October 23, 2023

Fentanyl Addiction: Signs, Effects, & Treatment

image of man representing benzo flu

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid commonly prescribed to manage severe and chronic pain. It is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, meaning that addiction to the substance can develop rapidly.

Whether you have been prescribed this synthetic opioid for pain management or you are concerned about the abuse of illicit fentanyl, read on to discover:

  • How addictive is fentanyl?
  • How long does it take to get addicted to fentanyl?
  • Is fentanyl addictive when used as prescribed?
  • How to connect with fentanyl addiction treatment in California.

Why is Fentanyl So Addictive?

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Addiction to fentanyl develops quickly due to several key factors:

  • Potency: Fentanyl is incredibly potent. The synthetic opioid is up to 100 times stronger than morphine and many magnitudes more potent than heroin. This means that even small amounts of fentanyl can trigger intense euphoria and pain relief, making it highly appealing to those seeking a powerful high.
  • Rapid onset: Fentanyl delivers almost immediate effects in the body. Its rapid onset of action intensifies the rush of pleasure and reinforces the drug’s addictive potential.
  • Short duration: While the effects of fentanyl are intense, they are also relatively short-lived compared to other opioids. The fleeting nature of its effects often drives people to use the drug repeatedly, contributing to the cycle of addiction.
  • Physical and psychological dependence: Regular use of fentanyl can lead to the development of both physical dependence and psychological addiction. Physical dependence means that the body becomes reliant on the drug to function normally, and is associated with the presentation of withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. Psychological addiction involves intense cravings for fentanyl and a compulsion to use the drug for emotional relief or pleasure regardless of adverse outcomes. Fentanyl addiction is clinically described as opioid use disorder.
  • Tolerance: Over time, people may build tolerance to fentanyl, meaning that higher doses are needed to deliver the initial effects. Tolerance can lead to increased use, further escalating the risk of addiction to fentanyl.
  • Availability: Traffickers often add fentanyl to other drugs like heroin, meth, or cocaine. This hidden presence makes it easy for people to unknowingly consume fentanyl, increasing the risk of addiction and fatal overdose. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) report that fentanyl is the principal driver of the U.S. opioid epidemic’s third wave, responsible for over 75,00 deaths in the United States in 2021 alone.

Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl addiction can have serious and life-threatening consequences. Developing an awareness of the most common fentanyl addiction signs can help you or a loved one to seek help promptly. Here are some common fentanyl addiction symptoms:

Euphoria

A fentanyl addict experiences intense euphoria when using the drug. This is informally known as getting high.

Increased tolerance

Over time, people develop a tolerance to fentanyl, meaning that higher doses are required to deliver the original effects.

Withdrawal symptoms

When not using fentanyl, individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms, including dilated pupils, vomiting, diarrhea, goosebumps, hot and cold flashes, chills, anxiety, agitation, insomnia, and severe generalized pain.

Compulsive use

People with a fentanyl addiction have a strong compulsion to use the drug regularly, even when it causes harm to their health, relationships, or other aspects of their life.

Neglecting responsibilities

Addicted individuals may neglect their responsibilities at work, school, or home due to their preoccupation with obtaining and using fentanyl.

Social isolation

Fentanyl addiction can lead to social withdrawal and isolation as people start to prioritize drug use over social interactions.

Financial problems

Funding an addiction can be expensive, often provoking financial duress.

Physical health issues

Chronic fentanyl use is associated with a range of physical health problems, from respiratory issues and heart problems to gastrointestinal disturbances.

Changes in behavior

Individuals with a fentanyl addiction may exhibit erratic or unpredictable behavior.

Legal issues

Engaging in illegal activities to obtain or use fentanyl can bring about legal problems and consequences.

Failed attempts to quit

Despite multiple attempts to quit or reduce fentanyl use, addicted individuals may struggle to maintain abstinence.

image of woman representing fentanyl addiction signs

 

Effects of Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl can have significant short-term and long-term effects when abused or used improperly.

Short-Term Effects of Fentanyl

Short-term fentanyl use can lead to immediate and intense effects, including:

  • Pain relief: Fentanyl is a powerful pain reliever, and its primary short-term effect is the alleviation of severe pain.
  • Euphoria: Fentanyl can induce a sense of extreme happiness and euphoria.
  • Relaxation: People often experience a deep sense of relaxation when using fentanyl.
  • Lowered blood pressure: Fentanyl can cause a drop in blood pressure as a short-term effect.
  • Overdose risk: The short-term use of fentanyl carries a significant risk of overdose, which can be life-threatening.

Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl

Long-term fentanyl use or addiction can result in lasting consequences, including:

  • Dependence: Individuals may become physically dependent on fentanyl, requiring the drug to function normally and experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms in its absence.
  • Addiction: Fentanyl addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug-seeking behavior and an inability to control its use despite adverse outcomes.
  • Brain changes: Prolonged fentanyl use can lead to alterations in the brain’s structure and function, impacting decision-making and behavior.
  • Increased overdose risk: Those who use fentanyl long-term face a higher risk of overdose. Fentanyl overdose can be fatal.
  • Health issues: Fentanyl abuse can lead to various health problems, including respiratory issues, cardiovascular problems, and gastrointestinal disturbances.
  • Social and legal consequences: Addiction to fentanyl can result in social isolation, damaged relationships, financial problems, and legal issues.
  • Difficulty quitting: Overcoming fentanyl addiction can be tough, and many people struggle to quit even when they recognize the harm it causes and genuinely want to stop using the drug.

The manifold short-term and long-term effects of fentanyl addiction highlights the importance of early intervention, treatment, and support for individuals facing this dangerous and damaging addiction.

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl addiction is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. Fentanyl addiction treatment typically involves a combination of pharmacological and behavioral therapies. Detoxification is the first fundamental step in treating opioid use disorders. Medical professionals may adminster medications to help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings, making the detox process safer and more comfortable.

MAT (medication-assisted treatment) involves the use of FDA-approved medications like buprenorphine or methadone to reduce cravings and prevent relapse. These medications can be beneficial during detox and can be a central part of long-term recovery. MAT is always most effective when combined with behavioral interventions.

Various types of behavioral therapy, including CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and CM (contingency management), are used to address the psychological aspects of addiction. These therapies help individuals develop coping strategies and address the underlying causes of their addictions.

Depending on the severity of the addiction, inpatient or outpatient treatment may be approproiate. Inpatient programs provide 24/7 care in a residential setting, while outpatient programs allow individuals to receive treatment while living at home.

Participation in support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous), can provide invaluable peer support and a sense of community during recovery. Many people also find benefit in holistic approaches like yoga, meditation, and acupuncture as complementary therapies to traditional addiction treatment.

Learning relapse prevention strategies is a key component of long-term addiction recovery. Individuals in treatment programs are taught how to identify and manage triggers that could lead to relapse. After completing a formal treatment program, many people engage with aftercare services, which may include ongoing therapy and support group meetings.

Treatment plans should always be tailored to individual needs and circumstances. Fentanyl addiction treatment requires a comprehensive and personalized approach to increase the chances of successful recovery.

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Call Our Addiction Hotline Now to Get Help with Fentanyl Addiction

If you are addicted to fentanyl, call our addiction hotline any time for information about connecting with fentanyl treatment in Southern California.

Dial the toll-free hotline number and you’ll be connected to a passionate and committed professional who is ready to address your concerns about fentanyl addiction, withdrawal, or overdose.

Call 855-701-0479 today and take the first crucial step toward a healthier, fentanyl-free life.

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