Fentanyl is a prescription opioid painkiller that is used to relieve extreme pain, often the pain that is associated with cancer. It is a very potent painkiller. In fact, it is estimated to be 30-50 times stronger than heroin and as much as 100 times more potent than morphine. When sold on the street, fentanyl is often mixed with heroin or cocaine, so the user never knows what he or she will get or how strong it is.
Fentanyl addicts are not only created via illegal purchases of the drug on the street. Addiction to the powerful painkiller often happens quite legitimately. Anyone who is prescribed an opioid painkiller, even someone who legitimately has severe pain, is at risk of becoming addicted.
If you know someone who is abusing fentanyl, it’s crucial that you try to help them find treatment as soon as possible. Abusing fentanyl is not only risky, but it can also be fatal.
How Addictive is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl, like other opioids, is extremely addictive. That means that it can quickly lead to addiction. Fentanyl addiction is becoming more and more common in the U.S. In fact, it has surpassed heroin in overdose deaths. In 2017, more than half (59%) of opioid-related deaths were due to fentanyl.
The effects of fentanyl are similar to the effects of other opioids like morphine and heroin, which both can lead quickly to addiction. It interacts with the opiate receptors in the body which are the parts that regulate pleasure, emotions, and pain. When fentanyl interacts with the brain it produces:
- A feeling of relaxation
- Decreased feelings of pain
- A feeling of euphoria
Because fentanyl produces such positive feelings, it can quickly lead to the user turning to the medication again and again. That will cause a tolerance to build up and perhaps even addiction.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction?
There are some telltale signs that users of fentanyl may exhibit when they are abusing the drug. Some of those signs and symptoms include:
- Euphoria, sense of well-being
- Extreme relaxation, even up to sedation
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, and confusion
- Confusion, inability to follow a train of thought
- Stomach problems, including nausea, vomiting, and constipation
- Increased tolerance to the drug
- Respiratory arrest
- Withdrawal symptoms if the drug is decreased or stopped
- Drug-seeking behavior
It’s sometimes hard to recognize fentanyl abuse, but when there are multiple signs present, it may be a case of abuse or addiction.
Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction
Most people who become addicted to fentanyl cannot stop using the drug on their own. They will need help from an inpatient addiction treatment center. There are many benefits of residential treatment, including:
- A safe, manageable detox from fentanyl
- Around-the-clock support and care
- A distraction-free environment
- Individual and group therapy
- Psychiatric care, if needed
- Coping and life skills training
- Addiction to education
- Introduction to 12-step programs
- Family educational programs
- Relapse prevention techniques
While your loved one may minimize his or her addiction and not want to attend an addiction treatment program, it’s essential that you present the benefits so he or she will have all the pertinent information. Once you do that, you will have to wait for the individual to respond to your advice. Forcing someone to go to treatment, no matter how much they need it, rarely works. Offering help to move your loved one toward recovery and promising that you will no longer help enable the addiction seems to have more success in getting someone to seek help.
When Your Loved One Wants Help
There is no doubt that addiction is a heartbreaking disease that hurts everyone around the person who is struggling with fentanyl use. Friends and family often wonder what they can do to help their loved one. It’s a difficult situation to deal with, at least until the addicted person is ready to accept help. If your loved one expresses a desire to stop using fentanyl, don’t delay in getting him or her to an addiction treatment center as quickly as possible. At My Time Recovery, we can help your loved one begin a journey to recovery. Please contact us for help for your loved one and your family.