Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever, has attracted a lot of attention in recent years. It was identified as the drug that contributed to the deaths of musicians Tom Petty and Prince. It is also one of the major causes of overdose deaths related to synthetic opioids in the opioid crisis.
Fentanyl is extremely addictive. Even if you use fentanyl as prescribed by a doctor, it is possible to become addicted within several days. When you take illegally produced fentanyl, which doesn’t come with dosage information and cannot be guaranteed to be pure, it’s likely that you could take more than you intended and become addicted even sooner or overdose.
If you or a loved one is addicted to fentanyl, get help as soon as possible. Contact Discovery Point Retreat today at 855-306-8054.
We’re here to make fentanyl addiction treatment as accessible and affordable as possible — and are in network with many insurance providers. Not sure about your coverage? We can help.
Fentanyl has been around for more than 50 years, used primarily to treat severe pain after surgery, and has become one of the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths in the United States. A study in 2017 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that fentanyl was involved in 59 percent of opioid-related deaths. That number continues to grow due to an acceleration of opioid-related overdoses during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Known by its street names Apache, China Girl, Tango & Cash, Dance Fever, Jackpot, King Ivory and others, 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, in 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. Even first responders who come to help overdose victims are at risk of overdosing themselves. Just coming into contact with a small amount of the drug could put their lives in danger as well.
A fentanyl addict is more likely to overdose on fentanyl than other opioids alone, based on information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This is because fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid. Fentanyl is around 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, and just a small amount can be enough to overwhelm the body.
Fentanyl is one of the major contributors to overdoses, both fatal and nonfatal, around the United States. These overdoses may be a result of illicitly manufactured or pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl. While both are synthetic opioids, only pharmaceutical fentanyl is precisely measured and manufactured. Illicit fentanyl is more likely to lead to fentanyl-related overdoses and may be mixed in with other drugs, like heroin, to increase their effects. Unfortunately, the extreme potency often leads to overdoses and deaths.
In the United States, around 150 people die daily as a result of overdosing on synthetic opioids. Since fentanyl is so dangerous, it’s advised to test all drugs with fentanyl test strips when they’re purchased illegally. Even though purchasing illicit drugs is against the law, fentanyl test strips have been made available to help reduce the chances of overdosing on laced drugs.
Unfortunately, overdoses related to synthetic opioids are more common than ever. In fact, they were around 12 times higher in 2019 than they were in 2013, pointing to a significant growth in the number of overdoses related to fentanyl and sister drugs. In 2019, over 36,000 people died from complications of overdoses that involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl. In 2020, it was suggested that there was an increase above that number that was accelerated due to the pandemic.
Fentanyl addiction must be taken seriously because of how easy it is to overdose on this powerful pain reliever. 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.
The dangers of fentanyl cannot be overstated. Signs of fentanyl use should spur you into action, such as by calling for help with an intervention or to get your loved one into addiction treatment.
The primary symptoms of fentanyl use and 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.
Fentanyl treatment falls into the same treatment methods as other opioid use disorders. There are medications, like buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone, which are used to help you avoid serious withdrawal symptoms.
If the fentanyl addiction exists alongside a mental health disorder, then you will have a dual diagnosis. Dual-diagnosis treatment is different, because the goal is to treat the underlying mental health condition, like anxiety or depression, at the same time as treating the addiction to opioids.
If you have chronic pain or another condition linked to the opioid abuse, you will want to work closely with a doctor and team of pain specialists, so that you can get the pain relief you need to function normally in your everyday life. Interestingly, due to the way tolerances build to opioids, you may be able to significantly reduce your use of pain medications in the future even though you’re stopping the large doses you currently take.
Fentanyl addiction treatment can happen in one of a few ways. You may opt to go through inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, partial hospitalization, or intensive outpatient treatment. Many people choose to use medication-assisted treatment during detox and recovery. You can, however, choose to taper off prescription opioids, for example, without the use of medication-assisted therapy. From there, there are other alternative treatment options, such as:
It is up to you to decide how you want to proceed with detox and recovery. The main goal is to help you get through withdrawal and to avoid relapse while teaching better coping mechanisms and ways to handle pain or addiction in the future.
A fentanyl overdose can quickly lead to life-threatening symptoms. The signs of an overdose should be recognized as quickly as possible, and the life-saving reversal drug, naloxone (NARCAN), should be given as soon as possible. Naloxone will only work if there are opioids in the person’s system.
The main signs of a fentanyl or opioid overdose include:
If you suspect that someone you care about has overdosed on fentanyl or another opioid, call 911 and use naloxone if you have it available. Try to keep the person awake, and make sure they keep breathing. If they are not breathing and naloxone isn’t available, CPR could help them survive until the emergency team arrives.
Even if you have naloxone and it works to reverse the effects of fentanyl, your loved one should still go to the hospital. They may need another dose of naloxone, or several more, until the opioid is out of their system completely.
When you go through withdrawal for an addiction, the 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.
Our fentanyl rehab is prepared to help you detox from fentanyl safely. As you begin to withdraw from fentanyl, you are likely to experience physical and mental symptoms like anxiety, agitation, sweating, aches, pains, and general restless and tiredness. Later, as you progress through withdrawal, the symptoms may become more severe. They might go on to include:
It’s possible that you could have a strong opioid dependence if you’ve taken fentanyl for a long period of time or if your body has built a tolerance to it in a shorter amount of time than usual. Since the symptoms of withdrawal may be uncomfortable, it’s helpful to go through withdrawal with medical support. You might opt to join an outpatient program, inpatient detox program, or hospital-based program, for example.
While the symptoms of withdrawal may be uncomfortable, they are not usually dangerous. However, it is possible to suffer from complications during withdrawal. These complications could become life-threatening in some cases. For example, dehydration could occur with vomiting or diarrhea. An electrolyte disturbance could cause problems, or you may aspirate and develop a lung infection.
Since these complications are possible, it’s a good idea to consider seeking guidance while you go through the withdrawal process. With medical support, you may find that you benefit from one of several medications used to ease recovery.
Common medications used to help treat fentanyl withdrawal include:
On top of these treatments for fentanyl addiction and withdrawal, you may benefit from self-help groups, inpatient treatment, outpatient counseling, or intensive outpatient treatment.
When withdrawal is this intense, you need medical assistance to deal with the pain and severity of the symptoms. At Discovery Point Retreat, 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.