Fentanyl Addiction And Treatment Options

Fentanyl is a highly potent opioid. Each incident of abuse comes with risk of overdose. Treatment for fentanyl addiction should be integrated, and work to treat all aspects of addiction and dependence.

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Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid narcotic medication, also known as an opioid pain reliever (OPR), used for treating severe pain such as after a major surgery or in cancer patients. Fentanyl is chemically similar to morphine, but is 50 to 100 times more potent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Because fentanyl is so effective at relieving pain and producing intense euphoria, it is often a drug of abuse. CNN reports that fentanyl is a fairly new drug of abuse, having shown up on the streets in 2007, yet more and more fentanyl-related deaths are reported every year. Ohio alone reported 514 deaths related to Fentanyl overdose in 2014, a four-fold increase from the previous year.

To avoid further increases in fentanyl addiction and overdose rates, it’s important to make sure each person who needs addiction treatment has access to it. We can work toward helping more people receive the treatment they need to overcome addiction by making inpatient drug rehab treatment more accessible, and making information and resources more readily available.

Signs Of Fentanyl Abuse

Fentanyl abuse puts the person abusing the drug at risk each time he or she abuses it. The drug’s potency has lethal potential with just one dose. Because of this, it’s imperative to know the signs of fentanyl abuse and addiction in order to help those who are struggling.

Common signs of fentanyl abuse include:

  • Changes to appetite
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Experiencing bad dreams
  • Extreme constipation
  • Extreme sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Headache
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Itching/hives
  • Sleep troubles
  • Suppressed breathing
  • Swelling of limbs
  • Tremors
  • Urine retention
  • Vision troubles
  • Weight loss

How Is Fentanyl Abused?

Fentanyl is prescribed mainly for use in hospitals, or for people with chronic pain or terminal illnesses. Still, the drug is abused. Some people may not realize they have started abusing the drug since it is a medication, and many people who abuse it begin taking it as a prescription. Fentanyl produces powerful pain-relieving effects by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and changing your response to pain.

Even when taken as directed, the brain changes the way it communicates about pain when taking fentanyl, so there is always risk of addiction. A drug so powerful can foster addiction after just a few uses, so it is typically only used for a short time.

Though the drug has been around since the 1960s, and has worked extremely well at treating chronic, severe pain, it is now being made illicitly, sold on the streets, and mixed with other drugs. Fentanyl produced illicitly comes in several different forms, such as powder, tablets, spiked on blotter paper, and mixed with heroin or other drugs.

Street names for fentanyl and fentanyl combination drugs include:

  • Apache
  • China Girl
  • China White
  • Dance Fever
  • Friend
  • Goodfella
  • Jackpot
  • Murder 8
  • TNT
  • Tango and Cash.

Perhaps the biggest risk of fentanyl abuse is abusing the drug when you aren’t aware you’re doing it. Fentanyl-laced heroin and other dangerous combinations, such as Gray Death, are being sold to unsuspecting addicted individuals. Combination opioids are threatening because of the increased potency, and the increased risk of overdose due to the presence of multiple drugs in the system. For some combination drugs, one use is enough to cause fatal overdose.

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What Are The Different Types Of Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is available in many different forms, all with warning instructions to not take it in any other way than prescribed, and to keep out of reach of children because it can be fatal for them even to the touch. However, fentanyl is still a target of abuse and is sold illicitly on the streets.

The following are the different types of fentanyl on the market:

  • Intravenous (Sublimaze): typically used in hospitals after surgery, injecting fentanyl puts the drug directly into the bloodstream for faster results. Abuse of any drug by injection is dangerous because of the quick reaction time.
  • Lozenge handle (Actiq): this type of fentanyl comes in a drug matrix as a solid attached to a handle. It is to be absorbed in the mouth, without touching the drug directly.
  • Nasal spray (Lazanda): used by the same method as a decongestant spray.
  • Skin patch (Duragesic): the skin patch allows for fentanyl to be applied directly to the skin without exposing any other part of the body.
  • Sublingual spray (Subsys): this spray is designed to be administered under the tongue for faster absorption rates.
  • Tablet (Abstral): a quick-dissolving tablet

Side Effects Of Fentanyl Abuse

Fentanyl abuse produces an immediate state of euphoria and relaxation, also known as the “high.”

Side effects of fentanyl abuse are similar to those of heroin, and may include:

  • Addiction
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Respiratory depression
  • Sedation
  • Tolerance

In cases of overdose, fentanyl can cause loss of consciousness, respiratory arrest, coma, or death.

What Are The Risks Of Fentanyl Addiction?

One of the highest risks of fentanyl addiction is that, “high doses of opioids, especially potent opioids such as fentanyl can cause breathing to stop completely, which can lead to death,” according to the NIDA.

Even if taken as directed, fentanyl can cause addiction, a mental reliance, or physical dependence.

People who have grown dependent on fentanyl will experience uncomfortable or even painful withdrawal symptoms when not taking it, such as:

  • Backache
  • Body hair standing on end/goose bumps
  • Chills
  • Extreme yawning
  • Fever
  • Joint/muscle pain
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Severe sweating
  • Stomach cramps
  • Tearing

In many cases of addiction, withdrawal is what keeps people going back to their drug of abuse again and again. Especially with a drug as powerful as fentanyl, the body quickly adapts to the effects of the drug, relies on them to function, and exhibits physical signs when you aren’t taking the drug. Increased usage of fentanyl to avoid withdrawal increases your risk of overdose.

What Treatments Are Available For Fentanyl Addiction?

Fentanyl addiction treatment may involve a number of methods to treat the different health aspects affected by fentanyl abuse. Because opioids are so powerful, it’s best to seek treatment for addiction to opioids like fentanyl in an inpatient drug rehab center.

Opioid addiction affects not only the body, but the mind as well. Addiction changes thought processes, behaviors, and emotions, causing damage that isn’t easily reversed without professional help.

For many, treatment for fentanyl addiction begins with detoxification, which allows you to rid your body of the harmful toxins acquired during abuse. A medically-supervised detoxification program can aid greatly in the detox process, as you’ll receive constant support and monitoring.

If you need medication to help ease withdrawal symptoms, there are several medications available for opioid detox, including buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex, Zubsolv) and methadone. Medication during detox is administered under careful supervision to ensure the least chance of addiction.

Formal treatment begins after detoxification, and may include any number of therapies, counseling, fitness and nutritional components, medication, recreational activities, and more. People struggling with fentanyl addiction may strongly benefit from psychotherapy (also called “talk” therapy), such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). In these methods, participants let go of destructive, harmful thoughts and behaviors, and replace them with ones that will aid in a fulfilling life.

Group therapy allows recovering individuals to connect with others who are also in recovery, and share similar struggles. Counseling helps people in drug rehab to work through the troubling thoughts and emotions that come with addiction recovery and work toward positive ones.

The best inpatient drug rehab centers will provide a full clinical assessment prior to treatment to determine the best course of recovery for you. The key to recovery success is entering a drug rehab program that is customized to your specific needs.

Get Help For A Fentanyl Addiction Today

Fentanyl addiction is a struggle no one should face, as risk of overdose is constant. With the right treatment program, you can overcome opioid addiction and dependence, and build a fulfilling, substance-free life.

Contact one of our treatment specialists today to find a treatment program that best suits your needs.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—Fentanyl
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration—Fentanyl
U.S. Food and Drug Administration—Fentanyl Patch Can Be Deadly to Children
U.S. National Library of Medicine—Fentanyl

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