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Fentanyl Addiction Treatment: Detox, Rehab, Recovery

Fentanyl addiction has plagued US communities at an alarming rate over the past decade. It has claimed the lives of famous rappers (Lil Peep, Mac Miller) and athletes (Tyler Skaggs). It’s one of the most addictive depressants on the black market. However, fentanyl is also prescribed in moderate doses as a pain reliever.

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What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is an opioid used as a medication for pain relief and anesthesia. It was synthesized in the late 1950s in a Belgian laboratory. Doctors prescribe the drug in mild doses for pain management. Fentanyl is also used as a depressant drug, similar to heroin. 

During the 2010s, fentanyl abuse spiraled on the drug market, where it’s often mixed with other drugs like Xanax and Adderall.

What Does Fentanyl Do?

Fentanyl has medical uses for pain management in patients. The drug is administered intravenously and as an inhalant. Its most common uses at hospitals are for:

  • Anesthesia – Administered before surgeries, usually with a sedative-hypnotic. Fentanyl is fast-acting, which allows it to suppress pain in localized areas of the body.
  • Pain management – Fentanyl suppresses pain in patients recovering from surgery. Doctors administer fentanyl post-surgery for prolonged pain relief.

Once patients leave the hospital, doctors may prescribe fentanyl for ongoing pain management. Prescription fentanyl is usually sold as a skin patch or nasal spray. Prescription usage should not exceed 4-6 weeks and should never exceed recommended doses.

Is Fentanyl Deadly?

In terms of potency, Fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. In 2017, fentanyl accounted for 59% of fatal opioid-related drug overdoses. Between 2013 and 2016, annual US fentanyl fatalities rose 113%

Contrary to rumor, fentanyl is not dangerous upon brief, accidental contact with closed skin. 

Is Fentanyl Illegal?

Fentanyl is a Schedule II drug in the US, where it can only be purchased legally with a doctor’s prescription. 

Why Do People Use Fentanyl?

Patients with fentanyl prescriptions use the drug for pain management. However, some patients misuse fentanyl by exceeding the recommended daily dosage. This makes the body tolerant of fentanyl, which negates its benefits as an anesthetic at safe, normal doses. Fentanyl abuse can cause addiction. 

Some people obtain fentanyl illegally on the drug market without a prescription. People use fentanyl as a recreational drug for its euphoric effects, similar to heroin but far more potent. 

Black market fentanyl is far more dangerous and deadly. It’s often mixed with other depressant drugs for their combined, addictive effects. 

Side Effects of Prescribed Fentanyl?

When people take prescription fentanyl, they may experience mild or moderate side effects. In most cases, these side effects are benign and present no danger. Side effects include:

  • Nausea – Some users may feel varying degrees of motion sickness when they first take prescription doses of fentanyl.
  • Constipation – An annoying yet common side effect of fentanyl. Users should drink plenty of water to stay hydrated while on the medication.
  • Sedation – Fentanyl can cause fatigue in users. 
  • Confusion – Fentanyl can cause mild brain fog and confusion. 

Fentanyl can also compromise body coordination and make users feel wobbly and imbalanced. It can be dangerous to operate motor vehicles and firearms while on prescription fentanyl. A more annoying, though not life-threatening side effect is vomiting, which sometimes accompanies sharper symptoms of nausea.

Serious Side Effects of Fentanyl Abuse

Fentanyl has serious side effects in people who abuse the drug or exceed doctor-prescribed dosage amounts. Signs of a medical emergency may include:

  • Respiratory depression – Fentanyl can slow breathing rates. If prolonged or severe, this could rob the brain of oxygen and inhibit brain waves to the body. The possible consequences include damage to the brain and central nervous system.
  • Hallucinations – It’s normal to feel slight confusion on prescribed fentanyl. In cases where the user hears or sees things that don’t exist, that’s a more serious problem. Hallucinations can place people in grave danger in certain situations (behind a wheel, on a ledge, etc.)
  • Serotonin syndrome – Fentanyl abuse can cause assorted symptoms of SS, including faster heartbeats, body shakes, perspiration, pupil dilation, intermittent twitching and overactive reflexes.
  • Low blood pressure – As a depressant medication, Fentanyl can lower blood pressure to dangerous levels if overused. This can be especially dangerous if mixed with other depressants like heroin or alcohol.

Fentanyl abuse is serious due to its high potency. If someone you know takes prescription Fentanyl and shows these symptoms, contact a nearby treatment center immediately.

Is There a Cure for Fentanyl Addiction?

To reverse the deadly effects of fentanyl, doctors administer opioid-reversal medications like naloxone. While there is no cure for addiction, per se, people can and do recover. 

Once addicted, fentanyl no longer has any use as a prescription pain-relief medicine. The only option is abstinence and recovery with alternate forms of pain management.

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment Options

To overcome a fentanyl addiction, it takes a sequence of recovery steps, preferably under the guidance and care of treatment facility staff. Recovery consists of the following:

  • Detox – This begins the moment a person halts his/her fentanyl use. This should always be done under 24/7 supervision by treatment center staff. Otherwise, a person is likely to relapse on the second or third day due to cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Detox typically takes between three and seven days.
  • Residential inpatient treatment – After detox, patients should stay at a treatment center for 30-90 days for recovery. At inpatient drug treatment centers, residents get 24/7 care along with private counseling, group therapy, meals and drug education. Residential life consists of mental and physical wellness activities.
  • Intensive outpatient treatment – An alternative to residential care is outpatient treatment, which covers the same steps (wellness, therapy, activities) but allows the patient to spend nights at home. Outpatient programs range from partial hospitalization (20-40 hours per week) to more moderate schedules (9-19 hours) that let patients honor work commitments.
  • Aftercare – For patients who find themselves at loose ends with fentanyl addiction, most rehab centers offer additional support after treatment. Some centers have sober-living programs that connect patients with transitional housing. Some centers can also link patients with job-placement programs.

Today’s rehab treatment centers use evidence-based holistic therapy and drug treatment. To help ensure long-term recovery, most centers promote behavioral therapy (dual diagnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy) designed to heal the underlying emotional and psychological issues that drive a patient’s mindset and addictive behavior.

Get Help: Fentanyl Addiction Treatment Centers

Fentanyl is one of the deadliest drugs on today’s market and it’s getting cheaper and easier to obtain across the US. Don’t let your loved one become the next casualty. If someone you know struggles with fentanyl addiction, contact a nearby treatment center and ask about their program options. 

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