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Fentanyl Addiction and Rehab

Forms of fentanyl citrate like vial, patch and pills

Published: April 16, 2024

Fentanyl addiction occurs when a person becomes reliant on the drug to function regularly. It can be extremely detrimental to your health, mental well-being, and even your relationships and career.

Substance use disorders (SUD) are a widespread issue among Americans, especially when it comes to opioids.

However, there are many safe and effective treatment options that can help you recover from addiction and learn how to manage it going forward.

Read on to learn about fentanyl, fentanyl addiction, and rehabilitation options.

Why Does Fentanyl Lead to Addiction?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used to treat severe pain and chronic pain. Opioids, including fentanyl and oxycodone, are associated with a high risk of addiction.

Prescription fentanyl comes in many different forms including lozenges, tablets, sprays, and patches.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies fentanyl as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it is approved for medical use but has a high potential for abuse. Fentanyl, among other synthetic opioids, is associated with the most drug overdose deaths in the country.

The way opioids work is by blocking pain signals from your brain and central nervous system (CNS) by binding to the opioid receptors in your brain. The use of opioids simultaneously releases endorphins.

Both of these factors can make the use of fentanyl addicting. People may start to feel as though they need the pain-blocking characteristics and rush of endorphins to feel normal.

Fentanyl is also notoriously known for being mixed into other implicit drugs like fake pills, counterfeit pills, or cocaine. People are often unaware and unintentionally become addicted to fentanyl as a result.

Fentanyl Abuse vs. Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl is a prescription drug. This means that unlike some addictive drugs, not all fentanyl use is considered abuse. However, it’s essential to note that abuse and addiction are not the same.

When it comes to fentanyl abuse, the term refers to any unadvised use of the drug. This can include a number of different misuse, but some examples are using the drug without a prescription, using it more frequently than prescribed, or taking a larger dose than prescribed.

When someone develops a fentanyl addiction, however, they mentally rely on the drug to get through their day. Abuse can often develop into addiction, so it’s important to take both conditions seriously.

Does Fentanyl Cause Dependence?

Yes, fentanyl does cause dependence. Physical dependence is very common with opioids, which is part of why they have a high abuse potential.

Physical dependence occurs when your body relies on a medication to function properly. This causes people to experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using the drug.

When it comes to fentanyl in particular, your body will start to build up a tolerance to its effects over time, which causes people to need higher doses of the drug to feel the same effects.

Signs of a Fentanyl Addiction

Indication of a fentanyl addiction can come in many different forms. There are several signs and symptoms that are important to know, especially if you are concerned about addiction in a loved one or even yourself.

Signs and symptoms of fentanyl addiction include:

  • Insomnia
  • Cravings for fentanyl
  • Goosebumps
  • Restless legs
  • Euphoria
  • Pupil constriction
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Urinary retention
  • Confusion
  • Social withdrawal
  • Engaging in risky behavior
  • Heavy fentanyl use
  • Taking higher doses of fentanyl to get the same effects
  • Inability to stop thinking about fentanyl
  • Financial problems due to borrowing money for drugs

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms occur when a person has a physical dependence on fentanyl and stops taking the drug. These symptoms can exacerbate addiction as they can be extremely unpleasant and dangerous.

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shaking
  • Goosebumps
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe cravings
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Irritability
  • Increased pain
  • High temperature
  • Yawning
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Dilated pupils

Side Effects of Fentanyl Abuse

Fentanyl misuse comes with a slew of side effects. Additionally, some are short term, meaning they occur immediately after use, and others are long term, meaning they occur after repeated, prolonged use.

Short-term effects of fentanyl abuse include:

  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Pain relief
  • Sedation
  • Confusion
  • Urinary retention
  • Pupil constriction
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Respiratory depression
  • Opioid overdose
  • UTI
  • Breathing problems
  • Unconsciousness
  • Clammy skin
  • Gurgling noises
  • Coma
  • Death

Long-term effects of fentanyl abuse include:

  • Increased bone fractures
  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Chronic constipation
  • Sleep-disordered breathing
  • Hyperalgesia
  • Memory problems
  • Mental health disorders
  • Organ failure

Risk Factors for Fentanyl Addiction

Since fentanyl is a highly addictive drug, anyone who uses the drug has potential to become addicted. However, there are risk factors that can make specific groups of people more prone to opioid addiction.

General substance abuse risk factors can include:

  • Family history of addiction
  • Early exposure to substances
  • Pressure from peers
  • Mental illness
  • Lack of family involvement

Risk factors specific to fentanyl addiction may include:

  • Being prescribed fentanyl
  • Being aged in the teens to 20’s
  • Environmental factors like easy access to fentanyl
  • Taking part in risky and party-seeking behaviors
  • Having chronic pain
  • Using illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine
  • Using fentanyl unprescribed
  • Using non-medical-grade fentanyl

Diagnosing Fentanyl Addiction

A true fentanyl addiction diagnosis can only be given by a certified health professional through a medical evaluation.

However, it’s possible to identify an addiction by its signs and symptoms and encourage the individual who is demonstrating them to seek professional help.

During a medical evaluation for a substance addiction, your healthcare provider will ask several questions about different areas of your life as well as your use of fentanyl.

They will also evaluate you for withdrawal symptoms and behavioral patterns. You may receive a referral to a rehab facility from your doctor.

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment Options

Addiction treatment is a personalized medical service, as everyone has different needs and may respond differently to various treatment methods.

Luckily, there are many treatment options available for fentanyl addiction. You will likely encounter several over the course of your recovery journey.

Detox Programs

Most people start their recovery journey by detoxing from fentanyl. Essentially, a detox program helps your body process any fentanyl that is still in your system and get through the withdrawal stage.

You can expect your care providers to do several things during a medical detox. First, they’ll be monitoring your vitals at all times to ensure you’re detoxing safely. They will also administer any necessary medications and help you manage your withdrawal symptoms.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

A very effective treatment option for opioid use disorders (OUD) like fentanyl addiction is medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

This evidence-based treatment service focuses on the use of FDA-approved medications like Suboxone, buprenorphine, and methadone to treat addiction by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

It is typically a long-term treatment service and can help reduce the risk of relapse greatly. Over time, you will be tapered off the medication.

Inpatient Rehab Programs

There are two main categories of rehabilitation programs: inpatient and outpatient. Inpatient treatment programs are known for providing the highest level of care and round-the-clock medical attention.

Inpatient program participants live in a care facility for the duration of their treatment to make 24/7 care possible. Living in a controlled environment is part of what makes inpatient programs so effective.

This type of program is very structured with a daily schedule and combines several treatment methods for a comprehensive approach to recovery.

Outpatient Treatment

The other main type of treatment program is outpatient treatment. Though the level of care provided by an outpatient rehab program is not as high as that of an inpatient program, it is still a very effective treatment method.

Rather than living in a treatment center, participants travel to a rehab facility several days a week for treatment. This can be a great option following an inpatient program or for people who cannot leave their homes for an extended period of time.

Outpatient treatment comes in several variations including intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) and partial hospitalization programs (PHPs).

What Happens After Fentanyl Rehab?

After a fentanyl rehab program, you will transition into what is called aftercare or continuing care. Both terms refer to the treatment services you continue to participate in post-treatment.

Depending on what is most beneficial for your needs, you may choose one or more treatment methods to help you transition back to your day-to-day life, encourage long-lasting sobriety, and reduce the risk of relapse.

Some people choose to continue behavioral therapy if their addiction is highly related to mental illness, some choose to join support groups, others move into sober housing, and some people even choose alternative therapy methods like yoga.

Who Can Benefit From Fentanyl Rehab?

The benefits of fentanyl rehab can be useful for anyone who has ever abused fentanyl or found themselves addicted to it.

Though it can be very challenging and can seem overwhelming at times, the benefits of a treatment program are immense, regardless of the severity of your addiction.

Benefits of fentanyl treatment include:

  • Improved physical and mental health
  • Improved relationships (personal and business)
  • Repaired familial bonds
  • Improved financial health
  • Reduced risk of opioid overdose
  • Reduced risk of death due to fentanyl
  • Reduced risk of relapse
  • Improved career

How to Prevent Relapse After Fentanyl Rehab

While getting opioid treatment is extremely important, your relapse prevention plan following a treatment program is equally as vital. In order to prevent relapse, you and your physician can devise a relapse prevention plan for you to follow in your day-to-day life.

When you go back to your regular routine, you may find triggers and stressors to be overwhelming and you may want to slip back into old habits. With prevention tactics, relapse is much less likely.

Relapse prevention tools can include:

  • Building a support system
  • Joining support groups
  • Finding new, healthy hobbies
  • Surrounding yourself with supportive friends and loved ones
  • Continuing therapy and counseling
  • Learning healthier coping skills

Find Help for Yourself or a Loved One with Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl addiction is a serious issue and can be life-threatening without proper medical attention. There are many ways to treat it and improve your health following fentanyl misuse.

Ready to take the first step in your journey to recovery? Give our helpline a call today.

Fentanyl Addiction FAQs

How dangerous is fentanyl?

Fentanyl can be used safely under medical supervision and with a prescription. When used illegally or abused, fentanyl can be very dangerous and is highly likely to cause addiction.

Small amounts can be a lethal dose. Overdose is reversible in some cases with naloxone (Narcan).

What are the side effects of fentanyl abuse?

There are many short- and long-term effects of fentanyl abuse. Some of these include pain relief, nausea, vomiting, slowed breathing, UTI, euphoria, coma, overdose, and death. While some are pleasant, most are very dangerous

Can you quit fentanyl addiction without treatment?

Though it is not impossible to quit fentanyl without treatment, people are much more likely to achieve sobriety following professional addiction treatment.

This is because rehab programs use evidence-based treatment methods. It can be safer to quit addiction under medical supervision, too.

Can you recover from fentanyl addiction?

Yes, you can recover from fentanyl addiction with the right treatment. It’s important to note that fentanyl addiction cannot be cured, but it can be treated and managed, making long-term recovery possible.

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