Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid originally designed to treat patients with severe pain, especially after surgery. It is now also manufactured and used illegally and has grown in popularity because it is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and is relatively inexpensive. It is often used by drug dealers to “spike” other drugs, making them stronger and producing a more intense high.
It is also very dangerous. Synthetic opioids are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths, and a recent report found that fentanyl was responsible for almost 60 percent of all opioid-related deaths. It gained further notoriety when it was identified as the drug that contributed to the recent deaths of popular musicians Prince and Tom Petty.
In its legal form, when prescribed by a doctor, fentanyl can be administered as a patch on the patient’s skin, a shot or a lozenge. Fentanyl that is illegally produced in drug labs is commonly distributed as a powder, in nasal sprays or eye droppers, or as pills that have been shaped to look like common prescription pills.
Drug dealers often mix fentanyl with meth, heroin or cocaine, making those drugs stronger and much more dangerous. When users take a drug that has been spiked with fentanyl without their knowledge, they often take more than their body can handle, which may lead to an overdose.
Like other opioids, fentanyl works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and blocking pain signals, except it acts much faster than morphine or heroin. It increases the level of dopamine, which controls feelings of pleasure, relaxation and euphoria. However, with extended use the brain adapts to the drug and it becomes hard for the user to feel any kind of pleasure when they are not using it.
Fentanyl overdoses are not uncommon – it’s a powerful drug and in many cases people take it unknowingly. When someone overdoses on fentanyl, their breathing may slow down, which decreases the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain and can lead to a coma and cause brain damage. The drug naloxone can often reverse the effects of an overdose if administered quickly enough.
Fentanyl is also very addictive. Even if a person is prescribed the drug by a doctor, they can develop an addiction in a matter of days. If they use illegally produced and distributed fentanyl, the risk of addiction is even higher, because it’s likely that they won’t have a clear indication of the dosage and may take more than they intended.
Blurred vision, confusion, nausea and drowsiness are all physical signs of a fentanyl addiction. People who are using heavily also show signs of typical drug-addicted behavior – cravings, compulsive use and impaired judgement.
Other symptoms of fentanyl addiction include:
The first step toward your successful rehab is to create a personalized recovery plan. We conduct a comprehensive assessment to explore the biological, psychological and social factors that contribute to your addiction, then put together a holistic plan using the most effective combination of detox, behavioral therapies and other modalities for your sustainable recovery.
Depending on the severity of your fentanyl addiction, withdrawal symptoms during drug detox can range from uncomfortable to severe. Most people who are addicted require a fully supervised medical detox to safely cleanse their body and brain of this dangerous drug.
At the beginning of detox, you will likely experience mental and physical discomfort – agitation, anxiety, aches and pains, sweating, restlessness and tiredness. As your withdrawal progresses, those symptoms become more intense and you are likely to experience spasms, cramping, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
If you have been using fentanyl for a long time, your opioid dependence is stronger and the effects of detox will become even more severe. You may experience heart issues, seizures and other serious symptoms. When withdrawal is this intense, it is critically important that you have medical assistance. Buprenorphine, naltrexone, methadone and other medications have been successful in decreasing the intensity of withdrawal. Our medical staff helps you get through this difficult stage of recovery, and you have their around-the-clock support to ensure your detox is as safe and comfortable as possible.
After detox, your drug rehab treatment for fentanyl addiction begins to focus on the psychological aspects of your recovery. We employ many behavioral therapy modalities to identify and address underlying mental health disorders that could contribute to your addiction. Through cognitive-behavioral therapy, group and one-on-one counseling, and other behavioral treatment options, we help you develop the coping mechanisms and life skills you need to remain sober for the long term.