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Fentanyl Addiction & Treatment

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is an opioid drug similar to Morphine that’s used to treat severe pain and chronic pain in patients, especially after major surgeries. While similar, Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than Morphine and is the most common drug that causes overdose deaths involving drugs in the U.S. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 59% of all opioid-related deaths in 2017 involved Fentanyl, compared to 14.3% in 2010, making this drug a big part of the opioid epidemic. 

When prescribed by a doctor or health care professional, Fentanyl is also known as Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze. As a prescription drug, this opioid can be administered as a shot, a patch that sticks to the skin, or as lozenges that are sucked on like cough drops. When illegally produced, Fentanyl is sold as a powder, dropped onto blotter paper, put in eye droppers and nasal sprays, or made into pills that look identical to other prescription opioid drugs. When illegally made, Fentanyl may be mixed or laced with other drugs like Heroin, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, or MDMA.

Fentanyl Effects

Like Heroin, Morphine, and other opioids, Fentanyl binds to the brain’s opioid receptors, which control pain and emotions. With excessive opioid use, the brain and body build a physical dependence and chemical dependence, which causes the brain to rely on the drug to feel anything. When addicted, this opioid can take over your life. Common symptoms of Fentanyl include: 

  • Extreme happiness or euphoria
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Sedation
  • Problems breathing
  • Unconsciousness

Signs of Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction

Because of its potency, individuals who abuse this substance can develop an addiction or substance use disorder. You may be addicted to Fentanyl if you have a compulsive need for the drug, have a hard time controlling your dosage, and continue to use opioids even though they may cause health problems or issues at work, school, or home. You or a loved one may suffer from an addiction to Fentanyl if you experience:

  • Mood swings
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Social isolation
  • Mental illness like anxiety or depression
  • Hallucinations seeing
  • Disorientation
  • Shallowed breathing
  • Upset stomach
  • Convulsions
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of appetite or developed eating disorder
  • Pale skin
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • High blood pressure

You or a loved one may have an increased risk at developing an addiction or substance use disorder if there’s:

  • Family history of addiction
  • Cocaine addiction
  • Heroin addiction
  • Gambling addiction
  • Alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction
  • Mental health disorders
  • Cooccurring disorders or dual diagnosis
  • Peer pressure
  • Early usage

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal is often the hardest part of addiction recovery. With Fentanyl, withdrawal symptoms can begin as early as a few hours after the opioid drug was last taken. These symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Cold flashes with goosebumps
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Severe cravings

Because these symptoms can be painful and difficult to experience, it can make withdrawal a difficult process for opioid addicts. 

Long Term Side Effects of Fentanyl Abuse

Like other opioids, those who are addicted to Fentanyl may suffer from long term side effects of the drug, like physical and chemical dependency. Other long term addiction abuse can increase the risk of:

  • Fractures in the elderly
  • Chronic and severe constipation, which may lead to bowel obstruction
  • Breathing problems while sleeping
  • Heart attack and heart failure
  • Immune system suppression
  • Hormonal and reproductive issues
  • Mental illness and mood disorders like anxiety and depression

The greatest risk of long term Fentanyl abuse is the risk of opioid overdose. The risk of overdose significantly increases when people take Fentanyl illegally, especially if it’s mixed with other drugs. However, Fentanyl overdose can still occur even when prescribed by a doctor. Symptoms of opioid overdose include: 

  • Tiny pupils
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shallow, irregular, or stopped breathing
  • Limp body
  • Blue, cold, or pale skin
  • Choking or gurgling noises

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

Treating Fentanyl addiction is similar to other opioid addiction recovery programs. One of the most effective treatments for Fentanyl and substance use treatment is medically assisted treatment (MAT). Prescription medications like Buprenorphine and Methadone work by binding to the same opioid receptors in the brain and reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. In addition to MAT, individual therapy counseling like cognitive behavioral therapy treatment programs have been known to help addicts recover from their addiction. For help detoxing, consider an inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment program through an addiction treatment center to help you along your road to recovery.