The Guide to Fentanyl Addiction and Treatment

Understanding fentanyl addiction and its corresponding signs can help you or a loved one successfully overcome it. Fentanyl is a dangerous synthetic opioid that can wreak havoc in an individual’s life. Keep reading to learn more about the dangers of fentanyl and the signs of fentanyl addiction. 

What is Fentanyl?

fentanyl withdrawal and treatment

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used primarily to treat patients with severe pain following surgery. When taken under the care of a physician, fentanyl is administered through an injection, transdermal patch, or in lozenges. However, people also use fentanyl on the streets for different purposes that pose a danger. 

Fentanyl on the streets has been linked to a recent surge of overdoses. It’s generally sold as a powder, mixed with heroin, or as tablets similar to opioids. Fentanyl users tend to swallow, snort, or inject it. 

Like other opioids, fentanyl binds to the body’s opioid receptors which increases dopamine levels in the brain. This produces a state of euphoria and relaxation.

The effects of fentanyl are similar to those of heroin and include: 

  • Drowsiness
  • Euphoria
  • Confusion
  • Sedation
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Unconsciousness or coma
  • Death from overdose

What are the Different Types of Fentanyl?

Illegal Fentanyl 

Illegal fentanyl can take three main forms:

  1. Spiked blotter paper
  2. Manufactured tablets
  3. Powder

Generally, fentanyl users obtain the drug from illegal manufacturers. In many cases, heroin users turn to fentanyl as a substitute to mitigate the side effects of heroin withdrawal. In other scenarios, heroin or cocaine users may accidentally take fentanyl. This is because heroin and cocaine manufacturers will use fentanyl powder to reduce costs while also increasing potency. Illegal manufacturers may also produce tablets that mimic other opioids using fentanyl.

Brand-Name Fentanyl 

Doctors use brand-name fentanyl to alleviate chronic pain, such as after surgery or during cancer treatment, and breakthrough pain. Some brand names include:

fentanyl patch
  • Actiq: This form of fentanyl comes as a lozenge on a plastic stick that is taken under the tongue. It is generally used for individuals already on pain-relieving medications.
  • Duragesic: This form of fentanyl comes as a patch and is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Its effects can last up to three days.
  • Sublimaze: Sublimaze is an injectable form of fentanyl. It’s used to lessen discomfort before and after surgery.
  • Subsys: Subsys is a spray administered under a patient’s tongue to relieve pain quickly. It’s often used to treat breakthrough cancer pain.
  • Abstral: Abstral is also used to treat breakthrough cancer pain. It’s a quick-dissolve tablet version of fentanyl and is placed under the tongue as well.
  • Lazanda: This is a fentanyl nasal spray delivered in the same manner as a common nasal spray. It’s mostly used to treat pain in cancer patients.

Fentanyl Overdoses are Rising 

In 2011, oxycodone was one of the main drugs linked to overdose deaths. Starting in 2012 and lasting until 2015, heroin surpassed painkillers in overdose deaths. Then fentanyl came along. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even called fentanyl “the third wave” of the opioid epidemic.

By 2016, overdose deaths caused by fentanyl became the most common. Research shows that the rate of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl doubled each year from 2013 to 2016. 

In 2017, these numbers continued to rise, as stated by a CDC data brief. Overdose deaths involving fentanyl had risen to 9 per 100,000 people, compared to 6.2 per 100,000 in 2016.

Fentanyl Addiction: What are the Symptoms and Signs?

Fentanyl addiction is a chronic disease that seriously impacts the brain and body. It also causes severe damage in the individual’s life, from relationships to work-related issues. If you need to use the substance regularly, you most likely have a fentanyl addiction. In other words, addicts feel like they can’t function without it. 

fentanyl needle

Physical and physiological dependence occurs as a result of chronic usage. Generally, you can recognize addiction through a severe loss of control. This can include continued use despite serious consequences, making using a priority, as well as failed attempts to quit. 

Fortunately, recognizing the symptoms of fentanyl addiction can help you or a loved one choose from seeking help. Symptoms of fentanyl addiction include but are not limited to:

Mood Symptoms

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion

Behavioral Symptoms        

  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop using 
  • A large amount of time spent obtaining, using or recovering from the drug
  • Using continues despite problems affecting the individual socially, academically or occupationally
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Risky behavior, such as driving under the influence

Physical Symptoms

  • Cravings
  • Tolerance
  • Need for more of the substance to obtain the desired effect
  • Constipation
  • Nausea 
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Increased heart rate

What are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction?

fentanyl withdrawal
2mg is considered a fatal dose for most users.

Abruptly stopping fentanyl abuse can cause uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal occurs as a result of your body’s physical dependence on the drug over time. When you suddenly stop using the drug, your body needs time to adjust. 

The duration and severity of withdrawal symptoms will depend on a few factors. For one, the severity of the addiction plays a large role. Also, how long the individual was using the drug, as well as how long.

The more severe the addiction to fentanyl, the more chronic the withdrawal symptoms are as a result. Although they differ depending on the person, there are common withdrawal symptoms that most will experience. 

Early symptoms of withdrawal generally include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Runny nose
  • Sleeping problems
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue

Later symptoms of withdrawal typically involve:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Involuntary leg movements
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Those with a history of fentanyl addiction generally build a stronger opioid dependence. Consequently, this can lead to life-threatening withdrawal symptoms such as seizures and irregular heart rate.

What Treatment Can I Expect for Fentanyl Addiction? 

Fentanyl addiction treatment targets different parts of the addiction, as well as any co-occurring disorders present. We apply various components and evidence-based methods in our program to ensure long-term fentanyl addiction treatment success.

Beginning Fentanyl Addiction Treatment with Detoxification

A medically supervised detox is crucial when fentanyl withdrawal symptoms are severe. The process of detoxification in a medical setting helps to alleviate the pain and severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Detox is a process in which a licensed medical team supervises an individual while he or she stops taking a substance. This process helps rid harmful toxins in your body caused by fentanyl addiction. Through detox, your body begins to heal.

Detox is generally the first component of a comprehensive treatment plan for fentanyl addiction. Following detox, the core components of fentanyl addiction treatment can then begin. Each individual will have a tailored fentanyl addiction treatment plan based on their unique needs and circumstances. 

You may be asking yourself, what else does fentanyl addiction treatment include? See below for other treatment services that our recovery center offers.

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment Services

We tailor every treatment plan that we create to each individual patient. The combination of therapies and services used will differ from person to person. 

However, the core of our treatment will generally include: 

  • Behavioral services: Therapy plays a key role in fentanyl addiction treatment. Addiction often has underlying issues such as a mental health disorder. Our dedicated addiction counselors will help you build coping mechanisms and skills to help you maintain long-term sobriety.
  • Medical support: Your physical health becomes affected through long-term fentanyl use. That’s where our medical team comes in. We’ll help you manage your withdrawal symptoms and take care of any related health issues.
  • Supportive peer community: At Harmony Ridge Recovery Center, we understand the value of peer-to-peer support. Our group therapy services and encouraging community will support you throughout your recovery journey.
  • Dual diagnosis treatment: If you have both a fentanyl addiction and a mental health disorder, you’ll need dual diagnosis treatment, or treatment for co-occurring disorders. Through dual diagnosis treatment, you’ll partake in a combination of evidence-based therapies. 

Seeking Help for Fentanyl Addiction: Receive the Treatment You Deserve

Seeking help for fentanyl addiction can save lives. Fentanyl is a dangerous drug that can lead to many long-term issues and even death. We urge you to take action and seek help, whether it’s you or a loved one who’s affected. Through the highest quality treatment, you can turn your life around. 

What Makes Harmony Ridge Recovery Center Different?

addiction treatment

We pride ourselves on the Golden Rule, which tells us to treat others the way you wish to be treated. Harmony Ridge staff treats each team member with dignity and respect, no matter their position. 

We believe that treating and overcoming addiction is personal. Addiction has affected every single member of the Harmony Ridge family in some way. Some of us have personally achieved recovery, while others have loved ones who have been impacted by the disease.

Call Us Today

It’s our goal for every member of our recovery center to feel safe, secure, and welcome. The Harmony Ridge Recovery Center team is here to help you or your loved one every step of the way. If you have any additional questions or concerns, contact us today. We’re waiting for your call.

References:

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/12/12/676214086/fentanyl-surpasses-heroin-as-drug-most-often-involved-in-deadly-overdoses

https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/fentanyl.html

https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db329-h.pdf