Fentanyl Addiction

If you start abusing fentanyl, you might either do so because you do not understand its risks, or you might already have developed a tolerance for another opioid drug. Either way, one thing is clear - this drug could cause you to suffer in many ways, including but not limited to a drug overdose that might turn out to be fatal.

What Is It?

Fentanyl is classified as a synthetic opioid medication. Doctors typically prescribe it for the treatment of severe injury or pain or as a post-surgical medication. The drug works against any pain that you might be feeling. However, it might also turn out to be the most addictive substance you have every taken. This is not entirely surprising especially when you consider the fact that it can be anywhere between 50 and 100 times as powerful as morphine. It is also more potent than heroin.

That said, the drug is effective as a pain relief medication although these effects do not last long. While on this medication, you might also experience relaxation and euphoria. It is these effects that make it such an addictive substance.

Today, fentanyl is available in many different forms, including:

  • Dissolvable tongue films
  • Lollipops
  • Patches
  • Pills that you need to dissolve inside the cheek

Since it is administered in hospital settings, fentanyl is particularly dangerous for people who have easy and regular access to it - including those who work in healthcare settings. However, you may still become dependent on it even if you have been taking it exactly as your doctor prescribed it.

Alternatively, you may start seeking this drug out for its powerful pain relief and pleasurable effects. When you do so, you may not like what you get. This is because drug dealers and traffickers often mix it with cocaine and heroin to heighten the combined effects of all these substances. If you take this drug combination, you may experience dangerous and even fatal outcomes.

Your risk of developing a fentanyl addiction could also be pegged on many different factors. These include but are not always limited to:

  • Family history of drug abuse and addiction
  • Having acquaintances and friends who abuse this or any other drug
  • Mental illness, including anxiety and severe depression
  • Personal history of substance abuse
  • Poverty
  • Stressful life circumstances
  • Trauma
  • Unemployment

What Are The Effects?

If you have been abusing fentanyl, then it is highly likely that you might have been doing so by injecting, snorting, or swallowing the drug. However, you may also have been placing blotter paper that contains this substance inside your mouth to release its active components.

That said, fentanyl's effects will vary widely depending on many different factors. These include the form of the medication that you take, the route of administration that you apply, the strength of the drug, and your tolerance to other opioids.

If you do not seek addiction treatment for your fentanyl use disorder, there is a high risk that you could suffer from its negative outcomes and effects. Examples of these effects include:

  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Euphoria
  • Nausea
  • Pain relief
  • Relaxation
  • Trouble thinking

Signs to Look For If Someone Is Abusing Fentanyl

But how can you tell whether someone has been fentanyl or is addicted to it? Essentially, there are some signs that you need to look out for. These signs include but are not limited to:

  • Arrest
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Death
  • Depression
  • Difficulty walking
  • Diminished performance at work or school
  • Dizziness
  • Failed interpersonal relationships
  • Fainting
  • Financial problems
  • Homelessness
  • Inability to keep or find a job
  • Incarceration
  • Itching
  • Labored breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Nausea
  • Overwhelming hopelessness
  • Physical harm as a result of impaired motor functioning
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Poor decision making
  • Psychological and physical health problems
  • Scratching
  • Shaking
  • Sleepiness
  • Slowed or altered heart rate
  • Slurred speech
  • Suicidal attempts
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Unconsciousness
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Withdrawal

In case you recognize any of these signs, it is essential that you get in touch with emergency medical services immediately. This is because your loved one would be at high risk of suffering a drug overdose that could turn out to be fatal unless they seek medical attention urgently.

Short and Long Term Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction

Whether you have been abusing fentanyl in the short or in the long term, there is a high risk that you could experience a wide variety of adverse effects. This is because the nature of the drug is that it leads to the development of many negative consequences irrespective of how long you abuse it for.

The following are some of the signs and symptoms of both short and long term fentanyl abuse:

a) Physical Symptoms

  • Bowel perforation and obstruction
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Labored breathing
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Severe gastrointestinal problems
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Weakened immune system

b) Psychological Effects

  • Delusions
  • Lack of motivation
  • Paranoia
  • Personality changes
  • Social withdrawal
  • c) Behavioral Symptoms
  • Acting lethargic
  • Deception
  • Engaging in reckless, risky, or dangerous behavior
  • Lying
  • Reduced participation in the activities that you used to consider important
  • Secrecy
  • Withdrawing from friends and family

d) Cognitive Symptoms

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Impaired judgment
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor concentration
  • e) Psychosocial Symptoms
  • Anxiety
  • Dysphoria
  • Euphoria
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia

Lethal Combinations

Some of the signs and symptoms of fentanyl addiction are linked to the lethal effects that occur when you combine it with other addictive substances like heroin or anything else that depresses the CNS - the central nervous system. When this happens, you could increase your risk of:

  • Respiratory distress
  • Coma
  • Death

Fentanyl Overdose Risks

The relaxed and euphoric sensations that you derive from fentanyl might cause you to continue abusing the drug over and over again. Eventually, you will become tolerant to its effects.

When this happens, you will find yourself increasing the doses that you take, as well as the frequency at which you use this drug. This could later give way to the development of dependence - both psychological and physical.

Once you are addicted to this drug, you will end up focusing most of your energy and time on the drug - acquiring, using, and recovering from using it. Further, you will no longer be able to control how much of it you use.

Eventually, you may get to a point where you suffer a drug overdose as a result of your continued substance abuse. Since it is an opioid, fentanyl will depress activity in your central nervous system.

As a result, you could lower your respiration, heart rate, and blood pressure. All of these effects are dangerous and they could turn out to be fatal or life-threatening unless you seek medical help. If you take it in excess, it could cause your breathing to stop. This could eventually cause your death unless it is medically reversed.

By itself, fentanyl carries one of the highest overdose risks. However, many people combine it with cocaine, heroin, and other prescription opioid medication. You should know that these drug combinations will amplify the high from all drugs that you take. As a result, your risk of suffering an overdose would also be heightened.

An overdose would occur when the quantity of fentanyl you took overwhelms your body and its various systems and processes. It is often accompanied by various negative outcomes. These include but are not limited to:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Faint pulse
  • Fainting
  • Hallucinations
  • Irregular respiration
  • Labored breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of regular motor functions
  • Low body temperature
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Seizure
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Very slow and shallow breathing
  • Vomiting

If someone has been displaying any of these symptoms of an overdose and you suspect that they might have taken fentanyl, it is urgent that you call 911 as soon as possible. If you have naloxone at hand, you should also administer it immediately because it is the only known medication that can reverse the adverse effects of an opioid drug overdose.

Best Options for Recovery

The best way to recover from your fentanyl abuse and addiction is through a professional drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. The program will typically provide you with two forms of care - medically managed detox and rehabilitation counseling and therapy.

The goal of detox is to protect you from the withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings that you would suffer when you give up fentanyl. Examples of these withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Chills
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Dysphoria or inability to feel pleasurable
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • General weakness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the bones and muscles
  • Powerful fentanyl cravings
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Retardation
  • Runny nose
  • Shaking
  • Stomach pain
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Watery eyes

After these withdrawal symptoms have been managed and you are no longer physically dependent on fentanyl, you will be provided with counseling and rehabilitation services to manage your psychological, behavioral, and emotional dependence.

CITATIONS

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm

https://ndews.umd.edu/sites/ndews.umd.edu/files/u1424/2016_ndews_scs_advance_report_final.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2015/p0707-heroin-epidemic.html

https://www.dea.gov/druginfo/concern_fentanyl.shtml

https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prescription-drug-abuse/in-depth/how-opioid-addiction-occurs/art-20360372

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-justice-opioids/u-s-drug-agency-to-toughen-stance-on-illicit-fentanyl-analogues-idUSKBN1D92RI

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