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Over the last decade or so, fentanyl has gained recognition as a popular topic in the news. Unfortunately, not for a good reason. Although fentanyl is used in medical settings (legally) as a pain reliever, misuse of fentanyl has become a leading cause of death among illicit drug users in recent years. Within the last decade alone, several well-known celebrities (Prince, Mac Miller, Lil Peep) and countless others have lost their lives to a Fentanyl overdose. Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid analgesic, meaning it relieves pain. It functions similar to morphine yet is up to one-hundred times more potent and therefore extremely dangerous when misused. For many, fentanyl addiction is quick to develop and must be treated similar to “regular” opioid addiction.

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Learning About Fetanyl Abuse

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a very powerful synthetic opioid. In the body, it works similar to morphine; however, it is fifty to one-hundred times more powerful. Fentanyl is a prescription drug commonly used to treat patients struggling with severe pain both from chronic conditions and post-surgically, as well as patients who are physically tolerant to other opioids. However, fentanyl is also used and made illegally. When prescribed by a medical provider, fentanyl comes in various forms, including skin patches, lozenges, and injections. When manufactured for illicit use, fentanyl is most commonly seen as powder, eye drops, nasal sprays, or pills. In some cases, fentanyl is mixed with other drugs (such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine), increasing the risk of overdose and fatality. Fentanyl is inexpensive to manufacture, which makes it an inexpensive way to make illicit drugs more potent. 

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How is it Addictive?

Whether naturally occurring (made from the poppy plant and called opioids) or synthetically manufactured like fentanyl, opiate and opioid drugs have very similar impacts on the body and brain. Like other drugs in the same drug class, fentanyl works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain. These are the areas of the brain that control pain and emotion. After ongoing use, the brain begins to adapt to the drug, which reduces its effectiveness at mitigating pain. It also reduces the level of pleasure felt from a “normal” dose or from traditional ways of feeling pleasure, resulting in increasing and recurring dosages over time. When someone takes fentanyl for an extended duration (either by prescription or illegally), they struggle to feel pleasure and euphoria from everyday activities. They crave drugs to achieve these pleasurable feelings.


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The Dangers of Fentanyl

Fentanyl is highly addictive because of its potency. The potency of fentanyl (dramatically more than other opioids in the same drug class) significantly contributes to overdose potential. Also, despite being so much stronger than other opioid drugs, fentanyl is much cheaper, making it easier to manufacture and obtain.  When fentanyl attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain, it does so in such a way that it can sometimes overpower the brain and respiratory systems leading to an overdose. The speed at which someone feels the results of fentanyl means the user may not be able to recover in time to stop or seek help for the effects of an overdose. 

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Signs & Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction

Someone who uses or abuses fentanyl will show various signs and symptoms. Some of those include symptoms similar to those of other opioid addictions. Common examples include rapid heartbeat, tightness in the chest, mood changes, hallucinations, changes in cognitive function, convulsions, blurred vision, urinary difficulties, changes in appetite, nervousness, body sores, and many others. Someone addicted to fentanyl will also experience behavioral changes that center on obtaining and using the drug. For instance, they may try to cut down or stop using but cannot without comprehensive addiction treatment. Or they may spend a significant portion of their day focused on obtaining and using fentanyl by any means possible.

In some cases, this includes stealing (drugs or money), doctor shopping, or illegally purchasing fentanyl. You may also notice someone with a fentanyl addiction will begin to isolate themselves. They often withdraw from social obligations, work, and school. 

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Fentanyl Withdrawal & The Need for Detox

Regular or chronic use of opioids, regardless of the reason, can cause your body to develop a tolerance to their effects. When you develop a tolerance for a substance, it results in dependence on the drug to feel certain effects. When someone is dependent on fentanyl and you stop using it, painful and unpleasant symptoms can develop. In the case of opioid addiction, these symptoms, also called withdrawal symptoms, can sometimes be dangerous and even fatal.

When someone stops using fentanyl, withdrawal symptoms can occur in as few as six hours after your last dose. Common withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, agitation, body aches, difficulty sleeping, sweating, gastric disturbances, nausea, and vomiting. Other, more severe symptoms can include delirium tremens (DTs), irregular respirations, irregular heartbeat, and seizures. The more severe symptoms related to opioid withdrawal make detoxing in a safe environment, including medically assisted detox, essential to your health and safety. Many who struggle with opioid addiction and choose to withdraw “cold turkey” often fail, and relapse results as withdrawal symptoms become overwhelming and too difficult to manage. In a medically supervised detox setting, trained medical staff is available to support your emotional, physical, and medical needs throughout the detox process. Detox is often a complicated process, but it is the first, essential step on the journey to sobriety. 

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How to Find a Fentanyl Treatment Program Near You

If you or a loved one are struggling with a fentanyl addiction, do not wait to seek help. Long term struggles with fentanyl can be dangerous and sometimes life-threatening. Deciding to enter rehab can be a difficult but life-saving decision. If you are unsure where to start, let the team at My Recovery Source help. Because not all treatment centers treat the same conditions, it is critical to find one that provides detox and treatment services specific to opioid addiction. Our skilled team of counselors has developed working relationships with rehabs across the nation. Let us help you find a fentanyl treatment program near you where you can begin your journey to sobriety and recovery. 

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