Fentanyl and Depression
Are Fentanyl and Depression Connected?
Before exploring the potential link between fentanyl and depression, we must understand the background of this drug. More than six decades ago, fentanyl was invented in a laboratory by a Belgian physician. For virtually all that time, its only use was as a prescription drug for patients who experience the most severe kinds of pain.
The medication started killing people in 2013 when dealers realized it could dramatically increase the potency of the heroin they were selling. As such, they started mixing the synthetic drug in with the street drug to offer it to buyers, most of whom had no idea they were purchasing something lethal beyond belief.
Why Do We Care About Fentanyl and Depression?
Incredibly, fentanyl up to one hundred times more potent than morphine and up to fifty times more potent than heroin.
Getting even just a little too much of this drug can be fatal because of its strength. It takes very little of the drug for a fatality to occur—only two milligrams or so. Compare this to the lethal dose of heroin, which is at least seventy-five milligrams.
Selling Dangerous Pure Fentanyl Trending
Lately, dealers have started selling the pure form of this drug, which is vastly more lucrative for them than the fentanyl/heroin combo.
The ever-increasing number of deaths attributed to fentanyl grabbed the attention of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued a public health advisory.1 Unfortunately, deaths due to the substance continue to rise. So, we know it is deadly, but we still do not know is there a connection between fentanyl and depression?
Is There A Link Between Fentanyl and Depression?
A 2016 study in the Annals of Family Medicine found that 10% of people prescribed opioids became depressed a month after taking the drugs. The longer they took these medications, the higher risk they were for long-term clinical depression.2
Fentanyl can cause depression either for those actively using it or for former patients who have stopped using it.
There are adverse behavioral changes that often go along with the depression, such as loss of appetite and insomnia. Some people report having crying spells that last for days. Others report suffering from anhedonia, which is the inability to take pleasure in normally pleasurable acts.
Some of these people stay in bed all day long and don’t enjoy being around others like they once did. That checks a lot of the boxes for diagnosing depression. So, yes, it appears there is a link between fentanyl and depression.
Why Might a Person Turn to Fentanyl When Depressed?
A person who is depressed might be tempted to take fentanyl as an attempt to self-medicate the overwhelming mental anguish of depression.
How Could Fentanyl Make a Depressed Person Feel Better?
Fentanyl produces an instantaneous and exceedingly powerful euphoria that’s very seductive—particularly for someone dealing with some oppressive psychological baggage.
What Does It Look Like?
Street fentanyl is a chalky substance that’s pressed into tablets designed to look like the legal form of this drug. Here are some of its street names:
- Dance fever
- China White
- China girl
- Tango and Cash
- Great Bear
- Murder 8
Prescription fentanyl comes in lollipop-like stick lozenges, sprays, or patches.
What is a Fentanyl Patch?
A fentanyl patch is a thin patch with an adhesive backing placed on the skin to deliver the drug in a slow and controlled manner by absorption through the skin.
They are only used as a last resort—when every other pain drug has been tried, and none of them can take away the extreme suffering caused by acute pain. They’re often used to alleviate the unbearable agony that comes with terminal stage cancer.
The patch can be fatal because high amounts of the drug remain in the patch after use. If it falls off or isn’t disposed of properly, a child or pet could be exposed to it with tragic consequences.
To reduce this risk, the FDA advises people to dispose of their patches in the right way by folding the patch with the sticky sides together and placing in a tamperproof or sharps container to bring to a drop off location.3
Can You Become Addicted to Fentanyl?
Because fentanyl is an opioid, you can become addicted to it. Individuals addicted to this drug will often experience dramatic changes in their behavior, even if they have only been taking the medication for a short time. That’s because this drug is extremely potent.
There will be noticeable psychological changes as well, including:
|Difficulty Concentrating||Memory Problems||Disorganized Thinking|
The more chronic the problem is, the more likely it is there will be neglect towards basic needs like eating healthy food, showering, and getting enough exercise.
There might also be drug-seeking behavior like doctor shopping and stealing prescriptions or money from friends and family.
Why are Variants of Fentanyl Being Made?
Fentanyl analogs are chemical variations of the drug manufactured to get around laws prohibiting the sale of this drug. All that must be altered in the chemical makeup of the drug is a single molecule, and the makers can claim it’s a brand-new substance. However, the new variation has all the same effects as the old one.
As soon as the legal authorities ban the sale of one form of the drug, dealers make another. It is a never-ending game of legal whack-a-mole for the court systems to try to stay one step ahead of the dealers. A significant amount of these analogs is manufactured in secretive labs in Mexico and China. These shady operations fuel the dual problems of addiction to fentanyl and depression.
Carfentanil vs Fentanyl
Carfentanil is a structural analog of fentanyl and is a veterinary drug used in tranquilizer darts to sedate big animals like those found in zoos.
It’s a far more dangerous form than the ordinary variety of fentanyl because it’s 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than morphine. In 1974, chemists working for Janssen Pharmaceutica first synthesized the drug. In 1986, it was made commercially available under the brand name of “Wildnil.”4
The toxicity of fentanyl in humans and its easy availability has some people worrying it might be used as a weapon.
Treatment for Addiction to Fentanyl and Depression
The most common treatment for fentanyl addiction is a blend of medication and behavioral therapy.
Two drugs that have had tremendous success in helping individuals recover are buprenorphine and methadone. This is the detox stage of the process. The next step begins after detox treatment ends for fentanyl and depression treatment starts.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is also frequently an effective treatment in addressing underlying causes, such as depression, that lead to substance abuse in the first place.
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