Fentanyl belongs to a class of medications known as opioids. Opioids are pain medications used in the treatment of varying degrees of pain. Fentanyl is often used in combination with other medications for anesthesia and is typically used for severe pain.
Fentanyl Abuse & Addiction
Fentanyl is highly addictive; it is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Because of this, there is a high potential for abuse and addiction. Other addictive opioids include heroin, morphine, and hydrocodone. Fentanyl is typically used for severe or chronic pain and is therefore closely monitored by a doctor while in use.
Even while taken with a doctor’s prescription, Fentanyl can become highly addictive.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is one of the most commonly used opioid medications. It works in a way similar to morphine, heroin, and other opioid drugs. Fentanyl works by attaching to opioid receptors in the areas of the brain responsible for adjusting levels of pain and pleasure.
When Fentanyl binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, levels of dopamine increase, creating a state of calmness and euphoria.
Signs And Symptoms Of Fentanyl Abuse And Addiction
Since Fentanyl is such a powerful opioid analgesic, the chance for addiction is high. Doctors will closely monitor the individual taking the drug. But if used over an extended period of time, such as for chronic pain, the possibility of addiction increases.
When an individual stops taking Fentanyl, they may begin to feel adverse withdrawal symptoms. This indicates that a physical dependence has developed, and they cannot function physically without using the drug. The strength of Fentanyl presents a high risk of dependence, and one may find they experience withdrawal symptoms even under the care of a medical professional.
Fentanyl is commonly abused, for a number of reasons. Drug abuse is often a reaction to emotional distress, or symptoms of mental illness. Fentanyl can become a coping mechanism, or a way to manage stress, whether done consciously or unconsciously. Self-medication is another indication of drug abuse—this refers to the use of Fentanyl on one’s own to deal with pain or other symptoms. Without a medical professional on hand to monitor the use of Fentanyl, self-medication can be dangerous.
Fentanyl and many other opioids carry the risk of dangerous side effects.
The most common side effects of Fentanyl include:
- a headache
Seek medical attention immediately if any of these symptoms worsen. Often, dangerous symptoms can lead to coma and even death. When used as a coping mechanism or in self-medication, Fentanyl abuse can increase the chance of hazardous side effects.
Severe side effects of Fentanyl include:
- slowed breathing
- shortness of breath
- abdominal pain
- low blood pressure
The most common signs of Fentanyl abuse include:
- Upping dosage of Fentanyl without doctor’s permission
- Incapability to stop using Fentanyl
- Using Fentanyl concurrently with other substances
- Feeling irritable when unable to obtain Fentanyl
- A higher tolerance of Fentanyl
- Abandonment of personal responsibilities
- Inattention to friends and family
- Withdrawal symptoms
The Dangers Of Fentanyl Abuse And Addiction
When an individual is prescribed Fentanyl, a doctor will usually advise against taking other medications or drinking alcohol. As a highly potent opioid analgesic, Fentanyl and other substances can produce adverse reactions or overdose.
When taken concurrently, both Fentanyl and alcohol can produce serious side effects, such as:
- vomiting (often uncontainable)
- loss of consciousness
- irregular or slowed heart rate
Abuse of Fentanyl can result in death—it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention if these side effects occur.
When an individual is able to take larger and larger amounts of Fentanyl, this is known as tolerance. A high tolerance can lead to abuse. When taken over a long period of time, the risk of tolerance is high. That is why it is common to take Fentanyl with another drug or alcohol, so as to achieve a greater high. At the same time, taking Fentanyl with another substance greatly increases the chance of overdose.
Fentanyl overdose symptoms include:
- slow breathing
- slowed heart rate
- pinpoint pupils
- bluish tint
- low blood pressure
- loss of consciousness
A Fentanyl overdose can cause death. If an individual experiences a Fentanyl overdose, it is crucial to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Medications and medical procedures exist in order to reverse overdose symptoms.
Fentanyl Withdrawal And Detox
Dependence refers to the inability of an individual to function physically without using Fentanyl. Quitting Fentanyl on one’s own can be very difficult, as withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and severe. It is highly recommended to not go through Fentanyl withdrawal on one’s own.
Symptoms of Fentanyl dependence include:
- neglect of typical responsibilities
- neglect of friends and family
- increased side effects of Fentanyl
- “Doctor shopping,” or going to multiple medical professionals to get prescriptions
- obsession with use of Fentanyl
- continued use of Fentanyl despite negative symptoms and effects
If one attempts to stop using Fentanyl alone, they will experience adverse symptoms, which may make it very difficult to stop using Fentanyl on their own. This is known as withdrawal.
Symptoms of Fentanyl withdrawal include:
- joint or muscle pain
- stomach cramps
- elevated heart rate
If an individual attempts to quit Fentanyl on their own, they will likely have great difficulty in stopping use. Withdrawal is characterized by severe, painful symptoms. This is why the recovering addict will often go back to abusing the drug again—this stops the acute symptoms of withdrawal.
An inpatient drug treatment center will provide an environment of healing and comfort, in order to recover from the severe symptoms of Fentanyl withdrawal and subsequent recovery.
Treatment For Fentanyl Abuse And Addiction
In order to lessen the symptoms of withdrawal, in some cases, detoxification is completed through a process called tapering, which is a measured decrease in dosage of a drug. In addition to this, medication may be used to lessen cravings or
Furthermore, inpatient treatment centers will often provide group therapy, exercise, and other therapeutic activities to help with rehabilitation. These activities will help to reinforce the coping mechanisms learned in behavioral therapy.
Behavioral therapy is a psychological practice in which the individual learns positive coping mechanisms and techniques in order to cope with potential stressors or triggers. This is because drug abuse is often predicated by mental illness or emotional problems. When an individual abuses drugs, it is common to use them as a response to a trigger, whether it is external or internal. Internal stressors could manifest in the form of anxiety, depression, or other mental disorders. When the individual feels an adverse emotion, they may choose to respond by using drugs or alcohol. This becomes a negative coping mechanism, whereas behavioral therapy will help the individual to learn new coping mechanisms for dealing with those emotions.
A good inpatient treatment center will treat both physical and mental symptoms. Treatment must begin with detoxification, which may or may not include undergoing symptoms of withdrawal. By following up the treatment of physical symptoms with mental health treatment, the individual has the best chance toward a successful recovery. By learning how to cope with life’s inevitable stressors, one will find that they reach for positive forms of coping, rather than reaching for Fentanyl as a response.
DrugAbuse.gov – Fentanyl