In the United States of America, millions of people struggle with addiction and have found themselves trapped in the opioid epidemic. These are a drug classification that includes the likes of prescription painkillers, heroin, and other drugs of this nature.
As of March 2018, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that more than 115 Americans die per day as a direct result of an opioid overdose. The numbers are, unfortunately, projected to continue to rise. In fact, apart from the number of lives lost from the opioid epidemic, the economic state of the country is at risk as well. The United States of America loses approximately 78.5 billion dollars per year as a result of opioid addiction alone.
Perhaps one of the key players in the severity of the opioid epidemic is the powerful opioid drug fentanyl. Fentanyl addiction is a dangerous affliction that should not be taken lightly.
What Is Fentanyl?
Despite its increasing popularity, the name fentanyl may not be as recognizable as heroin or Percocet. Fentanyl is an extremely powerful and potent synthetic opioid. It is estimated to be anywhere from 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine!
It is technically a prescription pain medication. It is reserved for only the most severe and intense cases of chronic pain or to treat patients after they come out of surgery. It can be injected, absorbed in the mouth or placed on as a skin patch. It has a rapid onset and tends to work for several hours following ingestion.
Much like other opioids, the effects of fentanyl typically follow the same pattern. It attaches itself to the opioid receptors in the brain which oversee the brain’s pain and emotion center. As they bind to these receptor sites deep within the brain, dopamine (feel-good chemical) levels rise in the reward area of the brain. It results in an overwhelming feeling of euphoria and relaxation.
While in controlled, small doses, the medication is highly effective in treating medical patients who genuinely need it, it is a highly addictive substance that is easily abused and misused. Unfortunately, those who use or abuse the drug who don’t actually need it tend to take doses that are way higher than necessary, which is what results in overdose. Sedation, addiction, respiratory depression and/or arrest, unconsciousness, coma, and even death can occur in tandem with improper fentanyl use or fentanyl addiction.
More addicts than ever are experiencing fentanyl addiction due to the increase in its presence in other street drugs such as heroin. Many dealers have found it to be an excellent cutting agent, stretching their product further and making it far more powerful. Unfortunately, many addicts do not even realize that the fentanyl is present in their drugs and may inadvertently overdose as a result.
Fentanyl also has a number of different street names that addicts may use when searching for it to feed their fentanyl addiction. Whether they intentionally use the product or not, it’s important to recognize these names. It could be the difference between life and death!
Some of the other names fentanyl goes by are:
- China White
There are several ways that one can recognize a fentanyl addiction. It’s important to know and identify these signs and symptoms of fentanyl addiction right away in order to stop a tragedy
What are the Signs of Fentanyl Addiction?
Fentanyl addiction has proven to be deadly more often than not. This synthetic opioid packs a punch that even the most seasoned addicts may not be able to handle. Whether your concern is for yourself or a loved one having a fentanyl addiction, here are some of the more obvious fentanyl addiction symptoms you should look out for in yourself and/or others:
- Decreased heartbeat
- Mood swings
- Slurring of words
- Loss of balance and/or coordination
- Preoccupation with acquiring more fentanyl
- Social seclusion/withdrawal
- Weight loss
- Pinpoint pupils
- Nausea or vomiting
These are just a few of the many different fentanyl addiction symptoms that you or a loved one may experience. Addiction is different for everyone, so each individual manifests a variety of different symptoms than the ones listed above. It’s always important to be on the lookout for severe changes in mood and behavior, as well as any or all of those symptoms listed above.
If you or a loved one may have a fentanyl addiction, it’s important to act fast. Due to the volatile nature of the drug, some of the fentanyl addiction symptoms are also the symptoms of an overdose, which may not be reversible.
What is Involved in Fentanyl Addiction Treatment?
Getting help for you or your loved one’s fentanyl addiction is important. But what can you do? If you have determined that fentanyl addiction is occurring, then it’s time to get fentanyl addiction treatment! By undertaking fentanyl addiction treatment, you’ll receive both medical and clinical intervention for your substance use disorder and start your own journey in recovery.
What’s important to remember is that fentanyl, like other opioids, produce a physical dependence as well as a psychological one. That means that once the drug is removed from the addict, they will begin to experience fentanyl withdrawals. These withdrawal symptoms, while not necessarily life-threatening, are often intense and so painful that many people revert to using the drug in order to stave off the intense withdrawal symptoms.
This is where the full continuum of care comes into fentanyl addiction treatment. By undergoing the full continuum of care, you’ll greatly increase the likelihood of success for yourself or your loved one in fentanyl addiction treatment! The full continuum of care refers to going through each step of treatment.
Addiction treatment is structured with varying levels of medical and clinical intervention: starting with the most intense level (detox) to the lowest level of care (outpatient). This creates a step-down process for addicts, which allows them to slowly descend levels of care and amass more responsibilities and freedoms over time so as not to overwhelm them. This way, they can work on their fentanyl addiction treatment plan safely and without putting themselves at risk for relapse early on.
The first level of care for fentanyl addiction treatment is medical detox. Detox refers to the medical process of removing the substance from your body under strict 24/7 medical supervision. This allows for a team of doctors, nurses, etc. to consistently monitor your progress and ensure your safety throughout the entire process.
Upon your arrival at a medical detox facility, you’ll undergo a medical assessment or evaluation by the residing medical staff. Once they take into consideration the severity of your fentanyl addiction and overall physical health, they craft an individualized detox plan for you. You’ll be supplied with various detox medications intended to stave off the more intense symptoms of withdrawal which allows you a more comfortable and safe detox.
You’ll also encounter clinical support staff as well. Since not all withdrawal symptoms are physical, many addicts have severe emotional symptoms as well. A team of therapists, case managers, and other support staff will be present to help you process your emotions and keep you on track in fentanyl addiction treatment.
While detox is primarily focused on the physical aspect of addiction, some minor emphasis is placed on the psychological aspect as well. You may experience a few therapy sessions or groups intended to help start off the therapeutic portion of fentanyl addiction treatment. However, most of the therapeutic heavy lifting is done in the following step of treatment, which is why following through the full continuum of care is so crucial to your overall success in recovery.
After detox, you’ll have the opportunity to go to an inpatient addiction treatment center. This level of care requires you to live onsite at the facility, where you’ll still be monitored 24/7 by both medical and clinical support staff. However, medical intervention is minimal compared to detox, since you are medically stabilized by the time you arrive.
While here, you’ll encounter a variety of different amenities and therapy methods and treatment techniques designed to help you overcome addiction. Each facility is different, so understanding what you’re looking for in fentanyl addiction treatment is important before selecting a facility.
At this stage, you’ll receive full-time therapy and stick to a strict curriculum designed to help you get to the underlying causes of your fentanyl addiction. Since substance use disorders are both physical and psychological conditions, it’s just as important to get help for the mental aspect of the disease as the physical.
You’ll live with other clients at the facility and be subjected to learning new coping mechanisms and life skills you’ll be able to take with you after leaving treatment. The overall goal is to help you work through your addiction and other emotional issues during your stay here. You’ll be in an environment free of outside stressors and distractions so that you can more wholly focus on the task at hand: overcoming fentanyl addiction!
Following inpatient, you’ll be moved to a lower level of care known as intensive outpatient or IOP. This level of care requires you to find alternative housing since therapy is only run on a part-time basis as opposed to full time. Many addicts turn to sober living facilities or halfway houses to take part in a more structured, recovery-oriented environment, but some also return home.
While therapy occurs less frequently than inpatient, it still takes place typically several days a week for multiple hours at a time. There is still a fair amount of clinical intervention at this stage; however, clients will have far more personal freedoms and responsibilities at this point. It is to give the clients the opportunity to slowly acclimate into the community at large safely with a strong source of clinical support as they take their first steps into their new, sober lives.
Clients will also still be subjected to random drug testing throughout their IOP programs. This helps keep clients accountable to their recovery and keeps them on track throughout the remainder of their fentanyl addiction treatment.
After IOP ends, clients graduate to the final level of care known as an outpatient. Outpatient is similar to IOP in the sense that clients must find their own living arrangements and therapy occurs on a part-time basis. However, the frequency and intensity of the therapy sessions is the main difference between levels.
Usually, for outpatient, clients will attend around one hour per week of therapy. This is to give the majority of time to the recovering individual to navigate their lives in recovery with a minor, yet still present, clinical intervention. At this stage, clients should be fairly self-sufficient and be able to take personal responsibility for themselves and their recoveries.
Again, clients will still be required to submit to random drug testing in order to monitor their drug use or lack thereof. This will keep clients focused on staying sober and making the correct, healthy choices for their lives.
How Dangerous is Fentanyl?
As stated above, fentanyl packs a punch in comparison to its other opioid counterparts and is approximately 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
The main reason that fentanyl is so dangerous is that often, addicts inadvertently take the drug. It has become a very popular cutting agent in most batches of heroin. Due to this deceptive practice, addicts are doing the incorrect amount of the drug in accordance with their tolerance.
Many addicts believe that they can do a certain amount of heroin to maximize the euphoric feeling without going overboard into overdose territory, and normally, they’re right. However, with the added fentanyl, normal heroin is becoming far more potent, meaning addicts actually require less of the drug than they believe to achieve the desired effects.
In conclusion, fentanyl is causing addicts to overdose around the country. The intense spike in accidental overdose deaths is prevalent in every single state. While overdoses due to opioid drug use can be reversed, in some cases it’s too late by the time emergency responders arrive. Also due to the more rapid onset of fentanyl versus other opioids, it shrinks the window of opportunity for life-saving measures to be implemented even further.
Fentanyl Abuse Statistics
- Among the more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths estimated in 2016, the sharpest increase occurred among deaths related to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs.
- Over 20,000 overdose deaths were attributed to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs in 2016.
- Across the last decade, deaths from opioid drug overdoses has nearly doubled.