Fentanyl Addiction And Treatment Options
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid said to be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Highly addictive, and dangerously potent, an untreated fentanyl addiction is likely to lead to overdose and death.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid generally prescribed to treat severe pain after surgery. It may also be used as anesthesia or prescribed for people with chronic pain and a tolerance to opioids.
While its prevalence as a street drug continues to rise, fentanyl is still used in medical settings under brand names Actiq, Duragesic and Sublimaze. Medical professionals are likely to administer fentanyl via tablet form, a medicated adhesive patch or injection.
On the streets, fentanyl is bought and sold as powder, in tablets made to look like other prescription opioids, dissolved on paper tabs and laced with or substituted for heroin.
Fentanyl addiction is likely to develop from these non-medical forms sold on the street and manufactured illegally in labs.
Street names for fentanyl (and fentanyl laced heroin) include Apache, China Girl, China Town, Dance Fever, Jackpot, King Ivory, Murder 8 and more.
Much of the fentanyl produced is manufactured in China and smuggled across borders, eventually reaching people in the US by mail delivery or drug cartels. Due to its high potency and relative ease of manufacturing, fentanyl has become enormously profitable to make and sell.
Unfortunately, those suffering from fentanyl addiction are the ones who pay the ultimate price.
Fentanyl use creates a powerful state of relaxation and euphoria that make it highly addictive.
By changing the brain in areas that respond to pain and emotion, fentanyl addiction can be very difficult to overcome without treatment.
What’s more, a very small amount of fentanyl can kill a person, making overdose common for people using fentanyl. Knowing the signs and symptoms of fentanyl addiction can help a person look into treatment options before the dangers of the drug take hold.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Fentanyl Addiction
People suffering from fentanyl addiction will likely show signs of typical drug-seeking behavior. This includes compulsively using fentanyl or other opioids, craving fentanyl, showing impaired judgment relating to fentanyl, and continuing to use fentanyl despite obvious harm.
Fentanyl use is also likely to cause certain symptoms and may include:
- blurred vision
- respiratory depression (slowed breathing)
A person with a fentanyl addiction may have initially suffered from another opioid addiction. People misusing opioids are likely to develop a tolerance, meaning their response to the drug, or their high, isn’t as powerful as it once was.
A study in New Hampshire found that over one third of the people interviewed with an opioid addiction were actively seeking out fentanyl for its higher potency as a way to beat tolerance.
The effects of fentanyl are similar to the effects of heroin, including going “on the nod,” meaning the person drifts in and out of consciousness and semi-consciousness.
It’s crucial to spot the signs and symptoms of fentanyl addiction because the misuse of fentanyl is extremely dangerous. Treatment options should be considered immediately in order to avoid the life-threatening dangers of fentanyl addiction.
Dangers Of Fentanyl Addiction
Fentanyl use directly affects areas of the brain that control a person’s breathing. The high potency of fentanyl can cause breathing to be slowed to a dangerous rate that may cause death. Breathing problems for those suffering from fentanyl addiction is usually one of the main factors in overdose deaths.
Overdose deaths caused by fentanyl and other opioids have been on the rise since the 1990s. Overdose from fentanyl can occur by taking fentanyl alone or by mixing it with other opioids, like heroin.
Heroin laced with synthetic fentanyl is said to be 30 to 50 times more potent than straight heroin and therefore extremely dangerous. Fentanyl laced heroin is a major contributor to the current opioid crisis facing the United States.
If a person is going through a fentanyl or other opioid overdose, 9-1-1 should be contacted immediately.
Symptoms of a fentanyl overdose may include:
- blue lips or fingernails
- cold and clammy skin
- slow breathing
While a fentanyl overdose can be life-threatening, the deadly effects may be reversed by a drug called naloxone.
Naloxone is only effective if it’s given in time, which is shortly after overdose symptoms occur. It comes as a nasal spray or injector, and many professionals are advocating a standard to make naloxone more accessible to save lives.
Due to the potency of the drug, a person suffering from fentanyl addiction may not last long. Consistent use of fentanyl will likely lead to overdose and death.
Stopping use, however, can be difficult because the person will likely be dependent on fentanyl, meaning they will experience painful withdrawal when they stop use.
Fentanyl Addiction Withdrawal And Detox
As an opioid, fentanyl is likely to cause uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal for a person struggling with addiction. Withdrawal occurs after a person forms a physical dependence and then stops using the drug; their body requires time and adjustment to recover.
The duration of withdrawal depends on the person, frequency of use and how much they usually took.
The more severe the addiction to fentanyl, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms.
Early symptoms of withdrawal are likely to include:
- muscle and bone pain
- runny nose
- sleeping problems
Later symptoms of fentanyl addiction withdrawal may include:
- abdominal cramping
- dilated pupils
- involuntary leg movements
People with a history of fentanyl addiction are assumed to have built a strong opioid dependence. This may lead to life-threatening withdrawal symptoms such as seizures and irregular heart rate.
When withdrawal is severe, people may undergo medically supervised detoxification, or detox, to help manage the pain and severity of withdrawal symptoms.
Medically supervised detox generally occurs in a hospital or inpatient treatment center where professionals are able to administer medications to make the detox and withdrawal process more tolerable and less painful.
Detox is not a cure for addiction, and different treatment options should follow for the effective management of fentanyl addiction.
Treatment Options For Fentanyl Addiction
Like other opioids, medication assisted treatment, or MAT, may be used to treat a person suffering from fentanyl addiction.
Medications such as buprenorphine (Subutex and Suboxone), naltrexone (Vivitrol) and methadone have shown success in decreasing cravings and overdose and increasing the likelihood of people participating and completing treatment.
Because of the status of opioid misuse in the United States, research is currently being done to find more medications that are effective for people addicted to fentanyl.
While the use of MAT may depend on the particular rehab facility, inpatient treatment centers are likely the best course of action for treating a fentanyl addiction.
Inpatient treatment centers will likely have access to medications, and can also provide 24 hour, around the clock care. By careful monitoring and observation, inpatient treatment centers strive to give people the best possible chance for managing addiction.
MAT will likely not be effective if it’s not combined with behavioral therapy.
Behavioral therapies are likely to be offered at inpatient treatment centers and may include support groups, one on one counseling, and other more intensive behavioral treatment options.
The goal of behavioral therapy is to push a person to reconsider their thinking and attitudes towards drugs. By talking with counselors, medical professionals and others suffering from addiction, the hope is for people to develop the skills and tools needed to remain sober after treatment and live a balanced life.
Contact us today for more information on treatment options for fentanyl addiction, and get the help you or your loved one need to overcome addiction.
NIDA – DrugFacts: Fentanyl
NIDA – Addressing America’s Fentanyl Crisis
MedlinePlus – Opiate and opioid withdrawal
NIDA – Research on the Use and Misuse of Fentanyl and Other Synthetic Opioids
NIDA – Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction