Fentanyl is one of the world’s most powerful prescription painkillers; 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Generally, doctors prescribe fentanyl to help treat patients with severe pain, especially those experiencing physical discomfort after surgery. But fentanyl can be as debilitating as it is restorative. The drug is extremely addictive and has a high potential for abuse. In fact, long-term fentanyl use can lead to brain injury, damage to multiple organs, worsening of mental health conditions, and potentially death. In fact, just a quarter of a milligram of pure fentanyl can lead to death. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most popular opioids used illegally for recreational purposes.
According to a report published by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), in 2011 and 2012, approximately 1600 drug overdose deaths each year involved fentanyl. But from 2012 through 2014, the number of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl more than doubled each year. In 2017, more than half of opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl.
With fentanyl use resulting in so many overdose deaths, fentanyl addiction is best treated at a professional rehabilitation center like Solution Based Treatment & Detox.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, meaning it is produced for medical prescriptions but can also be made, sold and used illegally. In its prescription form, fentanyl goes by names such as Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze. Street names for illegally-produced fentanyl include Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfellas, Jackpot, Murder 8, and Tango & Cash.
When prescribed by doctors, patients receive fentanyl via a shot, a patch or lozenges that they suck like cough drops. “Street pharmacists”, on the other hand, manufacture illegal fentanyl in man-made labs, usually producing fentanyl in the form of a powder.
Fentanyl and The Brain
Like other opioids, fentanyl binds to opioid receptors in the areas of the brain that control pain and emotional response. Fentanyl then causes the brain’s reward centers to be flooded with dopamine. As a result, people taking fentanyl for pain experience significant pain relief. Those taking fentanyl for recreational purposes may experience a euphoric high that can easily lead them to continue using the drug.
Prescribed Use of Fentanyl
When given to patients suffering from severe or chronic pain, such as those with cancer, fentanyl blocks the body’s pain signals. As a result, patients begin to feel immediate relief from discomfort, as well as feelings of relaxation, calm, and even euphoria. When used as prescribed, fentanyl can help people in chronic pain. But misuse or abuse of the drug can result in tolerance, which can lead to physical and chemical dependence.
Recreational Use of Fentanyl
Fentanyl still binds to opioid receptors even when there’s no chronic pain present in the body. So when people use fentanyl for recreational purposes, the drug has a strong physical and emotional effect as the body is flooded with excess dopamine. This can lead to a short-lived “high.”
Essentially, a fentanyl high is a series of peak effects that affect a person’s mind and body. Fentanyl’s high is short but intense. Often, these peak effects include:
- Escape from emotional distress
But the high doesn’t last long.
After the High
After the excess dopamine wears off, fentanyl users often face adverse side effects which can include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling cold
These effects occur because although fentanyl increases dopamine, it decreases other neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine, and depresses the central nervous system. Norepinephrine affects our mood, energy, and alertness. Low levels of norepinephrine can cause depression, low blood pressure, lethargy, inattention, and lack of focus.
In addition, a depressed central nervous system slows down many of the body’s systems. The respiratory system slows down, causing slow, shallow breathing. A slowed digestive system can lead to constipation. Vision blurs and words slur. Walking may become difficult. Cognitive reasoning also slows down, leaving fentanyl users groggy and confused.
Tolerance & Dependence
When taken repeatedly, fentanyl continually triggers the dopamine reward system. Every time the drug triggers these rewards, the brain becomes more likely to continue seeking out that chemical mix. Eventually, people who use fentanyl build up a tolerance for the drug. With tolerance, the initial amount they take is no longer enough to produce the pleasure they crave. If tolerance is left unaddressed and the individual continues taking fentanyl, the brain eventually stops producing dopamine naturally, which can lead to depression, anxiety, and other withdrawal symptoms. At this point, the body and the brain are dependent upon fentanyl to produce dopamine, induce pleasure, regulate emotions, and keep the body feeling “normal.” If left untreated, this dependence upon fentanyl will likely become a fentanyl use disorder or addiction.
Signs & Symptoms of Fentanyl Use
There are several warning signs a person can exhibit when they are regularly using fentanyl. The most common signs and symptoms are behavioral and physical. But there are cognitive and psychological indicators of fentanyl use, too.
Some of the most common behavioral changes associated with fentanyl use include:
- Decreased appetite or lack of desire to eat
- Slurred speech
- Confusion about the date, time and place
- Random or unexplained mood changes
- Lying and suspicious behavior
- Losing interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Abandoning responsibilities
- Anger and irritability in between doses
- Hiding patches, dissolvable tongue films, and pills, all of which are common ways to consume fentanyl
Physically, fentanyl users may experience symptoms such as:
- Extreme fatigue and drowsiness
- Shallow and slow breathing
- Low heart rate
- Gastrointestinal distress
Cognitively, fentanyl users may experience symptoms which include:
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Impaired decision making
Other psychological symptoms include:
- Severe mood swings
Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms
Individuals should never try to quit fentanyl “cold turkey,” especially without medical guidance and supervision. When individuals try to quit fentanyl on their own, they often experience overwhelming symptoms of withdrawal. Most times, withdrawal symptoms begin 12 to 30 hours after the last dose.
Some of the most common symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Excessive sweating
- Flu-like symptoms
- Runny nose
- Stomach cramps
- Joint pain
- Body aches
- Muscle weakness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Elevated heart rate
- Increased respiratory rate
- Mood swings
- Intense cravings
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment & Recovery
Before beginning treatment, eliminating fentanyl from the system is a critical first step. Our drug and alcohol program provides a supportive, compassionate yet structured environment for our clients to begin the detox process. Our medical and clinical staff monitors our clients’ vitals and maintains their comfort as they undergo withdrawal. In severe cases, our staff may opt to wean some of our clients off opioids with non-habit forming medications. Once the body is free of fentanyl, our clients enroll in either our residential or intensive outpatient treatment program.
Our residential program invites our clients to stay in one of our residential homes while receiving treatment. Our residential clients live in comfortable, relaxing homes in Southern California. This program allows clients to receive around the clock support. Our approach to treatment is holistic and involves mental, physical, and nutritional wellness. Our clients work with licensed therapists through the various aspects of rehabilitation treatment, which can include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Motivational Interviewing
- Group Therapy
- Dialectical Therapy
- Family therapy
Our outpatient program works best for those who may not need to detox or a residential facility. In fact, clients enrolled in this program have the benefit of living at home while receiving treatment. In this program, clients participate in group therapy, but also have an individual therapist assigned to them. They meet with their therapist on a weekly basis while in treatment. In our outpatient program, clients receive treatment while remaining in control of their own lives. They may be able to go to work, live with their families, and rebuild their personal and professional lives while getting the support they need to obtain and maintain long-term recovery.
Living with an addiction is hard, but it does not have to control your life forever. Our expert staff is ready and willing to help support you as you take steps toward recovery and sobriety. It will take time, dedication, commitment, patience, and perseverance but recovery is possible.
Call the office at Solution Based Treatment & Detox today at 877-309-4311. We are available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to answer your questions.
We Know From Experience
We have helped thousands of people recover using a solutions-based approach of empowerment and knowledge.
We pride ourselves on creating a warm, relaxed recovery environment where our clients can show their true selves.
On-Site Medical Detox
Medical detox is a critical first step in recovery, which is why we provide supervised medical detox in-house.
Every client benefits from a fully personalized treatment and plan of care, helping them recover and reach their unique goals.