Fentanyl and Substance Abuse
Fentanyl is a prescription drug similar to morphine. It’s commonly used to treat patients experiencing severe pain, particularly those who’ve undergone surgery. In some cases, it may also be prescribed to patients with chronic pain.
Fentanyl and morphine are classified as opioids, meaning they’re derived from the opium poppy plant. But unlike morphine, a natural substance, fentanyl is synthetic, meaning it’s chemically crafted in laboratories. For this reason, fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine.
Opioid pain medication is effective in helping patients withstand extreme pain. Unfortunately, these substances are also highly addictive.
Fentanyl and the Brain
Opioids work by attaching themselves to opioid receptors in the brain. These receptors help facilitate the body’s pain levels and emotions, effectively providing critically injured patients with the necessary relief.
Fentanyl is essentially a dopamine booster. It induces a feeling of euphoria while minimizing the sensation of pain. Unfortunately for some, feelings of such extreme pleasure can make it hard to stop using fentanyl once they’ve started. In other cases, patients may develop a tolerance for opioid medication, causing them to take higher doses until they become addicted to the substance.
High tolerance for fentanyl often quickly leads to a full-blown addiction. Normally, normal functions will seem impossible, and professional treatment will be necessary for recovery.
Fentanyl Addiction: Statistics
Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the primary cause of overdose deaths in the United States. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), of the 107,375 overdose deaths in 2021, 67% involved a synthetic opioid. This number was up 55.6% from the previous data set.
Unfortunately, these deaths don’t appear to be slowing down. The synthetic opioid-related overdose rate was 18 times higher in 2020 than in 2013. The CDC has stated that these substances contribute to over 150 deaths daily.
Fentanyl Addiction Causes
Substance abuse doesn’t choose its victims by chance. While there’s no definitive cause of addiction, researchers have noted several factors that can make some people more predisposed to addiction than others.
Genetics is one uncontrollable factor that may influence the likelihood of addiction. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), at least half of a person’s vulnerability to addiction can be attributed to genetics.
Genetic factors may increase the likelihood of an opioid use disorder in two ways. First, those whose family members have a history of opioid addiction are more susceptible to developing the condition. Additionally, certain personality traits may signal a higher chance of addiction. According to the APA, these traits can be inherited, leaving some people biologically prone to substance abuse.
Drug Abuse Risk Factors
Genetics isn’t the only potential cause of fentanyl addictions. Several factors may increase a person’s risk of developing a substance abuse disorder.
Some environmental factors can lead to fentanyl misuse. One of the biggest is having easy access to the drug, which is often the case for those who are prescribed opioid medications for pain. Living in a place where drug and alcohol misuse are considered “normal” can also make addiction more likely.
Additionally, some temperamental factors may put a person at greater risk. Those who seek novelty or tend to be impulsive are more likely to use fentanyl, despite the consequences. This risk is further increased in those who’ve previously experimented with other substances.
Fentanyl and Co-Occurring Disorders
Many people who suffer from fentanyl abuse experience additional conditions at the same time. These co-occurring disorders can make it more challenging to resist fentanyl despite its negative consequences. In turn, fentanyl may exacerbate the effects of the parallel disorder. Some common co-occurring disorders include:
- Stimulant use disorder
- Substance abuse (specifically, abuse of a non-opioid substance, such as tobacco)
- Persistent depressive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Co-occurring disorders can make addiction seem impossible to overcome. Specially designed dual-diagnosis treatment programs can be used to target underlying causes for long-lasting recovery.
Signs of a Fentanyl Addiction
No two people experience fentanyl addiction exactly the same way. For this reason, the signs of an addiction can vary greatly. However, most symptoms of fentanyl abuse typically fall into one of four categories: physical, behavioral, cognitive and psychological. Here are some of the most common symptoms of fentanyl abuse disorder.
Physical symptoms of a fentanyl addiction often affect the user’s psychomotor abilities. Affected persons may think and move slowly, a process known as psychomotor retardation. Others may find themselves in the opposite state of psychomotor agitation. They might use repetitive, unintentional movements to cope with feelings of anxiety or restlessness.
Fentanyl addiction can also cause periods of extreme drowsiness or insomnia. In addition, drug abuse can cause the pupils to constrict as they fail to respond to changes in light. No part of the body is left untouched by fentanyl, with some users experiencing symptoms like slurred speech, nausea and constipation.
Behavioral symptoms may not damage the body, but they can severely impact a person’s relationships, career and reputation. Some common signs of fentanyl abuse include:
- Inability to carry out daily responsibilities or maintain relationships
- Extended absence from work or school
- Illegal creation of fake prescriptions to obtain fentanyl
- Extended time spent securing, using and recovering from the use of fentanyl
- Worsened performance at work or school
- Continued misuse of fentanyl despite experiencing negative consequences
Misusing fentanyl can affect a person’s cognitive abilities in several ways. Users often suffer from memory impairment, making it difficult to carry out tasks essential for work, school or socialization. Impaired judgment is a symptom that tends to feed on itself as a person obtains and uses fentanyl despite its harmful effects.
Maintaining attention is difficult for fentanyl abusers as well. They often find themselves unable to focus on one thing for an extended period and may lose the ability to concentrate deeply.
Suicidal ideation is another common symptom, as are intense cravings for fentanyl. When experienced at the same time, these symptoms can become deadly.
Many of these symptoms can make it harder to resist fentanyl, creating a vicious cycle that’s often difficult to break. For this reason, those with severe cognitive impairments often require professional treatment.
Psychological symptoms are also common signs of severe addiction. Addicts may experience periods of extreme euphoria, often quickly followed by intense apathy. A lack of interest in activities that once brought joy is common, too. Depression is also prevalent among those with substance abuse disorders, making for a frequent dual diagnosis.
Effects of a Fentanyl Addiction
The symptoms of fentanyl misuse are only the beginning. Over time, the drug can have severe consequences in every area of a person’s life.
From interpersonally to professionally, a fentanyl addiction can devastate the user’s social life. But even this pales in comparison to the effects it will have on their health. If left untreated, fentanyl abuse can have deadly ramifications. Here are some of the many impacts a fentanyl addiction may cause over time.
Addiction can touch every aspect of a person’s social life. When obtaining and using fentanyl becomes a top priority, obligations to work or school often go neglected. For students, prolonged use can lead to scholarship loss, suspension or even expulsion; addiction could mean unemployment for professionals.
Job loss has its own effects, mainly financial difficulties. In many cases, a user’s finances typically worsen as they desperately work to obtain more fentanyl, a situation only exacerbated by the loss of a job.
Additionally, legal issues are common. Efforts to find more fentanyl often lead the individual to resort to criminal activity, which can lead to fines or prison sentences.
Unfortunately, the effects of substance abuse aren’t limited to a single person. Fentanyl addiction often leads to alienation and losing intimate relationships as the drug becomes the top priority. Those with children may find themselves unable to care for them and, worse, may find their children rehomed until they seek treatment.
Physical and Psychological
The long-term physical and psychological effects of a fentanyl addiction can be particularly devastating.
Opioid use disorder may lead some to develop anoxia, which occurs when the body’s tissues can’t get enough oxygen. Over time, anoxia can cause organs like the heart and kidneys to shut down completely. Impaired vision and weakened gastrointestinal functions are also common as the body cannot effectively carry out standard processes.
Those with fentanyl addiction are often more susceptible to mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. Prolonged substance abuse can make someone more likely to develop such conditions and even worsen the effects of existing ones. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are also common and may become harder to resist over time.
Signs of an Oncoming Fentanyl Overdose
Overdosing is a serious possibility for anyone with an opioid use disorder. Overdoses typically occur when the amount of ingested substance becomes too much for the body to handle. Fentanyl overdoses are life-threatening and often deadly. Here are some signs of an oncoming overdose:
- Trouble breathing
- Clammy skin
- Sudden drop in temperature
- Trouble thinking or talking
- Disorientation or confusion
- Intense drowsiness
Those who exhibit signs of an overdose could be in extreme danger. If you see any of the above symptoms after using fentanyl, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Synthetic Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
Opioid withdrawal is largely considered one of the most difficult parts of recovery. For those who attempt to go cold turkey without professional help, withdrawal symptoms often drive them to relapse.
Like all opioids, fentanyl withdrawal symptoms develop when the drug suddenly becomes unavailable to a body that’s grown accustomed to it. Those who rely intensely on the drug often experience periods of extreme discomfort or pain. In most cases, there’s little a person can do until the body has overcome the withdrawal period.
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms typically begin anywhere from 8 to 24 hours after the last dose. Once they’ve started, they can last up to 10 days, usually no less than 4.
Opioid withdrawal symptoms will vary from person to person. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dilated pupils
- Muscle cramps
- Fevers and aches
- Low blood pressure
- Intense cravings
- Temperature swings
Because the withdrawal experience can be so intense, a safe environment can make all the difference. Inpatient treatment programs are particularly helpful during this time, as a professional support team will have the tools and resources necessary to make patients as comfortable as possible, even with severe withdrawal symptoms.
Substance Abuse Treatment at Ranch Creek Recovery
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can be tough to overcome, but it’s possible with the right support group. If you or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, look no further than Ranch Creek Recovery.
At Ranch Creek Recovery, patients with fentanyl addictions will find the personalized treatment they need to make a lasting recovery. A combination of holistic treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy and fentanyl detox services make Ranch Creek Recovery’s approach comforting and effective so patients can overcome substance abuse once and for all.
Are you ready to take the first step toward recovery? Call (877) 997-8931 to schedule a treatment intake today.