Fentanyl Addiction: Risks, Consequences and Recovery Options

Fentanyl is claiming more lives today than ever before. This addiction is extremely dangerous, and yet, so many people believe the drug is safer than street drugs. Their beliefs are based on the fact that it is prescribed by a doctor, so how can it be so risky?

The reality is that a Fentanyl addiction can be deadly. The facts surrounding our country’s current opioid epidemic cannot be denied. Many people have died at the hands of this drug, and some of them were not even aware they were taking it.

For those who are knowingly abusing Fentanyl, there are effective ways to stop. The right treatment program can make such a difference, and it has for many people. It is so important to understand the risks behind this medication, and what to do to get clean.

What is Fentanyl and What Does it Treat?

Fentanyl is an opioid pain medication that is 100 times stronger than morphine. It is used primarily as a way to treat breakthrough pain, or pain that is not relieved with other medications. In most cases, doctors will prescribe different drugs before placing their patients on this powerful opioid. This is because it is very potent, and extreme care must be used when it is prescribed. This medication is a Schedule II controlled drug.

Fentanyl works by changing the way that the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It comes in many different forms including a lozenge, a sublingual tablet, a film, patches, and buccal tablets. Patients are always instructed to use this medication according to their doctors’ directions. Misusing it, including taking more at one time, or taking it more often, can result in an addiction, or even death.

For those with serious pain issues – such as cancer patients – Fentanyl can be very effective. It can take some time for doctors to get the dosage right, but once they do, the medication works well. But people should never stay on this drug long-term. Doing so can result in an addiction, even if no abuse has taken place.

This video provides some additional information on Fentanyl:

Fentanyl is sold under several different brand names. They include:

  • Duragesic
  • Sublimaze
  • Actiq
  • Abstral
  • Onsolis
  • Lazanda
  • Fentora

On the street, Fentanyl is sold under many different street names. The following names can refer to the drug on its own, or heroin that has been laced with it:

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

No matter what it is called, Fentanyl can be deadly when it is being misused. This video offers some more information on the drug that is deadlier than heroin:

Because Fentanyl is so potent, it is also extremely highly addictive. It works the same way that other opioid drugs work in the brain and body – by binding to opioid receptors. This in turn increases the levels of dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine is responsible for controlling feelings of pleasure, euphoria, relaxation and reward. People who use this drug – either in the short or long-term – will eventually get used to the high it produces. Their dopamine levels will be difficult to regulate without the medication. After some time has passed, their brains will no longer be able to create dopamine without them getting high.

Earlier, we mentioned that Fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine. It can also be 50 times stronger than some forms of heroin. There are experts who believe that people can get addicted to heroin after just one use. The same could be true for this medication.

Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction Statistics in the United States

In recent years, Fentanyl has been involved in more fatal overdoses than other opioid drugs. Its rise in popularity cannot be denied, and it is worth taking a closer look at how this drug has impacted the United States.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has reported a shocking statistic. In 2016, there were 42,249 deaths associated with opioid overdoses. Of those deaths, 19,413 of them involved Fentanyl. That is close to 46%.

The CDC reports that:

  • The number of deaths from synthetic opioids in 2016 is more than deaths from any other type of opioid.
  • During that year, the largest number of deaths from synthetic opioids was among people aged 25-44.
  • There were more men that died from these overdoses than women.
  • The number of deaths from synthetic opioids has greatly increased in 21 states.
  • Those rates have doubled in ten states just between 2015 and 2016.
  • West Virginia, New Hampshire and Massachusetts have the highest death rates for drugs like Fentanyl.

Law enforcement officials believe that the high number of deaths can be mostly attributed to the spread of illicit manufacturing. The numbers do not coincide with the amount of people being given prescriptions each year.

Fentanyl in the News

Without a doubt, Fentanyl has been getting a lot of press over the last few months. It is not surprising, considering the number of overdose deaths that have occurred. There are several stories that have caught our attention.

It was a decision that shocked many people, but Nebraska has become the first US state to use Fentanyl for an execution. What is interesting is that the state abolished the death penalty in 2015 completely. Only one year later, the law was restored after 60% of the voters supported it.

The man who was executed was a convicted criminal named Carey Dean Moore. He was sixty years old, and he was convicted of killing two cab drivers in 1979. He has been in prison on death row awaiting his fate ever since. His death was Nebraska’s first lethal injection, as well as their first execution in more than two decades.

There were several drugs that were used to create the cocktail used in the execution. Among them were:

  • Fentanyl
  • Diazepam
  • Cisatracurium
  • Potassium chloride

Only 23 minutes after the drugs were administered, Moore was declared dead. Other states are working toward using Fentanyl as a part of their execution cocktails as well.

America’s opioid crisis has been in the headlines for months. But now, it appears that the issue is becoming clearer than ever. It is now more of a Fentanyl crisis.

Despite President Trump’s declaration of the opioid epidemic becoming a national health emergency, some are saying that not enough has been done. Many have accused the White House and Congress of moving too slowly with this issue. As a result, the death toll has continued to climb.

In 2017, there were more than 49,000 people who died because of opioid drugs. That is nearly 7,000 more than the previous year. As more of these deaths are investigated, it is clear that typical prescription painkillers are not the most to blame. The vast majority of them are due to illegal Fentanyl, which is usually mixed with heroin, or some other type of street drug.

Much of the illegal Fentanyl being brought into the United States comes from China. Chemical laboratories there are selling the drug to U.S. users and dealers, as well as to Mexican drug supplies. These individuals then market the drug to people in the United States.

This is a situation that is not likely to change without help from our country’s lawmakers and law enforcement. This video offers a unique glimpse into the Fentanyl drug trade from China.

It is not that surprising that drug overdoses are on the rise in New York City. Fortunately, the rate of deaths has slowed down, which is good news. Of course, Fentanyl is at the heart of most of these reports. In 2017, the NYC health department reported that this drug was the most commonly identified in overdose deaths.

Experts say that the risk of a fatal overdose is much higher for African Americans than it is for whites. But the outlook is good due to the fact that the death rates seem to be increasing at a slower pace.

This is primarily due to the fact that newer treatments are available for people who overdose. Medications like Naloxone have changed the medical community’s response to overdoses. More people’s lives can be saved as a result of this drug’s availability.

What are the Side Effects?

Fentanyl comes with a long list of side effects. The older you are, the more likely it is that you will experience them. But they can happen to anyone.

The most common side effects of Fentanyl are:

  • Feeling weak
  • Drowsiness
  • Getting constipated
  • Feeling confused
  • Constricted pupils
  • Falling unconscious
  • Slower breathing rates
  • A decreased heart rate
  • Stiff muscles
  • Problems with concentration
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Feeling flushed or excessive sweating

Fentanyl also carries some serious adverse effects that should be reported to a doctor immediately. They include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, lips, throat or tongue
  • Chest pain
  • A pounding heart beat
  • Loss of coordination
  • Hallucinations
  • High fever
  • Twitching muscles

Fentanyl overdoses happen for a few different reasons. Some people overdose on this drug when they attempt to stop using it on their own without medical help. The overdose occurs when they suffer from a relapse and inadvertently take too much of the drug. Others may overdose because it is their first time using it, or they are not aware the drug they are using has been laced with it.

Regardless, it is important to know how to recognize a Fentanyl overdose. The symptoms include:

  • Lips turning blue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Gurgling sounds when breathing
  • Stiffening of the body
  • Seizures
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Bouts of confusion
  • Strange behaviors
  • Becoming unresponsive

A Fentanyl overdose is a deadly situation. It is vital to call 911 immediately. Do not delay. The paramedics are equipped with Naloxone (Narcan), which can save the person’s life.

For those who are abusing Fentanyl in the appropriate way, with a doctor’s prescription, the short-term effects probably are not anything to worry about. These individuals may experience many of the side effects listed above. They will also experience the more pleasant effects of reduced pain, relaxation and euphoria.

For people who are abusing the drug in higher doses than they should, or who are using illegal Fentanyl, the situation is much different. In this case, the short-term effects can include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Itchy skin
  • Confusion or brain fog
  • Slurred speech
  • Appetite reduction

There have also been reports that even with short-term use, memory loss has been reported by some Fentanyl abusers. Doctors are calling it permanent amnesia caused by brain damage. These individuals also report having a very difficult time learning new information. Dr. Marc Haut serves as the chair of West Virginia University’s department of behavioral medicine and psychiatry. He states, “Every day is pretty much a new day for them, and sometimes within a day they can’t maintain information they’ve learned.”

Obviously, even short-term use should be avoided at all costs, unless the drug is doctor-prescribed. Even then, patients should not stay on it for very long.

For those who are addicted to Fentanyl and/or using the drug long-term, the effects are even more serious. These individuals frequently display signs of poor judgment; both at work and in their personal lives.

Along with these, additional long-term effects have been observed. They include:

  • An increased risk of injury due to a decrease of oxygen in the body.
  • An increased risk of damaging multiple organs.
  • An increased risk of overdose, and possibly death.
  • Worsening mental health conditions.
  • Significant mood changes.
  • Reduced libido.
  • Problems with menstruation for women.
  • Respiratory impairment.

Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

Earlier, we stated that it is possible to become addicted to – or at least dependent upon – Fentanyl after just one use. Still, there are many people who are addicted to it, but do not realize it.

There are several symptoms that indicate that an opioid addiction may be present. They include:

  • Using the drug more often or longer than intended.
  • The inability to control one’s use, or cut down.
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining the drug, using, or recovering from using.
  • Having a very strong desire to use; to the point of being unable to think about anything else.
  • Using even though it results in negative consequences, such as legal problems or social issues.
  • Using even though there may be risks involved, such as prior to driving a car.
  • Using the drug even though it is leading to mental or physical health problems.
  • Forming a tolerance to the drug; which means it takes more of it to get high.
  • Going through withdrawal when the drug wears off or it is stopped.

Reviewing these symptoms should provide some clarity. But if it does not, it may help to take an addiction quiz to learn more. Many drug rehabs will also offer free phone assessments to people. This is an excellent option because it allows them to get information from someone in the addiction treatment field.

What to do if a Loved One is Addicted to Fentanyl

For those who have loved ones who are addicted to Fentanyl, their lives are usually riddled with stress and worry. They may live in fear of an overdose, but yet, they are unsure about how to talk with the addict about getting help.

It is important to have a conversation with the family member about the addiction. They must be told about the dangers of the drug, and they should be asked to seek help. If they refuse, there are other steps that may be taken.

An addiction intervention can be a very useful tool in this case. These meetings are monitored and run by someone who works in this field called an interventionist. They will guide the process of the meeting and offer coaching to the family members and friends who attend.

Many interventions have favorable outcomes. When they are done correctly, the vast majority of people go on to get treatment.

Fentanyl Addiction, Dangers and Recovery

The Options for Recovering From an Opioid Addiction

Opioid addictions are some of the most devastating addictions in the world, and Fentanyl is certainly one of the most dangerous drugs. For those who want to stop taking this medication, there are a number of ways to proceed.

A Self-Detox at Home

The first goal should be to go through detox. Fentanyl will cause a variety of withdrawal symptoms, and many people know what the earliest ones feel like because of what they experience when the drug wears off.

It has becoming very common for people to want to try a self-detox at home. They may want to attempt to use drug detox kits, drinks, vitamins or supplements to help them get through their symptoms. The problem is that there is currently no safe way to detox from drugs at home.

With a drug as powerful as Fentanyl, complications can arise that can quickly become medical emergencies. Also, the risk of relapsing is very high because of how potent this medication is. It is much safer to opt for a professional detox program.

Quitting Cold Turkey

Like self-detox, quitting cold turkey has also become very popular. Many people believe that they can just stop using Fentanyl, suffer through the withdrawal for a few days, and then they will be better. Unfortunately, it does not work that way.

Stopping Fentanyl cold turkey is never recommended. The website, Vice, published an article by a woman who quit opioid drugs. This is what she had to say:

“You want to know what it feels like? It feels like the worst flu you ever had, the sickest you’ve ever been, times suicidal thoughts and complete and total confidence that you are never, ever, ever going to feel better. It feels like the day your wife left and your kitten died and there were no more rainbows anywhere and never will be again.”

For her, quitting opioids made her want to die. She longed to use again, but knew that she could not.

Going cold turkey is not the answer. Drugs like Fentanyl should not be stopped abruptly, and there is an easier way.

Going to Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

Getting Fentanyl addiction treatment is the best option available for those who want to recover. This means a combination of treatments for both the physical and the psychological sides of the addiction.

For addicts, it makes a difference to have experts who are there to help them. These are people who understand what this addiction is, and how difficult it is to stop. They also know what has worked for others and can apply the appropriate treatments to help each individual patient.

The process begins with an opioid detox. The treatments each patient receives are tailored to their individual needs. Once detox has been done, the patient can then move on to rehab for additional therapy.

What to Expect During Opioid Detox

There is a specific list of drugs that require detox, and Fentanyl is on that list. It is important to get treatment to help with withdrawal symptoms. This improves the likelihood of long-term recovery.

Also, complications can arise during the recovery process. Detox helps to reduce the risk of these complications, which might otherwise require a trip to the emergency room.

Going through an opioid detox program is critical for anyone who is addicted to Fentanyl. Patients who have experienced it report that it was one of the key components in their recoveries.

Any drug that results in addiction with repeated abuse will probably have withdrawal symptoms when it is stopped. Fentanyl is no different. According to the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, this drug carries many signs of withdrawal. They include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Tachycardia
  • Nausea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Intense drug cravings
  • Tremors
  • Heart palpitations
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety

As far as the Fentanyl withdrawal timeline goes, symptoms usually appear within 12-30 hours after the last dose. Although some people indicate they have experienced them must sooner.

With proper treatment, withdrawal symptoms may remain for several days. They often become worse over the course of the first three days. After that time, they start to taper off. Most people feel better within a week or so.

Medical detox is usually the first course of action for people with a Fentanyl addiction. They may or may not be tapered off their medication. Tapering can help to alleviate many withdrawal symptoms.

After that, people are usually placed on medication assisted treatment. This is a form of therapy that utilizes certain FDA-approved medications to help with withdrawal symptoms. There are many drugs that have been approved for this purpose, including:

Studies have shown that Vivitrol may be more effective than Suboxone. Proponents appreciate the fact that it is not an opioid drug, therefore it is non-addictive. The earliest studies of its use are quite promising.

Non-medical detox is also important. Holistic methods are often implemented to help the body detox on its own. This might involve nutritional therapy, meditation and physical exercise.

While patients are going through MAT, they will also be required to work with a therapist. There are so many issues that need to be explored as they recover. Therapy and medication together has shown to be extremely effective.

Continuing Treatment With Opioid Rehab

Once detox has been completed, the next step is to continue on to a rehab that specializes in treating Fentanyl addictions. During that time, patients receive different forms of therapy, based on their unique and specific needs.

Therapy is a vital component during rehabilitation. It allows patients to understand and heal from the cause of their addictions. If they suffer from any mental health conditions (co-occurring disorders) those are identified and treated as well.

Treating the cause of the addiction is so important and doing so is likely to reduce the risk of a relapse. This is a step in the recovery process that should not be skipped.

Types of Therapy Recommended for Fentanyl Addicts

There are several different types of therapy that are often recommended for patients during drug rehab. Many of the following could be implemented.

  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment – This is a form of treatment designed to help those with co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety or depression.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy – This form of therapy helps patients identify destructive behaviors and learn how to effectively change them.
  • Motivational Therapy – This form of treatment gives patients the motivation they need to make changes in their lives for the better.
  • 12-Step Meetings – The 12 Steps are usually covered in Narcotics Anonymous meetings, but the principles are frequently used during rehab as well. By following a series of steps, addicts learn how to put the pieces of their lives back together.
  • Family Counseling – Families often bear the brunt of addictions, and relationships are severed with the people they love. Family therapy helps to rebuild those important relationships.

What are the Different Types of Opioid Rehabilitation Centers?

There are several types of opioid treatment facilities that can help people with Fentanyl addictions. Some forms of treatment are better suited for most people than others; especially during the early part of recovery.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient drug rehabs are, by far, the most popular form of treatment available. They work well because they remove the patient from their normal surroundings for a period of time. During their stay, they are able to focus solely on recovering.

Most inpatient rehabs offer a 28-day program. This generally includes the time they spend during detox, if necessary.

Residential Rehab/Long-Term Treatment

Some people may need a more intensive form of treatment. This is found in residential programs or long-term rehab facilities. These types of centers are often called sober living homes as well.

Residential rehab is appropriate for those who have a long-standing history of addiction. It may also be necessary for someone who has a history of relapsing. Patients can stay for several months at a time while they receive treatment.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are becoming more popular than ever. They allow patients to live at home, work or go to school while still receiving treatment.

People appreciate the availability of IOPs because not everyone can commit to an inpatient stay. The programs usually run for about 12 weeks, and patients are expected to comply with the requirements.

Outpatient Rehab

Finally, outpatient rehab is a form of treatment that is usually best for those who have gone through a higher level of care first. It typically only includes weekly appointments with a therapist. Most people with Fentanyl addictions are going to need more help than what can be offered during an outpatient setting.

That being said, outpatient programs are an excellent way to get follow up treatment. They are frequently recommended to patients who have gone through an IOP or an inpatient program.

Crack Cocaine Addiction and Treatment

Fentanyl Addiction Recovery is Available for Anyone Who Needs it

It can be scary to go through life knowing that you are addicted to Fentanyl. This drug is extremely dangerous, and it has already claimed so many lives all across the United States. The good news is that there is a way to stop using it if you would like to.

At Northpoint Washington, we know how serious your addiction is. We have worked with many people suffering from Fentanyl addiction, and we know what it takes to overcome it. Our caring and qualified staff is ready to assist you as soon as you are ready to recover.

Do you have additional questions about Fentanyl addiction or treatment? We would love to answer them for you. Please contact us today.

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