Living with a fentanyl addiction is a terrifying and chaotic reality many never expected to experience. As the opioid epidemic sweeps the nation, more individuals lose their will to stay sober and their lives to deadly overdoses. Fentanyl addiction affects people from all walks of life, some with a history of heavy drug use, others becoming addicted after surgeries or long periods of treating chronic pain. The consequences of fentanyl addiction are serious, and its rock bottoms are seemingly endless. Families are devastated every day.
One thing is clear, while fentanyl addiction may lead to criminal activity, hospitalizations, or even untimely death in so many cases, it’s no longer a secret or silent monster in the closet. It’s here, and we are in the trenches of the crisis fighting the monster head-on. It’s time to familiarize ourselves with the experience of fentanyl addiction, how the drug works, and how people recover so we can help individuals suffering from dangerous dependency get the treatment they need to rebuild their lives and communities.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid drug that has become increasingly popular recently. It’s a narcotic, 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. It was initially created pharmaceutically for pain management in patients with cancer.
When prescribed by a medical doctor, fentanyl administration can be a shot, through a patch, pill, or tablet. Illegal street fentanyl, most associated with the massive increase in overdoses, is produced in labs. This version of synthetic fentanyl is sold in a powder form, liquid, or made into pills that look like other prescription drugs and opioids.
Despite fentanyl’s extreme potency and dangers, many people find themselves drawn to fentanyl because of its intense euphoric effects and quick onset. It doesn’t take very long to recognize that the life of a fentanyl addict can be devastating for them and their loved ones.
How Does Fentanyl Work in the Body?
Fentanyl attaches itself to opiate receptors in the brain, which triggers a release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters associated with pleasure and reward. Although fentanyl works quickly, and only a tiny amount is needed to feel intoxicated, users are at risk for overdoses due to the tolerance developed after extended use. Even after a single use, some users may experience a craving. Because of this increased risk for abuse and dependency, fentanyl should always be used cautiously and only under extreme medical supervision.
How Does Fentanyl Addiction Happen?
Fentanyl addiction typically begins with a legitimate doctor or healthcare provider providing a patient with a prescription. Over time, however, the individual may become addicted to the effects of the drug. Typically, they soon begin taking more than prescribed or for reasons other than pain relief. For example, some individuals may take fentanyl to cope with emotional distress or reduce anxiety.
Once addicted to fentanyl, the individual becomes tolerant to the drug’s effects and needs higher doses to achieve the same impact. Eventually, a severe dependency develops, and the individual must take the drug to avoid withdrawal. Fear of withdrawal or running out of the drug may cause the individual to engage in criminal activity, self-harm, mix other substances, or overdose.
What Are the Signs of Dependence?
The most telling sign that someone has developed an addiction to fentanyl is that they continue taking the drug even though it has caused severe negative consequences. In many cases, addicts lose their children, home, and employment, and their lives seem to decline as their usage increases. However, some addicts can keep their use a secret. Common symptoms of fentanyl addiction include:
- needing larger doses of the drug to get high
- frequently running out of medication early
- “Doctor shopping” to get multiple prescriptions (which can often lead to legal trouble)
- spending large amounts of money on drugs
- lying about how much of the drug they are using
- withdrawing socially
- experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to quit or reduce the use
Physical signs that someone is abusing opioids include:
- shallow breathing
- constricted pupils
- flushed skin
- slurred speech
- difficulty with concentration
- limited recall
- poor coordination
- balance problems
Please do not ignore these physical symptoms, as they could indicate an opioid overdose which requires immediate medical attention.
Why Is Fentanyl Addiction So Dangerous?
Fentanyl addiction is hazardous because the drug is so potent; even small doses can be fatal. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that fentanyl-related overdose deaths have increased in the last ten years. The U.S. lost more lives to fentanyl-related issues than gun or auto deaths combined in 2021.
In addition to the physical dangers of fentanyl abuse, addiction invites psychological risks. People addicted to fentanyl can experience depression, anxiety, paranoia, and even psychosis because of their abuse. Furthermore, people who use fentanyl may also be at risk for developing other addictions or engaging in dangerous behavior such as selling drugs or stealing to buy more drugs.
Additionally, many addicts are overwhelmed by the prospect of severe withdrawal, also known as becoming “dope sick.” Their drug obsession continues due to their constant need to seek more drugs to stay “well.” Fentanyl addiction is debilitating, draining, and exhaustive for everyone. If you are in the throes of fentanyl addiction, know that you are not alone. Many people are affected by this gruesome substance, and there are ways out.
What Are the Effects of Fentanyl Addiction on Loved Ones?
When someone close to you is addicted to fentanyl, it can be heartbreaking. In addition to physical health, you may experience anguish about your loved one’s mental well-being. You know they are battling powerful cravings each day and may take extreme measures to acquire drugs.
Loved ones often feel hopeless as they watch someone close struggle with fentanyl addiction. Fortunately, there are support groups available for family members of addicts that can provide much-needed emotional guidance and support during this difficult time. There are also books, retreats, programs, forums, blogs, influencers, treatment centers, and other incredible resources devoted to helping families experiencing opioid addiction.
What Are the Steps to Recovery from Fentanyl Addiction?
The first step to recovery from a fentanyl addiction is admitting you are addicted. The next step is deciding to seek help. Several treatment options are available, including inpatient rehab, outpatient therapy, group therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).
MATs involve medications that reduce cravings, while CBT teaches coping skills and positive behaviors to help prevent drug use and relapse once treatment ends. Group therapy allows individuals to share their experiences with other addicts in a safe space while receiving encouragement from peers who understand firsthand what they’re going through. For many residential treatments, a rehabilitation program is their best choice.
The type of treatment for recovery that is best for you will depend on your circumstances. Seeking help from a qualified medical professional who can assess your case and determine the best course of action is essential.
How Can You Support a Loved One Who Is Struggling with Fentanyl Addiction?
Supporting a loved one who is struggling with fentanyl addiction can be a difficult and emotionally taxing experience. An excellent place to start is by developing compassion. Try to put yourself in the addict’s position and do your best to remain patient throughout the process. Additionally, it’s essential to educate yourself on fentanyl addiction and available research options for treatment.
Reach out to friends or family members who understand your situation, and always keep the lines of communication open. It is also beneficial to encourage your loved one experiencing addiction to seek professional help for their use. Remain supportive regardless of setbacks and understand that relapses are often a part of recovery.
How Does Stigma Keep People Addicted to Fentanyl?
Understanding the harmful stigmas attached to fentanyl addiction can help individuals find their path to recovery. Acknowledging these destructive beliefs and opinions about drug users, often false and rooted in misinformation, can be an essential first step in regaining a sense of control and agency in an individual’s recovery journey. Opioid addiction does not discriminate.
By familiarizing yourself with the stigmas surrounding fentanyl abuse, which are often related to poor mental health, social class, criminalization, or shame and guilt, an individual can better understand how their circumstances might have led to addiction.
Additionally, promoting stigma awareness and presenting factual information about the drug can create space for introspection and a deeper understanding of addiction. Fentanyl use is frequently the result of trauma, requiring exploration before genuine recovery is possible. With stigma awareness, individuals struggling with fentanyl addiction have more opportunities for empowered healing.
How Can Fentanyl Awareness Help an Individual Recover from Addiction?
Awareness of fentanyl and its effects on the body can help an individual understand addiction and the need for recovery exponentially better. Furthermore, fentanyl awareness can aid those recovering from fentanyl addiction by providing knowledge about harm reduction measures, the importance of a support system, and warning signs of relapse or drug-seeking behavior. Ultimately, understanding fentanyl is essential to successful recovery from addiction.
GateHouse Treatment and Fentanyl Addiction
Recovery from an addiction to fentanyl can be a long and challenging journey, but it is possible. You can take back your life with professional help in a supportive environment like GateHouse Treatment offers. To discuss your options for recovery from fentanyl addiction with GateHouse Treatment, reach us at (855) 448-3588 or visit. Let us be a part of your incredible journey to lasting sobriety.