Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment Options

Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid typically prescribed for high-level
pain such as post-surgery. It is generally 50 to 100 times more
potent than morphine, making it a drug with a high risk for
dependency and abuse. Fentanyl works similar to other opioids
by creating a barrier to pain and an increase in dopamine,
resulting in a feeling of euphoria. These fentanyl effects make
it a popular drug to abuse. Fentanyl abuse has a higher rate of
overdose and death in those who have not developed a
tolerance to other opioids.

What is Fentanyl Addiction

As stated before, fentanyl has a high risk of addiction due to its high potency. An addiction to fentanyl can start in many ways. In can begin through prescribed medications after surgery or following cancer treatments. Or it can begin through recreational use of other opioids such as heroin because fentanyl has become a widely used filler for street dealers. Some recreational opioid users may unknowingly become addicted to fentanyl because of this method.

Addiction to fentanyl occurs when a user becomes dependent on the drug, either psychologically, physically or both. Many users become addicted to fentanyl effects which include, euphoria, increased pleasure and a powerful sense of well-being. If you are using fentanyl, you may find that as the drug begins to leave your system, you want to get back the feelings the drug gave you as soon as possible. If you notice that you or a loved one has begun to use fentanyl outside of the recommended course prescribed by your doctor, you may be in the first step of addiction to fentanyl.

Individuals who do not get treatment for fentanyl abuse have an increased risk of long term mental and physical health problems as well as the risk of arrest, financial problems, homelessness, and death.

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Fentanyl Addictions: Signs + Symptoms

Symptoms of fentanyl abuse are very similar to those of other opioids and include:

  • Disengagement for family and friends
  • Engagement in risky or dangerous behavior
  • Stealing from family and friends to purchase fentanyl
  • Lying to family and friends
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Doctor shopping for fentanyl prescriptions
  • Increased anxiety
  • Feelings of paranoia
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Confusion
  • Impaired judgment

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Fentanyl Withdrawal: Signs + Symptoms

When an individual becomes addicted to fentanyl the body and mind become dependent on the drug to function properly. When you stop using fentanyl, especially if you stop using it abruptly, it can trigger symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can vary in their severity depending on how long you have been fentanyl, your level of dependency and your tolerance level. Individuals with higher tolerance and dependency will generally have more withdrawal symptoms that are more severe.

You can begin to experience withdrawal symptoms from fentanyl within 12-30 hours from the last time you used, depending on how large the dose and the method of administration. Time release patches will generally have a longer onset period for withdrawal symptoms. In the initial stages of withdrawal, symptoms may be relatively minor and include:

  • Muscles aches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Agitation

Initial symptoms typically last two to three days. Physical symptoms begin to worsen between days three and five and include gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, as well as increased muscle and bone pain. You may begin to experience extreme anxiety and depression as well. Days three to five are considered the worst during the withdrawal period, after which, symptoms begin to decrease and should be virtually alleviated within two weeks of the onset of the first symptoms.

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The recommended treatment for fentanyl addiction is comprehensive care to include medication-assisted therapy and group and one on one counseling. While not life-threatening, it is not recommended to quit using fentanyl abruptly (or “cold-turkey”) because the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe which increases the risk for relapse.

Most individuals begin with detox when starting treatment for addiction to fentanyl. Medication-assisted therapies, such as buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone are recommended to combat withdrawal symptoms and increase the probability of success. These medications combine a low-dose opioid and a medication the feelings of euphoria that result from taking opioids. This allows for a decrease in the intensity of withdrawal symptoms without giving the reward of the high.

After detox, you or your loved one will enter either inpatient or intensive outpatient care. Which one you enter will depend on your level of dependency and need. Inpatient will provide 24/7 care and any medically needed support. Inpatient care may be encouraged for those dealing with co-occurring conditions as they enter their recovery. Intensive outpatient care is recommended for those who don’t need medical monitoring and can continue their recovery at home. Both inpatient and outpatient services include individual and group counseling to help you or your loved one develop coping methods for dealing with life’s challenges without returning to using fentanyl.

Dealing with an addiction to fentanyl can be difficult, but the good news is you don’t have to do it alone. There are many treatment options available to get you on the path to a successful recovery. If you or a loved one is ready to take the next step. Give us a call today for more information.

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