The opioid epidemic has taken a serious toll on the country, and it looks like it will continue to be a problem for years to come. However, researchers, doctors, clinicians, and lawmakers are working hard to find a solution that will turn the tides of the epidemic and bring relief to the many communities that have been struck by this crisis.
Opioids accounted for more than 49,000 overdose deaths in 2017, a number that has been steadily increasing since 2002. Heroin is the most commonly abused opioid. An influx of supply from black market dealers like Mexican cartels has made heroin so cheap and abundant that it’s the most easily available illicit drug after marijuana.
However, in the past few years, a new threat has caused a spike in overdose deaths. Synthetic opioids that are created for medical purposes have made their way into heroin supplies. Synthetics like fentanyl and its analogs can be significantly more powerful than heroin, increasing the drug’s potency and perceived value. However, they can also lead to deadly overdoses when a user takes a usual dose of heroin, not knowing that it’s adulterated with the powerful synthetic drug. All it takes is one unscrupulous dealer in the supply chain who wants to stretch profits, and the users at the end of that chain are at risk.
One such fentanyl analog is called sufentanil, sold under the brand name Dsuvia. Dsuvia is about five to 10 times more powerful than fentanyl, which makes it at least 500 times more powerful than morphine. Synthetic opioids like Dsuvia generally are used in a medical context. Because of its power, it’s generally not dispensed at pharmacies as a take-home prescription. While it’s possible for the drug to fall into the wrong hands, powerful synthetics are more likely to be illegally synthesized in clandestine laboratories and distributed on the black market.
Powerful synthetics like Dsuvia are a serious threat to people who use them recreationally. The size of a lethal dose is so small, that it’s difficult to measure out with no professional instruments or expertise. For the average person, the lethal dose of fentanyl is lighter than a snowflake at 2 or 3 milligrams. Since Dsuvia is stronger, its lethal dose is much smaller. In fact, in an injectable solution, it can be effective for general anesthesia in an amount between 8 to 30 micrograms per kilogram.
Abuse of these powerful drugs is more likely to result in an overdose than in addiction, but if you’re struggling with an opioid use disorder, it’s important to be aware of these powerful opioids.
Learn more about Dsuvia addiction and how it can be treated.
Dsuvia is a powerful synthetic opioid and an analog of the infamous fentanyl. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the drug for use in a sublingual tablet that’s prescribed for short-term pain management. The drug is powerful, but its effects are short-lived. It generally wears off within 30 to 60 minutes. However, its analgesic effects start working within 10 minutes, considerably faster than most other options. For that reason, it’s often used in emergencies, in emergency surgery, and critical care. It’s unlikely that you’d be given a prescription of Dsuvia to take home.
The drug has been considered for use, particularly by the U.S. military. Its fast onset of action and short duration make it an ideal battlefield painkiller and useful in the treatment of serious injuries.
However, the drug’s FDA approval was controversial. In the height of the opioid epidemic, a new powerful opioid seems like just another opportunity for the illegal drug market to expand its menu. But why would drug dealers be interested in dangerously potent opioids? It seems like risking the lives of your consumer base is a counterintuitive idea.
While it’s true that powerful synthetic opioids are dangerous and can result in fatal overdoses, potent drugs offer serious benefits to dealers and black market vendors. The increased potency makes it easier to transport drugs in smaller packages. The size of shipments has to do with the effective dose of any given drug. A dealer who receives a small box of heroin can only sell to a few people. However, the same size box of fentanyl or sufentanil can be sold to dozens of people. Smaller shipments are harder for law enforcement to detect and seize. So more can find its way into and throughout the country.
If you somehow take a small enough amount to achieve a high without overdosing, the drug can lead to dependence or addiction as well as any potent opioid pain reliever. Dependence can lead to a severe substance use disorder and flu-like withdrawal symptoms.
Dsuvia addiction is rare, but most opioids have the potential to cause a substance use disorder if it’s used for long enough. Dsuvia has intense, instant, and short-acting effects, which makes it useful as a medication and attractive as a recreational drug. But the intense effects can also have a profound impact on your brain. Substance use disorders have to do with the way a psychoactive drug influences your brain chemistry and psychology.
The signs of Dsuvia addiction would most likely follow the same symptoms as other powerful opioids. After a period of use, tolerance is usually the first signal that your drug use is becoming a disorder. If you feel like a standard dose is less powerful than it was when you first started, your brain may be getting used to the drug in your system. As it adapts to the presence of this foreign chemical, you’ll need to need to take higher doses to achieve the same effects. However, if you do, you will be at a greater risk of developing a chemical dependency.
Dependence occurs when your brain starts to rely on the drug to maintain its normal chemistry, integrating it into your neurochemical balance. If you stop using it, your brain chemistry will become unbalanced, leading to withdrawal symptoms. Dsuvia withdrawal would mimic flu symptoms including:
Addiction is ultimately identified by compulsive drug use, even despite the serious consequences that could result. If you or a loved one continues to use Dsuvia after medical, legal, social, or financial consequences, it could mean you’ve developed a severe opioid use disorder. The best way to overcome opioid addiction is to seek professional help.
Opioid addiction is notoriously difficult to overcome, but with the right treatment, it’s possible to achieve long-lasting sobriety and freedom from active addiction. Addiction treatment should be tailored to your individual needs, and it needs to go beyond treatment for your substance abuse. Treatment should address medical, psychological, social, legal, and financial issues to be effective. A variety of underlying causes and consequences can complicate addiction treatment if those issues go unaddressed.
When you first enter addiction treatment, you will go through a process of intake and assessment that’s designed to connect you with a level of care that’s ideal and suitable for your needs. If you have pressing medical complications that require a high level of care, you may go through a medical detox program. Opioid withdrawals aren’t usually life-threatening. But, like the flu, bad cases can result in dehydration, and that can be dangerous. Medical detox can help to avoid dangerous medical complications and alleviate uncomfortable symptoms through 24-hour medical care.
After detox, you may go through an inpatient program if you are still in need of high-level care. If you can live on your own, you may go through an intensive outpatient treatment program (IOP). IOP involves more than nine hours of treatment services each week, but it can include as much as 12 hours a day in partial hospitalization services.
If you have advanced through higher levels of care, you may continue your treatment in an outpatient program that requires fewer than nine hours of services weekly. This allows you to pursue goals in your regular life while you still have support from therapists and therapy groups.
DEA. (n.d.). Fentanyl. from https://www.dea.gov/galleries/drug-images/fentanyl
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, August 09). Overdose Death Rates. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 06). Opioid Overdose Crisis. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis