgery, injury, or severe illness. Fentanyl’s effects resemble those of heroin, with drowsiness being more common than some opioids such as oxycodone, which can cause hallucinations.
Fentanyl comes in many forms, including patches that deliver the drug through the skin, tablets, nasal sprays and lozenges (oral pain relievers), and sublingual film (under the tongue). Additionally, fentanyl can also come in injection form.
Fentanyl is commonly added to heroin to increase its potency and can be disguised as highly potent heroin. Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and don’t know that they are buying fentanyl, which often results in overdose deaths. Clandestinely produced fentanyl is primarily manufactured in Mexico.
Why Is Fentanyl Dangerous?
Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous opioids out there, and that’s because it’s significantly more potent than morphine or heroin.
Fentanyl is so powerful that it can be lethal even in small doses. Additionally, mixing drugs like fentanyl with other substances such as alcohol exponentially increases the risk of overdose.
How Does Fentanyl Affect Your Brain?
Because opioids activate pleasure regions of our brain, people using these substances are more likely to become addicted than those who don’t use any opioids at all. Individuals will begin abusing because fentanyl has the same effect on the brain as other opiates do.
Taking drugs such as benzodiazepines can already be dangerous because of how these substances act on GABA receptors to slow brain activity down. When combined with a potent opioid like fentanyl, they slow down the respiratory system, leading to an overdose that results in death. Mixing different types of opioids also puts people at high risk for abuse and addiction.
How Does Fentanyl Stack Up Against Other Opioids?
Compared to other opioids, fentanyl is typically much more potent and, therefore, more dangerous if misused or abused.
Fentanyl overdoses are common because of how much fentanyl it takes for someone who has never used the drug before to feel any effects at all. When you consider that even small doses can be lethal, it makes overdosing a common threat to individuals who abuse the drug.
Why Is It So Dangerous to Mix Fentanyl?
When someone takes an opioid like fentanyl and mixes it with other substances, the chance for health risks, addiction, and overdose is far more common.
The reason that fentanyl is so dangerous when mixed with other substances is because of how powerful the drug is and its ability to suppress breathing.
When fentanyl combines with other drugs like alcohol, benzodiazepines (Xanax), or even cocaine, it can cause someone’s breathing to slow down significantly and make it difficult for them to wake up again if they pass out from too much medication in their system.
Dangers of Mixing Fentanyl and Heroin
Heroin and fentanyl are two potent opioids that are highly addictive and harmful. Heroin is derived from morphine, which comes from the opium resin of poppy plants. It is refined from morphine to become a psychoactive drug that may be injected, smoked, snorted, or sniffed. Occasionally, fentanyl is added to heroin to boost its strength, which can be deadly due to fentanyl’s potency.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2019 National Drug Threat Assessment, the heroin and fentanyl markets are closely linked. The majority of heroin — as well as fentanyl — is smuggled across the southwest border by Mexican transnational criminal organizations. Drug traffickers add fentanyl to white powder heroin to extend their supplies while still providing a strong product.
There are a few things you should know about heroin combined with fentanyl: People who use heroin blended with fentanyl have a chance of dying in minutes. There may be indications of a heroin overdose before someone falls unconscious from one, but this isn’t always the case when fentanyl is used.
It’s not unusual to see someone OD in 24 hours. It’s difficult to tell if heroin is mixed with fentanyl because both are similar in appearance. The only way to determine whether heroin has been mixed with fentanyl is by looking at the color. Heroin is generally yellow, whereas fentanyl is usually white.
Risks of Mixing Fentanyl and Cocaine
Another drug commonly mixed with fentanyl is cocaine. Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant that increases alertness, feelings of well-being, and euphoria. Cocaine can also increase blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and the need for oxygen.
Cocaine use on its own can be dangerous because it strains your heart by increasing blood pressure and respiratory rate while constricting blood flow to vital organs such as the brain. This makes you more susceptible to a stroke or cardiac arrest from a cocaine overdose. The combination of fentanyl and cocaine has a greater impact on these functions than cocaine alone.
Dangers of Mixing Fentanyl With Other Prescription Medications
Fentanyl is sometimes prescribed with other medications. The risk of combining fentanyl with opioids is high enough; the risks are even more significant when mixing fentanyl with drugs that depress breathing or slow brain activity, such as benzodiazepines and alcohol.
According to the Departments of Veteran Affairs and Defense: “Mixing prescription opioid pain or cough medicines containing fentanyl or codeine—either by taking them together, using more than one at a time, taking different forms of this medicine… or dissolving tablets/capsules and injecting them.” Mixing multiple substances can be deadly because it may increase the side effects from each drug taken on its own, including respiratory depression or arrest. In some cases, people have died after ingesting fentanyl, thinking they were popping another pill.
How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your System?
Fentanyl can be increasingly dangerous if you are unaware of how long it stays in your system. If you think it has cleared and you decide it is okay to take another prescription medicine, it still may be in your system, which can cause serious harm to your body.
Fentanyl can be found in the blood and urine for two to three days after use. If you are taking fentanyl as a prescription, you shouldn’t stop using it without speaking with your doctor about how quickly symptoms should improve over time after stopping completely.
There may still be remnants of fentanyl lingering in your body if you have used a drug containing this powerful opioid within the last couple of weeks, making any other drugs potentially unsafe to take.
It’s challenging to say precisely what would happen because of factors such as each person’s biochemistry. Still, there is no doubt that mixing substances increases the risk exponentially, especially when one or more contain an opiate like fentanyl.
Addiction to Fentanyl
Like any addiction, fentanyl addiction has many physical, psychological, and social consequences. The number of people addicted to opiates is increasing at an alarming rate. The majority is being introduced through prescription painkillers such as OxyContin or Percocet, which can be very addictive.
A fentanyl addiction will cause you a great deal of trouble in your personal life. It may also cause significant financial stress due to increased costs for drugs along with loss of income if you’re unable to work because of health and behavioral problems caused by drug use.
So how can you tell if you are starting to become addicted to fentanyl? Some common signs that you have a fentanyl addiction include:
- Needing more of the drug to achieve effects
- Having withdrawal symptoms when not using it
- Continuing use even if it causes negative consequences
If you or someone you know may be experiencing fentanyl addiction, reach out to Zinnia Healing today.
How Can Fentanyl Addiction Be Treated?
Fentanyl addiction is severe and should not be ignored. Drug rehab facilities are the best option for getting help with an opioid addiction, no matter what drug you have been using or how long it has been going on.
Long-term fentanyl use can cause many health problems, so quitting without treatment can result in relapse after returning to drug use, leading to overdose once again.
If you want to get better, seek help immediately before things worsen. You need someone who understands what addiction looks like and will do whatever they need to ensure that your recovery process goes smoothly, even if this requires medication assistance at times during detoxification.
Here are some of the common ways that facilities can treat your fentanyl addiction:
- Behavioral therapies help you learn healthier coping mechanisms for dealing with stress or other triggers that can cause relapse
- Individual therapy sessions focus on gaining insight into your addiction, and why it started in the first place, so you are not blindsided by cravings later down the road
- Group counseling sessions have addicts work together to support each other while learning how to recover successfully from substance abuse disorders together
- Medications such as methadone are used to help recovering addicts achieve stability while they go through withdrawal from fentanyl
While addiction can lead to many adverse long-term effects, one of the most significant risks comes from the high potency associated with fentanyl. Due to this increased potency, overdose is common.
How Can a Fentanyl Overdose Be Treated?
If someone suffers from a fentanyl overdose, they must seek immediate medical attention. Here are some of the symptoms to look for:
- Pinpoint pupils or other signs of an opioid overdose
- Difficulty breathing, speaking, or walking due to central nervous system depression
- Extremely slow heart rate, which can lead to cardiac arrest if not treated quickly enough
If you see someone experiencing these symptoms and suspect fentanyl use, call 911 immediately. The longer a person experiences serious side effects from a fentanyl overdose, such as severe respiratory depression or cardiovascular issues without treatment, the more likely they will suffer long-term damage.
Getting Help for Fentanyl Addiction
If you are looking for help with a fentanyl addiction, you have taken a crucial first step toward recovery.
Zinnia Healing has a team of experts and professionals who will provide you with a safe and comfortable environment where you can recover without worry. Call us at (855) 430-9439.