Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction: The Deadliest Aspect of the Opioid Epidemic
Written By: Robert Castan | Edited By: Editorial Team | Last Updated: March 5, 2021
Springboard Recovery provides effective treatment for substance use & mental health disorders.
Table of contents
- What Is Fentanyl?
- Fentanyl Addiction Statistics In The United States
- The Short And Long-Term Effects Of Fentanyl
- How Do People Get Addicted To Fentanyl?
- Fentanyl Overdose: How Does It Happen?
- Fentanyl Addiction And Dependence
- Drug Detox And Medication Assisted Treatment
- Drug Rehab For Fentanyl Addiction
Our outpatient drug treatment program allows you to keep work and family commitments while focusing on your sobriety.
Whether a person gets addicted to Fentanyl because of known repeated use, or accidentally, treatment can help them recover. Recovery is a process that involves going through detox and rehab to treat the physical and psychological aspects of the addiction. But professional support is highly recommended for recovery simply because this drug is so potent.
Not everyone realizes how dangerous Fentanyl is. It can be helpful for people to know the truth about this opioid drug and how it can easily lead to an overdose if too much is used. But they also need to know that help is available for those who are addicted to it.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid analgesic drug that is very similar to morphine, but it is as much as 100 times more powerful. It is listed as a Schedule II prescription drug.
Doctors use Fentanyl to treat severe pain in patients whose pain is not well treated with other painkillers, such as Oxycodone and Vicodin. Most people who take it have had serious surgical procedures or they are suffering from pain due to cancer or cancer treatments.
Fentanyl is also available on the streets from drug dealers who get it from people who manufacture it for recreational use. It may be used as a cutting agent for heroin, cocaine or other drugs.
Medically, Fentanyl is sold under a few different brand names. It is available under the names, Actiq, Duragesic and Sublimaze. But when it is sold on the streets, it may be sold under one of many street names, such as:
- Dance Fever
- Murder 8
- Tango & Cash
Most drug dealers prefer to conceal Fentanyl in other drugs. They use it to give the other drugs they sell a higher potency.
Most people – even those who are addicted to opioid drugs like heroin – are well aware of the dangers of Fentanyl. It is not a drug that most people seek out on purpose because it can be very dangerous even in small doses. The following video demonstrates the size of the dose of Fentanyl that can kill an adult.
As we mentioned earlier, a lot of drug dealers will cut their drugs with Fentanyl to make it more potent. Many of the people who encounter these products die from an opioid overdose as a result. One might be tempted to be confused about why a drug dealer would want to kill off their clientele in this way. But the reality is that once word gets around that they have such a potent product, their actions only serve to boost their businesses even more.
Because Fentanyl is such a potent opioid drug, people who use it typically experience a range of side effects. They can include:
- Feeling confused.
- Having chest pain.
- Experiencing convulsions or seizures.
- Blurry vision.
- Labored or slower breathing rates.
- An irregular heartbeat.
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
- Fever or chills.
- Extreme fatigue.
- Changes in their mood.
- Mood swings.
- Swelling in the hands and feet.
There are also some less common side effects, which are:
- Having hallucinations.
- Muscle twitches.
- Painful headaches.
- An upset stomach.
- Problems with balance and coordination.
- Severe constipation.
- Symptoms of depression.
Fentanyl Addiction Statistics in the United States: How Many People are Abusing this Drug?
Fentanyl abuse and addiction have grown in recent years in the United States as a part of the opioid epidemic. According to a report from the CDC:
- In both 2012 and 2013, there were just over 2,500 deaths in the United States from synthetic opioids.
- By 2014, that number doubled to more than 5,000.
- That represents an increase of 264% in just three short years.
- But by 2015, even more people had died, and close to 10,000 people passed away from the use of synthetic opioids, including Fentanyl.
- That number represents a 73% increase from 2014 to 2015.
- In 2012, a fairly insignificant number of drug submission samples tested positive for Fentanyl.
- But by 2014, there were close to 1,500 that tested positive for the drug.
- By 2015, close to 4,000 submissions tested positive, which represents a 196% increase in just one year.
There is no doubt that Fentanyl abuse and addiction are on the rise. More people need to be made aware of the dangers of this drug and they also need to know that recovery is possible.
What are the Short and Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl?
Just like with other drugs, Fentanyl’s effects can vary based on how long a person is using it. The longer a person abuses it, the more severe the consequences will be.
The short-term effects of Fentanyl include the following:
- Quick and effective pain relief.
- A high feeling or sense of euphoria.
- A decreased appetite.
- A rash or another skin reaction if they are using the Fentanyl patch.
- Lower blood pressure than normal.
- Slurred speech.
Even if someone has never abused Fentanyl before, just one use of this drug could put someone at risk for an overdose.
There are some people who have formed such a tolerance to opioid drugs that using minute doses of Fentanyl is something they can tolerate. These are typically long-term users. But these individuals – even though they may have gotten accustomed to this drug – are still at risk for suffering from the long-term effects of it. They can include:
- Getting dependent or addicted to Fentanyl.
- Changes in the brain.
- Significant breathing issues.
- The risk of damaging vital organs in the body.
- The risk of heart problems.
- The development of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Some people can become hypersensitive to this drug and could experience anaphylaxis when they use it.
How do People Get Addicted to Fentanyl?
Most people who get addicted to Fentanyl are already addicted to other opioid drugs. These are people who typically using heroin or prescription painkillers on a regular basis. Once they start using Fentanyl, the addiction is practically immediately because their systems are already primed for it.
Opioid addiction occurs because a person has been taking these drugs for an extended period of time. It is possible to get addicted to both legal and illegal opioids in as little as a few weeks of regular use.
The body is equipped with opioid receptors. In someone who is not an addict, their natural neurotransmitters interact with the receptors to relieve pain, regulate hormones and perform other tasks. When that person takes an opioid drug like Fentanyl, it attaches to the opioid receptors. The result is pain relief and a sense of euphoria.
The euphoric high that is experienced is a direct result of an increase of dopamine in the brain. As time goes on, the individual is no longer able to make dopamine on their own, and they must rely on the drugs they use to do it. When not using, they may feel sad and depressed and have other symptoms too. At that point, they are addicted and usually in need of treatment to stop using.
It is important for people to understand how to tell if they or someone they love is addicted to opioids. According to the CDC, the signs of opioid addiction include:
- Attempting to cut down on one’s opioid use but being unable to, even if they have the desire to quit.
- Not being productive on the job or at work because of using opioids.
- Having relationship problems that stem from the use of these drugs.
- Learning that more of the drug is needed in order to achieve the same euphoric effects.
- Going through one or more overdoses.
- Experiencing strong cravings for opioids.
- Going through withdrawal when the drug starts to leave their system.
Other signs of addiction include:
- Continuing to use even though opioids are causing serious health issues, both physically and mentally.
- Using the drugs as a way to cope with one’s problems.
- Becoming obsessed with opioid use.
- Participating in risky activities to obtain the drug, use the drug or as a result of the drug.
- Living in denial that they are addicted.
- Financial issues because of the amount of money being spent on opioids.
Fentanyl Overdose: How Does it Happen?
As we mentioned earlier, many Fentanyl overdoses occur because a person used a drug and did not realize a stronger opioid had been added to it. But it is possible for people to overdose who use it regularly if they misjudge their dose.
Today, there are medications that can be administered to people who overdose on opioids like Fentanyl. It is called Naloxone, and it is a life-saving drug as long as it is administered in time. It works by reversing the symptoms of the overdose and sometimes several doses are required before a person can be considered “out of the woods.”
Because of the way opioid drugs like Fentanyl work in the body, a person could easily not notice if someone has overdosed. This drug depresses the mind and body, so the symptoms are quite similar.
Some of the more common signs of an opioid overdose include:
- Having a pale face.
- Skin that feels clammy to the touch.
- Going completely limp and becoming unresponsive.
- A purple or blue tint to the lips and fingernails.
- Vomiting or making gurgling sounds.
- Being unable to speak.
- Slow or stopped breathing.
- Slow or stopped heart rate.
In the event of an opioid overdose, please call 911 right away. This is an emergency situation and the person will not just “sleep it off.” They need immediate medical attention. Paramedics and other first responders have started carrying doses of Naloxone, which can be administered at the scene.
Fentanyl Addiction and Dependence: Recovery is Possible
It is possible for people who are addicted to Fentanyl to recover. But professional treatment is often needed in order to treat the physical and psychological sides of the addiction. This typically means going through both detox and rehab for recovery.
Drug Detox and Medication Assisted Treatment
It is important to treat the physical addiction first, and this is done through a period of drug detox. This is the process of treating withdrawal symptoms and removing harmful toxins from the body that have led to them.
For someone who is addicted to Fentanyl, medication assisted treatment, or MAT, is often recommended. This allows the person to take medications that have been specifically designed and FDA approved to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms. It also includes a counseling program. While every person is different, holistic treatments may be used as well, such as dietary changes and exercise.
Stopping the use of Fentanyl – or any opioid drug, for that matter – will result in withdrawal symptoms. This is the body’s way of reacting to no longer having a substance that it has grown dependent upon.
The most common withdrawal symptoms for opioid drugs, including Fentanyl, are:
- The onset of diarrhea.
- Stomach cramps.
- Nausea and/or vomiting.
- Dilated pupils.
- Excessive sweating.
- Muscle aches and pains.
- Symptoms of anxiety.
- Feelings of anger or agitation.
- Cravings for their drug of choice.
Drug Rehab for Fentanyl Addiction
It is very important for people to continue to get even more treatment once they have gone through the detoxification process. This typically means moving on to a quality drug rehab.
During drug rehabilitation, people receive therapy to help determine and treat the root cause of their addictions. Even though there are some people who begin using opioids because they just want to get high, there are usually underlying issues that drive the abuse.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that about half of all people who go to drug rehab have a co-occurring disorder or mental health condition that is driving their substance abuse.
For many people, using opioid drugs like Fentanyl becomes a way for them to self-medicate their symptoms. They may not even be aware that they have a mental health issue; they just know that they do not feel like they think they should. This is a very real problem.
But fortunately, dual diagnosis treatment can make a difference. Once the mental health issue has been addressed, the reason the person has been using has been removed. This can make it much easier for them to recover in the long-term.
SpringBoard Recovery Can Assist with Fentanyl Addiction Recovery
At SpringBoard Recovery, we have helped many people recover from opioid addiction. We have worked with a lot of people who were addicted to Fentanyl, and some have even survived an overdose thanks to Naloxone.
When clients come to us for treatment, the first step is always to get their withdrawal symptoms under control. Even though we do not offer drug detox at our facility, we do provide detox referrals to people who need them. This can take up to two weeks in many cases, although some people are ready to move on to rehab in as little as 7-10 days.
Once detox is finished, those clients can return to us for therapy and rehab. We highly recommend our intensive outpatient program, which is a higher level of care, but it is much more flexible than inpatient rehab. Clients come to appointments 3-5 times per week during the evening hours.
We work with a lot of people who need a lot of support during the recovery process. Some are traveling to us from out of state and they need a place to stay while they get the help they need. Whether those individuals are local or from elsewhere in the United States, we can help them through our sober living program.
Learn More About Fentanyl Addiction and Treatment Options
Recovering from a Fentanyl addiction is possible with the right support. Because of the dangerous nature of this drug, we always recommend professional treatment. Quitting cold turkey should never be an option simply because if the person relapses, they could suffer from a potentially deadly overdose.
We are here to provide you with the support you need during Fentanyl addiction recovery. We want to encourage you to gather the strength to make the decision to seek help.
Would you like to get more information about Fentanyl addiction or our outpatient rehab program? If so, please contact us right away.