What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic pain reliever that’s designed specifically to be used for the treatment of severe pain. To understand just how potent fentanyl can be, it’s believed to be around 50-100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl is typically used for cancer treatment and after a surgical procedure. Because of the potency of fentanyl, it’s easy to become dependent on the drug. To better understand when treatment is needed, you should first know more about fentanyl addiction and the signs that come with it.
Standard Fentanyl Forms
If you’re trying to avoid using fentanyl, this drug comes in many forms, all of which you should be aware of. For instance, Duragesic is a fentanyl patch that’s used for the treatment of moderate and severe pain. When using this patch, the effects can last upwards of three days. Another common type of fentanyl is Sublimaze, which is administered to patients via an injection. Because of how this medication is given, it’s typically used at hospitals and similar medical settings.
No matter the type of fentanyl that is administered to you, this drug works by blocking the pain receptors that are found in the brain while also enhancing the production of the dopamine chemical that causes the individual to experience heightened happiness. The combination of pain dissipation and euphoric feelings can make the individual who’s taking the drug become dependent on it.
What Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction Entails
Fentanyl is a highly potent drug that can be difficult to wean yourself off of even when you’re taking it at a prescribed dosage. As such, the risk of abuse and addiction is very high with fentanyl. If you take fentanyl at levels that are higher than what you’ve been prescribed, you might begin to experience euphoria as well as a heightened sense of relaxation, which is similar to the high that can be obtained from taking heroin. Because of how fentanyl interacts with the brain, it can be very difficult to stop taking the drug. Individuals who take fentanyl for pain relief may find that the only way they can effectively cope with the pain is by taking this drug.
The main problem with the continued use of strong drugs like fentanyl is that the body and brain become more dependent on the drug over time. If you’re taking this drug for pain relief, continued use of the medication will eventually lead to the standard dosage not providing the same level of pain relief. When this occurs, many individuals will increase the dosage to make sure that they continue to experience the same amount of relief from their pain. Over time, you may find that you’ve increased consumption of the drug so much that you’ve become addicted to it, which means that your body can no longer function properly without the drug in your system.
Symptoms of Fentanyl Withdrawal
Once you have become addicted to a substance, you may find that stopping the use of the drug will lead to the development of withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal is problematic because it causes the individual who is addicted to the drug to feel much worse than they did while on the drug. The symptoms of withdrawal are similar to having the flu.
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms will typically occur around 12-28 hours following the last dosage of the drug. The withdrawal symptoms that you experience will likely be at their most intense for the first 2-3 days, but it can take weeks or months for the symptoms to completely stop, depending on how long you have used the drug. The primary symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal include:
• Muscle weakness
• Stomach cramps
• Runny nose
During withdrawal, you may experience an increase in cravings for fentanyl. During this period of withdrawal, taking fentanyl can lead to an overdose. The intense desire to not suffer the effects of withdrawal is why many individuals will relapse if they attempt to go through it on their own.
If you attempt to stop taking fentanyl on your own and experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, it’s highly recommended that you seek medical treatment immediately. Otherwise, you may find it difficult to avoid relapsing. It’s also important to understand that withdrawal can lead to serious health complications and may require medical intervention.
Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Abuse
Whether you are currently taking fentanyl for pain or believe that someone close to you may be abusing the drug, it’s important that you’re fully aware of the various signs and symptoms that indicate fentanyl abuse. When signs of abuse are evident, treatment is absolutely essential to mitigate the damaging effects of substance use disorder. The most notable signs of fentanyl abuse include:
• Slowed breathing
• Blurry and unfocused vision
Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous drugs out there. Prolonged use of fentanyl often leads to a higher tolerance of the substance. As tolerance increases, use of the drug often increases as well. Mixing fentanyl with another illicit substance like cocaine or heroin can increase the side effects that come with abusing fentanyl, increasing the risk of overdose. Because a very small amount of fentanyl is required to achieve the same effect as with other drugs, the risk of overdose with fentanyl is particularly high. An overdose can cause respiratory failure, which can lead to death.
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment Options
If you are currently abusing fentanyl or believe that you’ve become addicted, treatment is very important. The first step towards treatment is admitting that you have a problem. When you start to take more of the drug than has been prescribed to you or find that you’re making excuses to others about taking the drug, these signs indicate that you are abusing the substance, which makes treatment necessary. It’s recommended that you receive assistance while going through the withdrawal process.
In most cases, detoxification is the first element towards stopping drug use. This process can occur in an outpatient or inpatient setting. During detox, you will go through the withdrawal process in a controlled environment, which means that medical professionals will be on hand to make sure that any adverse side effects are caught and treated immediately.
There are also times when this process will be assisted with medications to keep the withdrawal symptoms at a minimum. As touched upon previously, the acute withdrawal process for fentanyl can take anywhere from 3-7 days. Once this process has been completed, the drug will be out of your body, which means that you can move on to further aspects of treatment.
When you’re searching for the right treatment for your substance use disorder, the main types of treatment available to you include outpatient treatment and inpatient rehab, the latter of which is considered by many medical professionals to be the most effective option. When you enter an outpatient program, you will be tasked with attending treatment at an outpatient facility around 3-4 times each week for several hours per day.
While this mode of treatment can be effective at helping you cope with your addiction and manage your cravings, you will still be allowed to go home or to work every day, which could place you in an environment that isn’t conducive to recovery. If being in this environment contributed to your addiction in the first place, going home every night during recovery only increases the possibility of relapse. It’s also possible that you will still have access to the drug that you are trying to recover from, which can make it more difficult to stay clean.
Likely the most effective treatment option is inpatient rehab, which requires you to enroll in a residential facility for a period of anywhere from one month to over a year. The amount of time that you spend in a residential facility largely depends on how long it takes for you to learn how to cope with your addiction. During inpatient rehab, you will need to stay at the facility on a 24/7 basis. The main benefit of being confined to this facility is that you will be in a drug-free environment while you recover, which significantly reduces the possibility of relapsing.
Many inpatient programs include fun activities that can help the time pass as you focus on recovery. These activities are also important to learn to enjoy life again without the use of drugs. Whether you attend outpatient treatment or inpatient rehab, the types of treatments that will be administered to you are largely the same. The primary components of rehab include individual counseling and group therapy, the latter of which allows you to focus on recovery alongside other individuals who are in the same position that you are.
Individual counseling focuses on helping you identify why you became addicted so that you can better manage the addiction and the cravings that come with it. This one-on-one therapy can also help identify underlying issues that may have led to your substance abuse. Some of the additional features of inpatient treatment programs include family therapy, yoga, medication, and educational programs.
Treatment Centers to Consider
While there are a large number of treatment facilities that you can select from, two centers that should be at the top of your list include the Green Mountain Treatment Center and New Freedom Academy, both of which have proven to be effective at helping individuals cope with their addictions.
Green Mountain Treatment Center is located in Effingham, N.H. It is open to men and women who are 18 years old or older. This facility is situated in a pleasant location among the White Mountains, providing views of rolling hills, beautiful trees, and colorful apple orchards.
When you attend inpatient rehab at the Green Mountain Treatment Center, treatment will focus on a 12-step program that’s combined with evidence-based clinical therapies. The treatment plans are individualized to make sure that your needs are accounted for. If you require a medical detox, the program at this center provides 24-hour medical monitoring. Some additional features of this inpatient program include:
• Holistic therapies
• Additional treatment for medical disorders
• 12-step meetings and workshops
• Access to an on-site gym
New Freedom Academy is located in Canterbury, N.H., and is designed to provide patients with a more intimate setting when compared to the majority of inpatient rehab facilities. There are only 20 beds in this treatment center, which allows for more personalized care. Once you progress through detoxification, there are numerous treatments that will be available to you, which include:
• Individual therapy
• Motivational interviewing
• Group therapy
• Grief and loss therapy
• Dialectical behavior therapy
• Cognitive behavioral therapy
Along with the standard treatments that are available at New Freedom Academy, anyone who enrolls will also have access to numerous features and amenities, which include:
• On-site medical staff that’s available 24/7
• Treatment that includes medication when necessary
• Weekly family recovery workshops
• Chef-prepared meals that are healthy and nutritious
• A secluded and peaceful location
• Outings for paintball and mini-golf
• Various educational programs
If you are suffering from substance use disorder, remember that help is available. Now that you understand more about fentanyl addiction and how it can arise, you should be better prepared for seeking treatment.