Over the past few years, the United States has seen an unparalleled surge in drug overdose deaths. Most of these deaths involve fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug used to treat severe pain. It comes in various forms, including pills, powders, lozenges, and nasal sprays.
Because fentanyl can get you high, it poses a high risk of abuse and addiction. Fortunately, fentanyl addiction is treatable.
What Is Fentanyl Addiction?
Fentanyl addiction is a serious disease that makes you feel unable to stop using fentanyl. It typically results from fentanyl abuse.
Fentanyl abuse occurs when you use prescription fentanyl in a manner not prescribed. For example, you might take higher doses than prescribed, take it more often than prescribed, or take it without a prescription.
In addition, some people abuse fentanyl by using illicitly manufactured fentanyl bought on the street. This type of fentanyl is the main driver of the nation’s overdose crisis.
It’s often laced in other street drugs, including powder drugs (such as heroin and methamphetamine) and pills (such as Xanax and OxyContin). Anyone who uses street drugs could accidentally ingest fentanyl, leading to addiction or overdose.
Side Effects Of Fentanyl Addiction
People with fentanyl addiction face a high risk of side effects, including:
- trouble sleeping
- stomach pain
- vision changes
- trouble urinating
- chest or back pain
- changes in heartbeat
- decreased sexual ability or desire
- uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
- rash, hives, or itching
- swelling of the arms, hands, lower legs, ankles, or feet
Fentanyl abuse increases the risk of life-threatening overdose.
The most common symptoms of overdose include:
- pale, bluish, or clammy skin
- bluish lips and/or fingernails
- choking or gurgling sounds
- slowed or stopped breathing
- slowed or stopped heartbeat
- loss of consciousness
If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, call 911 right away, and administer naloxone if you have it.
Naloxone (brand name Narcan) is a medication that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. You can get it at most pharmacies without a prescription.
Warning Signs Of Fentanyl Addiction
One of the most common signs of fentanyl addiction is tolerance. That means your body gets used to the effects of fentanyl over time. As a result, you will need increasingly larger or more frequent doses to feel the desired effects. Tolerance significantly increases your risk of overdose.
Another common sign is physical dependence. Physical dependence means your body starts relying on fentanyl to function.
If you stop using it, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as:
- trouble sleeping
- watery eyes
- runny nose
- muscle aches
- nausea and vomiting
Other signs of fentanyl addiction may include:
- mood swings
- frequent cravings for fentanyl
- loss of motivation
- loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- withdrawal from family and friends
- decline in personal hygiene
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment Options
If you or someone you love shows signs of fentanyl addiction, seek help at a substance abuse treatment program.
Some of these programs are inpatient, while others are outpatient. In an inpatient program, you live at a treatment facility and receive 24/7 care. In an outpatient program, you regularly visit a treatment facility while living at home.
Your doctor can help you determine which option is right for you.
Whether you choose inpatient or outpatient care, you will receive a personalized treatment plan. These plans include services such as:
During medical detox, doctors will help you slowly and safely stop using fentanyl with minimal withdrawal symptoms. They may also prescribe medications to ease certain symptoms, such as sleep aids and anti-anxiety medications.
In behavioral therapy, a mental health professional helps you change unhealthy behaviors and beliefs that contributed to your drug use. They can also help you manage any co-occurring mental health concerns, such as depression, PTSD, or bipolar disorder.
Most treatment programs also offer group therapy. In group therapy, you learn how to cope with drug cravings and other recovery-related challenges alongside your peers.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
During MAT, doctors prescribe medications to make your recovery from fentanyl addiction easier. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the following drugs to help treat opioid addiction:
- buprenorphine, which eases opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms
- methadone, which eases opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms
- naltrexone, which blocks the pleasant effects of opioids
To maintain your recovery, you must protect your physical and mental health. That’s why many treatment programs offer wellness activities, such as yoga, meditation, and arts and crafts.
These activities can reduce your risk of relapse by taking your mind off fentanyl and boosting your sense of well-being.
When you leave your treatment program, you may face a variety of triggers that make you want to use fentanyl again. That’s why it’s important to have an aftercare plan.
Made with the help of your treatment team, this plan will include strategies that promote long-term recovery, such as:
- ongoing therapy
- support groups
- regular exercise
- assistance with housing, education, or employment
To learn more about fentanyl addiction treatment options, please reach out to Bedrock Recovery Center. Our board-certified healthcare providers offer comprehensive, evidence-based care to help you or your loved one thrive.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Fentanyl DrugFacts https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl
- National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Fentanyl https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a605043.html
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Medications for Substance Use Disorders https://www.samhsa.gov/medications-substance-use-disorders