FDA Approves New Opioid 10 Times Stronger Than Fentanyl, 1,000 Times Stronger Than Morphine
As of November 2018, a new opioid medication has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of acute (moderate) pain in medical settings: Dsuvia (sufentanil).
With the ever-growing opioid crisis, many are criticizing this move to approve a drug that is five to 10 times stronger than fentanyl, a large player in the opioid-related overdose death epidemic, and 500 to 1,000 times stronger than morphine.
Addiction to opioids is on the rise, with more than two-thirds of all drug-related overdose deaths in the U.S. involving an opioid from 2015 to 2016. Because of this, it’s important to know key information about new opioid medications like Dsuvia, dangers of abusing them, how they may affect the opioid crisis, and how to get help for opioid addiction.
What Is Dsuvia (Sufentanil)?
Disuvia is the brand name for a dissolvable tablet form of the opioid medication, sufentanil. This medication is highly powerful, as it is five to 10 times stronger than one of the most powerful, FDA-approved opioids currently in medical use, fentanyl. For reference, fentanyl is only approved for severe and chronic pain, to be used in a medically supervised setting.
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Why Was Dsuvia FDA-Approved?
Disuvia is also approved for strictly medical use, under the care of a physician. The FDA cited specific reasons for approving the medication, which include its usefulness as a pain-relief alternative for individuals such as soldiers, who cannot obtain opioid drugs that must be taken by injection.
Unlike other opioid drugs, though, Dsuvia would be used for fast relief of acute pain, such as for emergency treatment of broken bones. Rather than having to receive an opioid injection, or take a long-acting opioid and wait for pain-relief effects, Dsuvia would provide instant relief.
One solution medical professionals hope Dsuvia can solve is dosing errors, which may occur often with liquid solutions. Dsuvia comes in tablet form which may be more easily regulated in a medical setting.
Why Could Dsuvia Be A Dangerous Drug Of Abuse?
The company which developed Dsuvia responded to concerns of abuse of the drug with tighter regulations of drug distribution. However, history of opioid abuse and the recent growing trend of opioid prescription abuse has left many in the medical profession with doubts as to the drug’s necessity during this time and overall usefulness in the medical field.
Dsuvia will provide nearly instant effects, so many are worried it could be highly sought. Pain-relieving effects of opioids include altered perception of pain, slowed breathing and heart rates, and an overall sense of well-being. When these drugs are abused, a person forces the effects faster.
However, Dsuvia is meant to dissolve under the tongue, to produce quick results within just a few minutes. Opioids pose a high risk of addiction already, but a drug like Dsuvia which is 1,000 times stronger than the leading drug for pain relief (morphine) should be taken with extreme caution.
In the past, other opioid prescriptions of abuse, which are available in tablet form and diverted for illicit use, were crushed and snorted to provide faster effects. With a strong drug like Dsuvia, forcing the powerful effects of the drug more quickly could result in an overdose, especially for those who are not tolerant to the effects of opioids. Opioid overdoses can be fatal.
How Will Dsuvia (Sufentanil) Affect The Opioid Crisis?
There is no real way to tell how deeply Dsuvia may affect the opioid crisis. However, there are some key factors at play in this troubling drug abuse trend which may make Dsuvia a drug to watch for in the months and years to come.
Factors that affect the opioid crisis include:
- Opioid drugs that are powerful are highly sought: the more powerful a drug’s effects, the greater the sought-after high. Once a person develops a tolerance, they begin searching for a more potent drug to create the effects they once experienced.
- Prescription opioid abuse often leads to further drug abuse: four out of five people new to heroin abuse began with prescription opioid misuse.
- Continued drug abuse often leads to addiction: repeated use of any drug often leads to addiction, but with powerful drugs, addiction can result more quickly.
- Addiction leads to continued use which can lead to overdose: the more a person uses a drug that can lead to overdose, the higher the risk of experiencing an overdose.
Other FDA-Approved Drugs Involved In The Opioid Epidemic
Unfortunately, opioid drugs have all been abused. Some are abused more than others, and some pose higher risks of addiction, dependence, and overdose than others. The larger the risk of addiction for a drug, the higher the risk of overdose.
Certain drugs have been highly involved in the opioid crisis, whether because they were easy to obtain with a prescription or on the street, because they provide fast effects when abused, or because they were powerful opioids.
The most commonly abused prescription opioid drugs involved in opioid-related overdose deaths include:
- hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco, etc)
- oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
In addition, fentanyl-related deaths are also on the rise in recent years. Prescription opioid abuse often leads to abuse of heroin, and heroin has been cut with the potent drug fentanyl more and more lately. A person abusing heroin or certain other drugs cannot guarantee the purity of the substance, thereby risking overdose with each use.
Fentanyl is dangerous because it is so powerful, and people who are unaware they are taking it may not have a high enough tolerance to the effects of opioids. Even if they do, the drug is powerful enough to combine with the effects of heroin to lead to an overdose. Given time, and if street dealers began lacing heroin with Dsuvia for similar, more potent effects, the same could come true for abuse of Dsuvia.
Signs Of Opioid Abuse
If someone is suspected of opioid abuse, it’s important to seek help right away to avoid any unwanted or potentially dangerous effects. There are addiction treatment professionals who can help and aid in any interventions necessary.
Signs of opioid abuse may include:
- changes to mood or behavior
- cravings for the prescription
- increased sweating
- small pupils
- slowed or shallow breathing
- sensitivity to pain
- slurred speech
- reduced sex drive
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How To Get Help For An Opioid Addiction
For many, abuse of a prescription opioid drug begins when they alter the way they take the drug, frequency of dosage, or amount of dosage. This can lead to trying to get more prescriptions after the pain has stopped, further drug abuse problems, and more.
Because of this snowball drug abuse effect, it may be difficult to identify when opioid use turns to abuse, and when there is an addiction present which needs to be addressed. For help in identifying opioid abuse or addiction and seeking treatment for it, contact a treatment specialist today.