Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever, attracted a lot of attention in recent years when it was identified as the drug that contributed to the deaths of musicians Tom Petty and Prince. But it has been around for more than 50 years, used primarily to treat severe pain after surgery, and it has become one of the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths in the United States. A recent study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that fentanyl was involved in 59 percent of opioid-related deaths.
Known by its street names Apache, China Girl, Tango & Cash, Dance Fever, Jackpot, King Ivory and more, fentanyl is up to 100 times stronger than morphine. In its legal versions, it is administered as shots, patches and lozenges, while illegal fentanyl can be found as a powder, in eye droppers or nasal sprays, on blotter paper, or as pills made to look like other prescription opioids.
Because it is so strong, users only need small amounts of fentanyl to experience feelings of euphoria and pleasure. For this reason, drug dealers often add fentanyl to other illegal drugs to produce a less-expensive high. In many cases, people take fentanyl without knowing it – and because they don’t realize they are taking such a strong opioid, there is a higher chance of overdose.
Fentanyl is also extremely addictive. Even if you use fentanyl prescribed by your doctor, it is possible to become addicted within several days. And when you take illegally produced fentanyl – which doesn’t come with dosage information – it’s likely that you could take more than you intended and become addicted even sooner.
When someone uses fentanyl, they experience a wide range of physical symptoms including confusion, blurred vision, nausea, drowsiness and slowed breathing. They are also likely show signs of typical drug-addicted behavior – compulsive use, cravings and impaired judgement.
Other symptoms of fentanyl addiction include:
The number of deaths caused by an overdose of fentanyl and other opioids has been increasing over the past three decades. It is possible to overdose on fentanyl alone, or when it is mixed with heroin or other opioids. Research has shown that fentanyl-laced heroin is up to 50 times more potent than regular heroin, making it extremely dangerous and a major cause of opioid-related deaths.
Although a fentanyl overdose is potentially fatal, a drug called naloxone has been proven as an effective life-saving treatment if it is administered shortly after the overdose occurs.
When you go through rehab for an addiction to fentanyl, the withdrawal symptoms can be severe. The drug’s addictive qualities are powerful and depending on how much and how often you use fentanyl, it may be very difficult to overcome your addiction without a fully supervised medical detox program.
As you begin to withdraw from fentanyl, you are likely to experience physical and mental symptoms – anxiety, agitation, sweating, aches and pains, and general restless and tiredness. Later, as you progress through withdrawal, the symptoms may become more severe – nausea, vomiting, cramping, diarrhea and spasms.
If you have been using the drug for an extended period of time, you have probably developed a strong opioid dependence, and your struggle to get through withdrawal could become even more difficult, as you potentially experience heart issues, seizures and other serious symptoms.
When withdrawal is this intense, you need medical assistance to deal with the pain and severity of the symptoms. Medications such as buprenorphine, naltrexone and methadone have been successful in decreasing cravings for fentanyl and increasing your chances for a successful recovery.
At Discovery Point, our medical staff is trained to know just what you need to get through this difficult stage of recovery, and we administer your medications accordingly. You have our team’s full support around-the-clock to ensure your detox is as safe and comfortable as possible. Through constant monitoring and observation, we give the best opportunity to get through this first step of the rehab program successfully.
Your treatment for fentanyl addiction also may include behavioral therapy modalities, to help identify and address any underlying mental health disorders that could contribute to your addiction. Through group therapy sessions, one-on-one counseling and other behavioral treatment options, we help you develop a deeper understanding of your addiction to fentanyl and give you the tools and life skills you need to remain sober for the long term.