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Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

fentanyl addiction treatment pic

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s been at the forefront of the opioid epidemic the last few years. Reserved in medicine to treat pain in cancer patients or after surgical procedures, fentanyl has made its way onto the streets and is readily available and abused.

Illicit drug makers commonly add fentanyl to heroin. Despite the massive health risk of opioid painkillers and heroin, fentanyl has brought about an even graver opioid epidemic. Synthetic opioids that are more powerful and deadly than heroin. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It’s been tied to an over 16% increase in overdose deaths from 2018 to 2019 and more than 36,000 synthetic drug overdoses in 2019. Abuse of this drug is serious and fentanyl addiction treatment by professionals should be sought as soon as possible.

About Fentanyl

Fentanyl was first approved over 50 years ago as a surgical anesthetic and was later approved for treating severe pain for advanced cancer patients in the late 1990s. Fentanyl is now prescribed to treat patients’:

  • Severe pain
  • Pain after surgery
  • Chronic pain when tolerant to prescription opioids

Since fentanyl is completely synthetic (human-made), it can be produced cheaply, and therefore sold on the black market for less money than natural opioids like heroin.

It’s just one of the many factors contributing to the opioid crisis in the country today, but because it’s synthetic, illegal manufacturing is easy. This presents a greater danger for drug users who are unaware of how much fentanyl is in their heroin.

The black-market production of fentanyl is concerning because there’s no uniformity to the strength from one batch to the next one. This is clear in multiple reports of “killer batches” of heroin in isolated areas where a spike in overdose deaths occur in a short period, especially in the northeastern regions of the country. In addition to an additive for heroin, dealers sell fentanyl by itself for substance abusers seeking the most intense high available. When sold on the street, fentanyl has several names. Some common street names for fentanyl include:

  • Murder 8
  • Serial Killer
  • China White
  • Percopop
  • Drop Dead
  • Shine
  • Apache
  • Dance Fever
  • TNT
  • Jackpot
  • Goodfella

Fentanyl sold on the streets may have some of the same street names as heroin, like China White, increasing the chances that a user will buy it and overdose on fentanyl, thinking they’re using heroin. Medical formulations of fentanyl are all listed as schedule II drugs, with full acknowledgment of fentanyl’s high potential for abuse and dependence. Fentanyl is manufactured legally in many different forms, from very short acting for acute pain, to extended release fentanyl patches to manage chronic pain for 12 hours or more. Some efforts have been made to prevent diversion and abuse of prescribed fentanyl. However, the illicit production of the prescription drug has more than sustained the black market, overriding any tamper-proof efforts made by pharmaceutical companies.  If you feel you need fentanyl addiction treatment, please call us right away.  We can help!

Effects of Fentanyl

The primary concerning effect of fentanyl abuse is respiratory depression and failure, which are the main symptoms of overdose. Fentanyl is much stronger than other prescription opioids like morphine. It comes in micrograms (µG), or one-millionth of a gram, whereas most medications, like other strong opioids, are measured in milligram amounts (one-thousandth of a gram). Although it’s known for effectiveness as a pain medication, a minuscule amount of fentanyl is enough to produce life-threatening effects if you don’t have some tolerance to opioids.

Like all opioids, the hallmark effect of fentanyl that makes it most dangerous is respiratory depression. In overdose situations, your breathing and heart rate are so depressed that you could stop breathing entirely, causing coma or death.

Whether you’re taking fentanyl for medical or non-medical reasons, it can cause the same effects and risks. As an opioid and central nervous system (CNS) depressant, the respiratory depression it can cause is dangerous on its own. However, fentanyl can be deadly when mixed with other CNS depressants including:

  • Other prescription opioid painkillers
  • Benzodiazepines like Xanax
  • Alcohol
  • Heroin

A tiny amount of fentanyl can be the difference between feeling high and an overdose death, even in the most experienced heroin users.

Another major concern of fentanyl abuse is dependence and addiction. Fentanyl, like other opioids, can quickly lead to dependence when used regularly for an extended time — even just a few weeks.

Withdrawal symptoms can begin within a few hours of the last dosage of fentanyl, depending on the frequency and strength of fentanyl used.

Effects of clinical doses of fentanyl can include:

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Euphoria
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Depressed respiration
  • Constricted pupils
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Flushing
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weakness
  • Stiff or rigid muscles

Signs of Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction

The key sign of fentanyl abuse is if you’re taking it in any other way than as prescribed by a doctor. Do not let this warning sign go unaddressed. Fentanyl abuse can be fatal. It’s not to be taken lightly. If you’re concerned that a loved one is abusing fentanyl look for these warning signs:

  • Taking fentanyl in higher doses or at different times than prescribed.
  • Going to multiple doctors to obtain more prescriptions.
  • Using alcohol or other drugs while on fentanyl.
  • Changes in personal hygiene or weight.
  • Excessive sleepiness or “nodding off” at odd times.
  • Withdrawal from family, friends, and activities.
  • Financial, legal, occupational, or relationship issues.
  • Finding hidden or empty prescription bottles.

No one goes from being opioid-naive to abusing fentanyl without a few steps in between. Fentanyl is up to 100 times stronger than morphine, so you need to develop a very high tolerance to opioids to use fentanyl without serious risk of overdose and death. Even though these days heroin commonly contains fentanyl when sold on the streets, fentanyl alone still presents the same fatal overdose risks.

Some people with fentanyl addiction have been prescribed the drug at some time. The only way you can obtain a fentanyl prescription is through a physician who has medical documentation of your chronic pain disorder and a documented history of increasingly more potent opioid painkillers. Many opiate addictions begin by simply taking more of the drug than indicated or combining it with other opioids to enhance the euphoric high it produces.

The longer you abuse fentanyl, the more your tolerance grows. More and more fentanyl is needed to achieve the same effect. When you’re addicted to fentanyl, normal amounts of the drug aren’t sufficient to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Without fentanyl addiction treatment you increase your risk of taking too many other opioids or depressant drugs, and the potential for a fatal overdose.

Another serious concern of fentanyl abuse is that normal doses of the opioid-overdose-antidote naloxone are often insufficient to reverse the drug’s effects. In many cases of heroin or other opioids, naloxone can reverse the effects and immediately revive you. However, medical workers have recently found that several doses of naloxone are necessary to reverse the overdose effects of fentanyl. The inability to reverse the deadly effects of a fentanyl overdose quickly have led to thousands of deaths over the last several years of the opioid epidemic in the United States.

Behavioral Addiction Effects

Addiction to fentanyl is like addiction to any other drug. You feel a physical and psychological need to use the drug and can lose all sense of ethics, morals, and honesty in the process of constantly seeking and using fentanyl.

Although addiction does involve a physical dependence on fentanyl, it’s important to note that addiction and dependence are not the same. Dependence is a natural development on any substance used regularly for a prolonged time. Addiction is a series of behavioral patterns and disorders, one of the most dangerous of which is drug-seeking behavior.

The following are some common signs and effects of addiction to fentanyl:

  • Growing tolerance and need for larger and more frequent amounts of fentanyl.
  • Inability to cut down or stop using fentanyl.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using fentanyl.
  • Abusing fentanyl with other CNS depressant drugs like alcohol, benzodiazepines, or other opioids.
  • Neglecting responsibilities and obligations to continue using fentanyl.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal from opioids like fentanyl is well known for painful and uncomfortable symptoms. For most people, fentanyl withdrawal is not life-threatening, but it can be grueling. Withdrawal symptoms from fentanyl may begin within a few hours of the last dose, reach their peak between two and three days, and begin to fade around the fifth day. The exact timetable for fentanyl withdrawal symptoms vary depending on individual circumstances and abuse patterns.

Withdrawal symptoms typically start with a runny nose and frequent yawning before more severe withdrawal symptoms set in. These can include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Intense cravings
  • Vomiting
  • Clammy skin
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle pain and spasms
  • High blood pressure
  • High fever
  • Increased heart rate

Although fentanyl withdrawal is not life-threatening, it’s severe and painful enough that it can cause users to justify anything to avoid it. The attempts to “get well” can include a myriad of illegal and dangerous actions just to get fentanyl or any other opioid and avoid withdrawal.  As part of fentanyl addiction treatment, you can undergo medically assisted detox to decrease the withdrawal symptoms.

How Do You Treat Fentanyl Addiction?

Fentanyl addiction treatment begins with medical detox, to eliminate drugs from your system. Unlike quitting cold turkey, a medical detox provides a full-time medical staff to administer medications that can ease severe symptoms like:
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Severe anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
Fentanyl detox can last for several days. Some symptoms can linger for several weeks or months. These symptoms typically include intense cravings and anhedonia (an inability to feel pleasure). Some people may benefit from medication-assisted treatment (MAT). These synthetic opioids can help ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms by attaching to opioid receptors in your brain. Detox is not treatment. Eliminating drugs and alcohol from your system is just the first step in recovery. You must address the reasons behind substance abuse and learn healthy coping skills to stay sober despite triggers to use and life challenges. An effective addiction treatment program provides:
  • Coping skills to handle stress and pressure without turning to fentanyl or other substances.
  • Treatment for co-occurring disorders like mental illness.
  • Trauma therapies to address post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or complex trauma.
  • Communication skills to relay needs and emotions in a productive manner.
  • Education to recognize triggers for relapse and learning how to avoid them or manage them.
  • Behavioral therapy to identify and address underlying issues that may have contributed to drug abuse.
  • Nutritional classes and therapies to establish healthier lifestyle habits.
  • Proven addiction treatment approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and individual and group therapy.
  • Comprehensive resources and connections for sober activities and hobbies to help prevent relapse.
Recovery from opiate addiction requires more than just drug rehab. It’s a lifelong commitment to recovery. Before you leave inpatient or outpatient rehab, you’ll create an aftercare plan that supports sobriety. This may include:
  • Counseling appointments
  • Family therapy or couples’ therapy
  • Psychiatry for medication management
  • Medical appointments
  • 12-step groups
  • Work, school, or volunteering
  • Sober living residences

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment at Vogue Recovery Centers

Addiction and mental health treatment at Vogue Recovery Center is personalized to your individual needs, preferences, and life situation. Your treatment plan will reflect this. We offer both inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment as well as detox and sober living residences.

Treatment may include a combination of individual and group therapy as well as holistic approaches like yoga, art therapy, EMDR, and others. Our behavioral health treatment team is highly credentialed and experienced, but most importantly they are compassionate and authentic people who truly care about your well-being and recovery.

Entering treatment for drug or alcohol addiction is difficult. We strive to make this experience as stress-free as possible and ensure you feel comfortable and welcomed from day one. Our substance abuse and mental health facilities are home-like and cozy and include plenty of amenities. This way you can focus on getting better, not what’s lacking in your environment.

Will Insurance Pay for Fentanyl Addiction Treatment?

Your insurance may cover all or a portion of addiction treatment depending on your plan. Most insurances are required to cover behavioral health care in the same way as they cover medical care. Vogue is in network with several insurance providers, and we work with most major insurance companies. If you’re unclear about your drug rehab insurance coverage, call us for a free benefits check. We’ll work directly with your insurance provider to determine your coverage and any out-of-pocket costs.

Get Help Today

Although synthetic opioids like fentanyl have claimed thousands of lives, help is available, and recovery is possible. Addiction to this dangerous drug will only get worse without intervention and treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with fentanyl abuse or addiction, call us now to speak with one of our experienced counselors about how we can help you reclaim your life and achieve lasting recovery.


Vaun Williams

Medically Reviewed by Vaun Williams, Psy.D., LPC

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