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What is Fentanyl? Abuse, Addiction and Treatment

Fentanyl abuse and addiction have become very serious problems in the United States. People often do not realize that there are treatment options available to help them get off this drug. If you are currently abusing it, and you have become addicted, it is so important to consider getting help.

People get addicted to Fentanyl for a lot of different reasons. Many form addictions to it because they started taking it for medical reasons and took it for too long. There are a lot of other reasons as well.

Regardless of why you started using Fentanyl, the key is to get off it as soon as possible. Continuing to use it can have disastrous and dangerous consequences. But the good news is that there are ways to stop using it successfully. The right treatment can change everything.

Let’s begin by talking about what Fentanyl is and why it is so dangerous. Once you can the risks, it may be easier for you to find the motivation to stop.

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What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a potent and powerful pain medication that is only given under extreme circumstances. It is an opioid drug, and it is usually used to treat breakthrough pain in people with cancer. There are other reasons why it might be prescribed as well.

Fentanyl comes in a few different forms. It can be prescribed as a lozenge on a handle, as a sublingual tablet, as a film, and as a buccal tablet. This drug is also available in the form of a patch that can be applied to the skin.

When it is used as directed, Fentanyl can be a very effective pain medication. Unfortunately, not everyone uses it as prescribed, and too many doctors overprescribe it as well.

Fentanyl is much stronger than other drugs in its classification. This is why it is usually reserved for people who are being treated for cancer. It may also be given to people who have grown tolerant to other narcotic drugs and need something stronger.

In general, doctors will start their patients on the lowest dose of Fentanyl possible. After that, their dosage will gradually be increased until the right strength is found. This process is done very slowly because giving too much of it at one time can be fatal. It is one of the strongest opioid drugs on the market, and it is fifty times stronger than heroin, and one hundred times more powerful than morphine.

Most people do not realize that there is more than one version of Fentanyl available. According to the DEA, the version that is found on the streets is much different from the one available in hospitals. A lot of people purchase the street version thinking that it is the same, and it is not. Others may not even know that they are buying it when they purchase street drugs.

CNN reports that in 2018 in California, Fentanyl was being sold as the narcotic drug Norco on the streets. In one ten-day period, there were forty-eight overdoses, and at least ten people died as a result.

There is no doubt about it; Fentanyl has been mostly responsible for driving the opioid epidemic in the United States. It is a dangerous drug, and people need to be made aware of their options for getting off it.

Fentanyl is highly addictive; perhaps even more so than other types of opioid painkillers. Some experts even believe that it is possible to get addicted to it after just one dose. This is because of the way that these types of drugs work in the body.

Opioid drugs work by binding to the opioid receptors in the body. They are located in many places, including the brain and spinal cord. Once this process takes place, sensations of pain are blocked, and relief is experienced. But something else is also happening in the brain.

Opioids also cause the release of excess dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that everyone experiences all day long. It is what makes us feel happy and content. When too much of it is released, people experience sensations of euphoria. In addition, the brain comes to expect that amount of dopamine all the time. Without it, people no longer feel like themselves.

This is an excellent video that explains the way that opioids work in the body.

What makes Fentanyl so different is that it works much faster than either heroin or morphine. That is because it binds to opioid receptors faster, which makes it more addictive.

Because of how dangerous this drug is, it is truly shocking to read many of the more recent Fentanyl statistics. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • Illegal Fentanyl (a synthetic opioid) passed prescription opioids as the most common drug involved in overdose deaths in 2016.
  • That same year, synthetic opioids were involved in close to 50% of all overdose deaths. That number was 19,413.
  • In 2010, synthetic drugs including Fentanyl were responsible for 14% of all overdose deaths. That year the number was 3,007.
  • In 2016, there were 42,249 overdose deaths that involved opioid drugs.
  • 45.9% of them were synthetic opioids.
  • 17,087 of these deaths involved prescription opioids.
  • 23.7% of them involved synthetic opioids.
  • There were 10,375 overdose deaths involving cocaine that year.
  • Of that number, 40.3% of them involved synthetic opioids.
  • There were 15,469 deaths that involved heroin.
  • Of those deaths, 37.4 involved synthetic opioids.

The list could go on and on.

Fentanyl seems to be showing up everywhere, only adding fuel to the fire of the opioid epidemic. It is a trend that needs to change.

The Side Effects of Fentanyl

Like other opioid drugs, Fentanyl is not without a long list of side effects. As we mentioned earlier, this drug is very potent. It has a powerful effect on the body. It is important to understand what can happen when you start taking this drug.

Fentanyl Addiction Information

Many medications have side effects that are common, and this one is no different. Some of these side effects may linger, while others may go away with time.

  • Problems with sleeping
  • Excess stomach acid
  • Confusion
  • Constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Excess sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Physical weakness
  • Excessive itching
  • Loss of appetite

Fentanyl can also have side effects that are much more severe, but that are considered to be common for the drug. They include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Breathing problems
  • Periods when breathing has stopped
  • Problems emptying the bladder
  • Fever
  • Problems with nervous system function

Any of these is a cause for concern and should be reported to a physician right away.

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Fentanyl Abuse: How Does it Begin?

Sometimes people are very confused about how someone might start abusing a drug like Fentanyl. After all, it is quite dangerous, and it carries a long list of warnings. Why would anyone want to abuse it?

The answer is that there are many reasons, and perhaps you can identify with one of them below.

Quite often, people begin abusing a drug like Fentanyl without really meaning to. They receive a prescription for it, and they start taking it as directed by their doctors. Eventually, they develop a tolerance toward the drug, and that means it no longer works as well as it should.

Instead of talking with their doctor, they will increase how much they take on their own. Or, they may start taking doses that are too close together. Either one is dangerous; especially with a drug like Fentanyl.

Inadvertently abusing this drug is still abuse that can lead to an addiction. Yet, it happens to so many people every single year.

A lot of people start taking Fentanyl when it has not been prescribed for them. They might be offered a dose from someone else, or they might steal it from someone who has some in their medicine cabinet. People get their hands on medications in a lot of way; all of which are risky.

There are a lot of good reasons why doctors do not prescribe Fentanyl very often. It should only be given under certain circumstances, and only when medically necessary.

It may only take one dose of the drug to get hooked on it. After that one dose, the person may seek out street Fentanyl, or try to purchase it online illegally.

As you saw in the statistics we listed, Fentanyl is frequently mixed with other drugs. Drug dealers may do this to raise the base drug’s potency and make it more attractive to their customers. Even mixing a small amount into heroin, cocaine, or another substance can result in an addiction.

In a world where this is happening, using street drugs is even more dangerous than it was 20 years ago. This is a trend that needs to stop, and while the DEA is working hard to get Fentanyl off the streets, so much more needs to be done.

How Does Fentanyl Abuse Lead to Addiction?

There is a general process that someone must go through in order to get addicted to a drug. Even though Fentanyl is powerful, that process must still be followed; people just may go through it faster.

When someone takes Fentanyl for the first time, they experience a euphoric high. They also get pain relief, and the two of these feelings together is often enough to demonstrate its effectiveness as a drug. Before long – possibly even after the first dose – this medication does not work as well for them any longer. They eventually grow dependent upon it, and then become addicted.

If you are currently taking Fentanyl, and you have been for any period of time, you are probably addicted. If that is the case, it is vital for you to seek help right away.

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The Dangers of Opioid Addiction

One of the issues with opioid drugs is that they are often believed to be perfectly safe. This is the case even when they are purchased illegally, as Fentanyl often is. Despite the warnings that are placed on prescription packaging, people fail to recognize the risk of addiction. Doctors often do not do a good enough job of educating their patients on the dangers either.

An opioid addiction has the power to completely take over your life. Before you know it, you may no longer be able to work or care for your family. Activities that you once loved to participate in may fall by the wayside because using is more important to you. Everything could change for the worse, including adding another addiction.

The sad truth is that continued Fentanyl abuse can absolutely lead to a heroin addiction. For many people, it does.

NIDA reports that the number of people who started using heroin was 19 times higher than those who did not use any opioid drugs. Additional research showed that 86% of people who use heroin had previously used prescription painkillers non-medically.

But the question is – why? What would drive people to try heroin?

Several years ago, obtaining a prescription for an opioid pain reliever was relatively easy. Many doctors kept their patients on them for years; mostly because they were first led to believe that they were non-addictive.

Once their addictive nature was brought to light, that started to change. Doctors were less willing to prescribe opioids, and it was harder to obtain them. A lot of people tried doctor shopping as a way to get their hands on more prescriptions. When that became more difficult, they often turned to ordering them online, or to heroin.

The reality is that a lot of people chose heroin because it was easier to obtain and because it was cheaper. Even today, that is why so many individuals have switched from prescription painkillers to heroin. To them, it just made sense.

Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

When someone suffers from an addiction to Fentanyl – or any other opioid drug – they are likely to have at least some of the following symptoms:

  • An ever-growing increased tolerance for Fentanyl.
  • The inability to stop using, even when they want to.
  • The inability to cut down on how much they use.
  • Withdrawal symptoms once the drug is out of their system.
  • The strong desire to continue to use despite the potential consequences.
  • Problems with relationships and employment.
  • Financial issues due to spending excess money on Fentanyl.
  • Extreme weight loss or gain.
  • Excessive sleep
  • Legal problems because of stealing money to pay for Fentanyl.

You do not have to identify with all of these to be an addict. But identifying with more than one demonstrates how severe your addiction may be.

There are other ways to find out if you might be addicted to Fentanyl as well. Some people prefer to speak with a professional about their situations. Many drug rehabs provide free addiction assessments that can be done right over the phone. This is an easy way to get information from a trusted resource.

It is also possible to learn more by taking a drug addiction quiz. This one is excellent and it can tell you how severe your addiction is, or if you are addicted at all. If you do have a problem that needs to be treated, a recommendation will be given as well.

Fentanyl in the News – A Mass Overdose

This is a drug that has not been out of the limelight very often in recent years. It was found to be responsible for the death of Prince after he overdosed, and it still continues to wreak havoc all over the United States.

For instance, a mass opioid overdose took place in California, and experts believe that Fentanyl was the cause of it. One person died as a result, and 12 others were hospitalized. The incident took place at one residence in the north part of the state.

Police chief, Michael O’Brien stated, “Were waiting, and have been waiting unfortunately, for this to happen in the sense that we knew Fentanyl had been moving west.”

This was only one of the first times his police department had ever been called to respond to this type of incident. Since that time, the number of calls have definitely increased.

The risk of overdosing on Fentanyl is very real. This drug has a profound effect on the brain, and it can be lethal in very small dosages.

This means that someone could take it for the first time and overdose. This happens much more often than most people realize. It is why there have been so many mass overdoses taking place all over the country. Police have to respond to these calls now more than ever before. When they do, they themselves are also at risk because they may come into contact with the drug. It is possible for it to seep through the skin and lead to an overdose as well.

There is a difference between overdosing on Fentanyl and overdosing on other types of opioids. It can take a while for the effects to begin when taking heroin or a prescription painkiller. But with Fentanyl, they start almost right away. Some have reported that they begin within seconds to minutes.

Many Fentanyl overdoses are the result of injecting the drug. In a lot of cases, people do not even have time to pull the needle back out. They simply collapse.

The signs of a Fentanyl overdose include:

  • Bluish tinted lips and/or fingertips
  • Gurgling sounds when breathing
  • Body stiffening
  • Onset of seizures
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Confusion or bizarre behavior prior to becoming unresponsive

A Fentanyl overdose is an emergency situation, and it is not something that can be treated at home. 911 needs to be called right away so that paramedics can treat the victim and get them to the hospital.

Most addiction treatment, law enforcement and medical professionals agree that Naloxone is a drug that is desperately needed. This medication was created for the purpose of reversing the effects of opioid overdose. It is classified as an opioid antagonist. That means that it binds to the opioid receptors to block the effects of these drugs.

When Naloxone is given soon enough, it can help people start breathing again if they have overdosed on opioids. It can be given via injection, as an auto injectable, and as a nasal spray.

In most cases – and especially when it comes to Fentanyl – more than one dose of Naloxone is needed. The person who receive the drug will experience withdrawal symptoms, and they can become severe. But, as long as it is given quickly, Naloxone may save their life.

Quitting Fentanyl Safely – Know Your Options

The best option for anyone addicted to Fentanyl is to find a way to stop using it. Most people who are addicted to this drug do not want to continue to abuse it. They want to find a way out, but they do not know where to turn.

People have a lot of options available to them when it comes to quitting Fentanyl. But please be aware that because this drug is so powerful, the only safe way to quit is through professional treatment.

Opioid drugs are extremely hard to quit cold turkey, but most people do not realize that. Because of the number of people who think drugs like Fentanyl are safe, it is common for people to just stop once they realize they are addicted. This practice is extremely dangerous.

Quitting opioids cold turkey can make you want to die. One woman describes her experience with quitting this way:

“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.”

Most experts would agree that because of the potency of Fentanyl, quitting cold turkey might be even worse than stopping other opioids.

It is not uncommon for people to try to taper off Fentanyl once they learn they are addicted to it. They may begin in a number of ways. If they are using the patch, they may try to cut it into a smaller size. If they are taking it internally or injecting it, they may use smaller amounts each time.

In theory, this sounds reasonable. But the problem is that without professional knowledge, they have no idea what might happen. They could run into a complication and end up with heart problems, or even have a stroke.

medical taper is usually needed to stop using Fentanyl safely. This is often done in a detox setting, which we will talk about more in just a moment.

We live in a world where everyone is looking for the fastest, easiest remedy. People who are addicted to Fentanyl may want to attempt a natural detox at home for this reason. So many websites advise people to take a certain combination of vitamins and supplements to get off opioid drugs. Again, it may sound good in theory, but there are a number of problems with this method.

There are no FDA approved natural detox remedies on the market. That means that none of these products has been proven to be effective or to be safe for someone who is addicted opioids.

Drug detox kits can be ordered online, and many pharmacies carry them on their shelves. These kits are a lot like natural remedies. They may contain products that they say will be effective, but people usually end up suffering as a result of using them.

There are no FDA approved drug detox kits on the market. At most, these companies use clever marketing techniques to sell products that may or may not work.

Drug detox kits can be ordered online, and many pharmacies carry them on their shelves. These kits are a lot like natural remedies. They may contain products that they say will be effective, but people usually end up suffering as a result of using them.

There are no FDA approved drug detox kits on the market. At most, these companies use clever marketing techniques to sell products that may or may not work.

The best way to recover from a Fentanyl addiction is to go through drug detox. This ensures that you will get the treatment you deserve for your withdrawal symptoms, which can become severe.

Detoxing can take several days to complete, but people tend to feel better much faster. Also, professional detoxification has been proven to be effective.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Once you stop taking Fentanyl, you are likely to go into opioid withdrawal. It can happen quickly, and for many people, the symptoms start in as little as six hours after the last dose.

When stopping the use of Fentanyl, withdrawal symptoms are to be expected. This is a powerful drug that has probably been taken for quite some time. The body and the brain have both gotten used to it. In a way, it is almost as though they do not know how to function without it.

When the drug is stopped, the body is trying to find its new normal again. Until it does, it can get thrown off, which is why withdrawal happens.

The common symptoms of Fentanyl withdrawal include:

  • Intense muscle pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Stomach cramps
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • A rapid heart rate
  • Excessive sweating

It is also possible for people to have seizures or experience other complications after stopping the use of Fentanyl.

The type of Fentanyl a person is using will have a direct effect on how long withdrawal will last once they quit. In most cases, the severity of their symptoms should reach the peak by about the third or fourth day. By the end of the week, most of their symptoms should be gone.

It is important to note that the timeframe may differ from person to person. Those who get professional addiction treatment should also have a much easier time with the recovery process.

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

The best way to recover from a Fentanyl addiction is through treatment. This means going through both drug rehab and detox so that both sides of the problem are treated.

A quality addiction treatment center will provide you with everything you need to recover. They will advise you on the best way to detox, and then they will help you heal from the mental part of your substance abuse problem.

The Need for Detoxification

As we mentioned earlier, Fentanyl withdrawal can become quite severe in most cases. People are often not aware of how bad it can get, and may have only experienced mild withdrawal when missing their dose.

Detoxing helps because it removes those harmful toxins from the body. When it is done correctly, it can reduce the severity of symptoms while also reducing the risk of complications.

When it comes to stopping the use of Fentanyl, detoxing is a requirement for safety reasons. There are several different forms of treatment that may be prescribed.

Most people may start their withdrawal treatments with a Fentanyl taper. This would reduce the amount of the drug they take over a period of time. Tapering can be very effective at minimizing symptoms and bringing relief faster.

Opioid tapering is very specialized, and every patient has different needs. Doctors are careful to work with their patients on an individual basis to come up with a schedule that is right for them.

Medical detox is very important for people who are addicted to opioid drugs like Fentanyl. They often need to be placed on different medications to help them with their withdrawal symptoms. This is called medication assisted treatment, and it is now considered the standard for this type of drug detox.

A number of different medications can be given to people who are addicted to Fentanyl. Among them are:

The issue with many of these drugs is that they can be addictive themselves. In fact, that is why so many experts advocated against them for so long. But Vivitrol offers an excellent alternative.

Vivitrol is a drug that is given by injection once a month. It has shown to be highly effective when it is used in combination with counseling. It is also non-addictive, and many people have had success with it.

Holistic withdrawal treatment should also be the standard for the best drug detox programs. This is because the body is very good at detoxing on its own when it is in good health. Unfortunately, drug abuse takes quite a toll, and the kidneys and liver often suffer as a result.

By making certain dietary changes and adding exercise, the body can be brought into a better state of health. It can also help with teaching the brain how to release the right amount of dopamine again.

Drug Rehab: The Next Step

A quality drug rehabilitation program should be the next step after detox. The problem is that a lot of times, people feel better after they have gone through the detoxification process. They may think that they no longer need any further treatment.

In reality, they do. Detoxing is only one step in the process of recovery. Unless the person’s psychological addiction is treated, they will probably only go right back to using again.

As many as 50% of people with addictions also suffer from co-occurring disorders. This means that they have some type of mental health issue that makes it impossible for them to stop using.

There are several different types of these conditions, including:

Sometimes they have been previously diagnosed, but shockingly, that is not always the case. All the patient knows is that they experience symptoms and using helps those symptoms go away.

Dual diagnosis treatment programs are centers that treat co-occurring disorders and addictions at the same time. These two conditions should never be treated separately, as was the practice not too many years ago. Doing so does a disservice to the patient because they never learn how they are connected.

By effectively treating co-occurring disorders, patients have a much better chance of recovering. With their symptoms under control, it gives them one more reason not to turn to substances as a way to cope.

Types of Drug Rehabilitation Programs

There are a lot of ways to go to an addiction treatment program. Help comes in all different forms, and people all need very different things. What matters most is that you find a center that will work well for you and what you need.

Please note that drug detox is something that should only ever be done on an inpatient basis. There are many programs that say they offer outpatient detoxification services, but they may not be safe. It is much better to go to an inpatient program where you can be monitored closely.

Let’s take a moment and talk about the different types of rehab.

This is often referred to as the “Gold Standard” of rehab. It requires a 28-day stay in an inpatient facility, and that usually also includes time spent during detox.

People usually choose inpatient treatment because they know they need a higher level of care. It may not be safe for them to be home, or they may have a poor support system there.

Choosing an inpatient rehab means getting support 24 hours a day. Staff members are always on hand to talk to you, or help you in any way that you can. Most of all, you leave your “old life” behind and have the chance to make a fresh start.

Intensive outpatient treatment programs are becoming more and more popular. This involves attending appointments during the evening, several days a week. Most programs run either three or five days, and each appointment is around three hours long.

IOPs can work really well for someone who needs something more flexible. Not everyone is able to make the commitment to attending an inpatient program. For those who cannot, this form of treatment has been shown to be just as effective.

Long-term rehab is for people who need a much higher level of care. These are individuals who may have been unsuccessful at inpatient treatment in the past. They may have a history of relapses, or they could have an unsafe home life.

Residential programs allow patients to stay for much longer. Some are called sober living homes, and they give people a chance at a better life.

Finally, outpatient rehabilitation programs are also available. They offer a less intensive program, and are usually better suited for people who have been through either an IOP or inpatient treatment.

Learn How to Get Help for Fentanyl Addiction

If you need help for a Fentanyl addiction, we can assist you at Northpoint Recovery. We know what you are going through. This drug is extremely hard to get off of, and perhaps you have tried on your own without success. The right treatment can make such a difference, and our program might be exactly what you need.

We offer drug detox and rehab all in the same location. This makes getting treatment convenient as well as effective.

Did we answer all of your questions about Fentanyl addiction? Do you need to find out more about detox and rehab? Please contact us right away.

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