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Fentanyl Death Pose

You can’t help but worry about your son ever since he started hanging out with your ex-husband. He has every right to see his father, but the reason you left him was due to his drug use. You shielded your son when he was younger, but now that he is in his late teens you see the changes in him – he is using like his dad.

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While he is still a good kid, you fear everytime he walks out the door. How can you know if this is the last time you will see him ever again. These nights, you tend to stay awake with worry, keeping the TV on in the background for noise just to help with the silence. You jump as your phone rings, it’s your boy. It’s 2:15 in the morning, is he alright?

You answer in a panic and you can hear the terror in his own voice. He says his dad is frozen, like he looks okay but his whole body is stiff. You ask what he was taking, and you feel your heart break as your son states “Fentanyl.” As best as you can, you keep your composure and tell your son to give Narcan, knowing your ex would keep it around the house. As you hang up after letting him know you are on your way, tears stream down your face. It could have been your boy. Is he using fentanyl too?

Deaths from fentanyl are affecting the entire United States, and we’ve seen over 225 in Hillsborough County, Florida between January and June of 2022. Clean Recovery Centers believes in bringing education about these difficult topics to help our Suncoast communities understand fentanyl and other substance use disorders. Our program is tailored to all ages through our unique, three-phase approach to treatment. Let’s explore the fentanyl death pose further, and how to prevent an overdose from occurring.

Fentanyl Death Pose Defined

When we think of death – and more specifically a “death pose” – we can picture someone in a casket with their arms folded neatly across their chest. Many have experienced death through losing a sibling, parent, grandparent, friend, colleague, or someone in their lives. This pose is the result of the mortician working to relieve rigor mortis and position the person in the standard pose. Rigor mortis is the process where the body stiffens after death, which is due to chemical changes in the muscles. The process of rigor mortis is natural and can determine an approximate time of death if the person perished outside of a medical setting.

When it comes to the fentanyl death pose, it is similar to rigor mortis setting in. However, it occurs before death has happened. While it is uncommon, a side effect of fentanyl use is rigidity, specifically of the muscles. The fentanyl death pose is defined as experiencing muscle rigidity, typically with a stiff neck, clenched fists, and “frozen” arms and legs. The chest is also rigid, and breathing typically is not present at the onset of the fentanyl death pose.

What Causes Fentanyl Death Pose?

The science behind the fentanyl death pose is still being researched, but studies have linked that fentanyl use even in medical settings can trigger muscle rigidity. This is because fentanyl attaches to opioid receptors in the brain, including the locus coeruleus (LC) within the brainstem. The LC responds by increasing the outflow of other receptors in the spine, leading to skeletal and muscle rigidity. The main concern in this is that respiratory muscles become rigid, making breathing almost impossible.

Fentanyl Overdose Risk Factors Leading To “Death Pose”

Those at risk of experiencing a fentanyl overdose also have a higher risk of experiencing the death pose. There are some factors that contribute to experiencing a fentanyl overdose, including:

  • Using fentanyl frequently
  • Increasing fentanyl dosages
  • Using other substances along with fentanyl
  • History of substance use disorder

Not everyone who uses fentanyl will experience the death pose as it is a rare but serious side effect. Fentanyl slows the central nervous system, and even without rigidity, breathing can slow to a stop. This cuts off oxygen to the brain, a condition known as hypoxia. On top of the brain not getting oxygen, fentanyl causes another condition to set in – hypercarbia. This is a build-up of carbon dioxide within the blood. Lack of oxygen and an abundance of carbon dioxide lead to brain damage, coma, and death.

How to Prevent Fentanyl Death Pose and Fentanyl Overdose

prevent fentanyl death poseThere is no way to know how the body will react to a substance, whether given medically or used illicitly. You can’t look at fentanyl and think “I won’t experience any negative effects from this.” The fentanyl death pose is still being researched and documented because it has happened to people before you. The best way to prevent the death pose from occurring is to avoid fentanyl at all costs. A fentanyl overdose may or may not be accompanied by the death pose, but regardless it is still a life-threatening condition. If an overdose is ever suspected, seek medical attention immediately. If available, administer Narcan. Even if the person is not overdosing on opioids, Narcan won’t cause harm – it only counteracts the effects of opioids like fentanyl.

Does the Fentanyl Death Pose Mean Actual Death?

If a person is experiencing the fentanyl death pose, does that mean they are already dead? Not necessarily, there is a short window to relieve the respiratory rigidity. Narcan must be administered within minutes of the fentanyl death pose setting in. However, those using fentanyl tend to do so alone, or they are the ones who unknowingly ingested fentanyl. The scary thing about the fentanyl death pose is that the person can look normal, as in sitting in a chair or lying in a bed. Further investigation is needed to see if the person is actually rigid and not breathing. Narcan must be administered quickly in these cases because the death pose can quickly become permanent.

Find Help for Fentanyl Use Disorder in Hillsborough County, FL

While fentanyl does serve medicinal purposes, using it illicitly is scary and unpredictable. It does not matter if you are using fentanyl for physical pain, numbing past trauma, or because you developed a dependence, that next dose could result in experiencing the fentanyl death pose. There is hope, and through fentanyl addiction treatment, you can find the light at the end of the tunnel. Therapy is a large component of recovery, and individual treatment will help you find the reasons behind your addiction. Group therapy will give you insight into your feelings and drives as others share what they went through. Skill-building will help you understand how to cope with stress and also help you enter life focused on recovery and living fentanyl-free. It’s not too late to begin today, just take the first step.

Fentanyl has been running rampant throughout our country, and chances are, you know someone who has been affected by this crisis. Clean Recovery Centers offers a safe space to heal and address fentanyl use disorder. Our dedicated and compassionate team is able to address mental health conditions and treat them as a primary diagnosis. We understand how substance use disorders can stem from undiagnosed and untreated mental health conditions, and we fully immerse our clients into understanding both. Call us today at (888) 330-2532 to learn more about our program offerings.

Get clean. Live clean. Stay clean.

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