Fentanyl Addiction & Abuse

Understanding Fentanyl, Its Effects, and Warning Signs

Fentanyl is an incredibly powerful synthetic pharmaceutical drug used my health care providers to treat severe short-term pain, in particular for patients who are resistant to traditional opioid painkillers. It is an opioid with a potency of up to 100 times that of morphine, making it one of the strongest drugs of this type. Due to its highly addictive nature, it is not used to treat long-term or chronic pain and is used to treat intense pain resulting from trauma that is so severe that conventional opioids like Percocet and morphine are ineffective.

Fentanyl activates the opioid receptors of the brain to change the way the brain perceives pain, and elicit a dopamine response, the neurotransmitter responsible for creating feelings of pleasure and rewarding the body. Because fentanyl and other opioids fundamentally change the way the brain operates, they are among the most addictive drugs available on the market.

Fentanyl Abuse in the United States

  • In 2016, 49% of drug overdose deaths involved fentanyl
  • According to the DEA, fentanyl abuse killed over 1,000 people between 2005 and 2007
  • According to the CDC, people addicted to opiate painkillers are 40 times more likely to abuse heroin

How to Identify Fentanyl Abuse

Identifying fentanyl abuse can be difficult, especially if the person is taking fentanyl under the care of a physician.

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Is it Fentanyl?

  • Actiq
    Fentanyl in a lollipop form
    oral transmucosal
  • Duragesic
    A brand of Fentanyl patches
    transdermal
  • Sublimaze
    An injectable version of Fentanyl
    intravenous/intramuscular
  • Subsys
    A Fentanyl spray administered under the tongue
    buccal/sublingual
  • Abstral
    A quick dissolve tablet of Fentanyl
    sublingual
  • Lazanda
    A Fentanyl nasal spray
    nasal liquid

You may also hear the drug referred to by one of its street names. These include China Girl, China White, TNT, Crush, Dance Fever, Goodfella, or Tango and Cash. Some of these street names may refer to fentanyl-laced heroin.

Warning signs of Fentanyl Abuse

  • Sleepiness and Drowsiness
  • Contracted pupils
  • Financial problems (due to Fentanyl’s high street prices)
  • Abnormal rapid weight loss
  • Mood swings
  • Visiting multiple doctors

Finding multiple pill bottles of boxes of fentanyl patches under different names may be a sign that someone is acquiring the drug illegally. Also, bottles or boxes may display one of the brand names of various Fentanyl forms.

Extreme Fentanyl Abuse

  • Applying more than one patch
  • Changing patches more frequently
  • Extracting the drug from the patch and injecting it
  • Taking the patches orally
  • Inserting patches into the rectum, called “plugging”
  • Heating up the patch

Abusing fentanyl by tampering with the time-release mechanism is extremely dangerous because the difference between an ideal dose and a fatal one is small. It is also possible to see fentanyl as a pill, spray, lollipop or lozenge.

Anyone abusing fentanyl is at risk for developing dependence and addiction. If you suspect someone you know may be abusing fentanyl, seek professional help immediately.

Beyond Abuse

Due to the potency and addictive nature of the drug, any person using or abusing fentanyl is at risk for developing dependence and addiction. If you are taking fentanyl under the care of a physician, it is important that you follow your doctor’s instructions strictly to lower the risk of developing a dependence. If you or your loved one begins to show signs of fentanyl dependence, seek professional treatment immediately.

Over time, using fentanyl may lead to a physical and psychological dependence. The body will begin to have negative symptoms when not on the drug, called withdrawal. Also, somebody with a fentanyl dependence may develop an over-reliance on the drug for emotional stability and coping with everyday stress.

Due to the extremely addictive nature of the drug, and the substantial risk of overdose, identifying and treating fentanyl addiction early is critical to a successful recovery.

Fentanyl Withdrawal

Once a dependency has been developed, users will experience mild to severe side effects when not under the influence of the drug, called withdrawal.

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chills and cold sweats
  • Irritability
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle, joint, and body pain
  • Flu-like symptoms like fever and runny nose
  • Stomach pain

Withdrawing from fentanyl is an incredibly uncomfortable process, making the drug difficult to quit for those dependent on it. The symptoms vary in severity and length depending on the amount and frequency of the person’s fentanyl use.

Fentanyl Overdose

Fentanyl overdose claims the lives of thousands of people each year. Due to the potency of the drug, anybody abusing fentanyl is at risk of an overdose.

Signs that someone is experiencing a fentanyl overdose include:

  • “Doctor Shopping” – visiting multiple doctors to be prescribed the drug
  • An inability to stop using the drug after it is no longer needed for pain management
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Avoiding or missing social, family, and professional obligations
  • Erratic behavior, mood swings, and depression
  • Expressing financial stress or frequently borrowing money

Once symptoms of a fentanyl overdose appear, it is critical that you get emergency medical assistance immediately by calling 911. Fentanyl overdoses are often fatal, and a quick response is essential to the victim’s survival.

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

Fentanyl is incredibly difficult to quit due to the extreme withdrawal symptoms. Though rarely life threatening, withdrawing from fentanyl can be extremely uncomfortable and specialized inpatient detox and treatment facilities may be a necessary first step toward recovery.

Despite the difficulty, fentanyl addiction is treatable and professional, and specialized care is available. Through a combination of detox, counseling, support groups, and many other methods, you or your loved one can begin your journey toward a healthy lifestyle, free from fentanyl addiction and abuse today.

Take The First Step

Our experienced, compassionate admissions staff at Riverside Recovery of Tampa will guide you through every step of the admissions process. Many of them have gone through recovery themselves or are experienced in the mental health and substance abuse field. From your initial contact with our center, to your intake assessment, the admissions staff will bring you through our doors and on your way to recovery.