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Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction

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Knowing the signs and symptoms of fentanyl addiction can help in seeking immediate medical attention.

The American Psychiatric Association defines addiction as “a state of psychological and/or physical dependence on the use of drugs or other substances.” Sadly, this definition is no longer limited to illicit substances but also encompasses the dangerous misuse of medical drugs such as prescription opioids.

signs fentanyl addiction

The National Institute On Drug Abuse reported that more than 2 million Americans abuse opioids. Of these, the most commonly abused drugs include Codeine and Fentanyl (available by the names of Duragesic and Actiq). The latter is responsible for a significant number of deaths associated with opioid overdose.

Given the prevalence and devastating repercussions, it’s essential to learn about the signs and symptoms of fentanyl addiction. This will help facilitate timely intervention for addicts so they may be rescued from the dangers of this dangerous substance abuse.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid, up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. 

The drug is developed and prescribed for legitimate medical purposes. These include the management of severe pain in cancer patients, physical pain management in patients who have endured massive physical trauma (such as road traffic accidents), and during medical procedures such as major surgeries where patients need much-needed relief from pain.

Prescription fentanyl comes in different forms, including injections, nasal sprays, tablets, and skin patches.

The Dangers of Fentanyl Abuse

The abuse of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids has surged in recent years, contributing to a dramatic increase in drug overdose deaths. Some harmful effects of fentanyl abuse include:

Sober Speak Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction
  • Use of Illicit Form of the Drug: Drug dealers frequently sell non-regulated fentanyl analogs and counterfeit pills, leading to unintentional overdoses. Illicit fentanyl, often mixed with other substances like heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine, poses a significant health risk.
  • Mental Health Deterioration: Fentanyl can cause significant psychological effects, including behavioral changes and mood swings. Changes in behavior can include increased agitation, anger outbursts, and withdrawal from social interaction.
  • Poor Health: It can also affect physical health in ways such as weight loss, heart problems, and an overall decline in physical health.
  • Risk of Fatal Overdose: Due to its high potency, fentanyl addicts are prone to overdosing. Overdose of fentanyl can cause a lack of oxygen supply to the brain, causing a condition called brain hypoxia. This can lead to permanent damage to the brain and even coma or death if help is delayed.
  • Social Repercussions: Since fentanyl is a prescription drug, it might not be readily available. This causes addicts to spend large amounts of money on procuring the drug, causing financial strain or engagement in illegal or unethical activities to earn money to fund their addiction. It also leads to poor performance at school or work, further worsening their social prospects.
  • Lack Of Relationships: Addicts often suffer from strained relationships with their family members and partners. This can eventually lead to broken homes, isolation, and loneliness.

Risk Factors and Causes for Fentanyl Addiction

Understanding the risk factors and causes of fentanyl addiction is crucial for addressing this public health crisis. Factors that may significantly increase the risk of fentanyl addiction include:

  • Chemical Dependency and Physical Dependence: Fentanyl’s high potential for addiction stems from its rapid and intense effects on opioid receptors in the brain. Physical dependence can develop quickly, leading to severe withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not used. Hence, a lot of people who have fentanyl prescribed to them for a long period develop a dependency on it, leading to addiction.
  • Misuse and Polysubstance Use: Combining fentanyl with other substances, such as alcohol or other opioid drugs, increases the risk of overdose and addiction. 
  • Biological and Genetic Factors: Genetic predispositions can make some individuals more susceptible to opioid use disorder. According to the National Institute On Drug Abuse, genetics account for about half of a person’s risk for addiction. Ethnicity may also contribute to one’s risk of developing an addiction.
  • Stressors and Psychological Factors: Factors like suffering from chronic pain, mental illness, experiencing some trauma, and exposure to high-risk environments may contribute to the development of a substance use disorder. The National Institute of Health notes that stress, trauma, and co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, are closely linked to addiction.
  • Environmental Factors: Exposure to drugs at an early age can significantly increase one’s risk of addiction. Individuals who have parents or friends who have a fentanyl use disorder have a higher chance of doing the same.

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction

Identifying the symptoms of fentanyl addiction can help in seeking immediate medical attention. Common signs of opioid addiction include:

  • Severe cravings and compulsive drug use
  • Persistent preoccupation with thoughts about fentanyl use
  • Experience of withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, and agitation
  • Behavioral changes, including isolation and neglect of responsibilities
  • Physical symptoms, such as weight loss and changes in physical health

The Treatment Process for Fentanyl Addiction

Recovery from fentanyl addiction requires comprehensive and professional treatment. Here are the key steps in the recovery process:

  • Professional Help: A thorough medical evaluation by healthcare professionals is crucial to determine the appropriate treatment options. Factors such as the extent and duration of addiction can help guide the treatment strategy.
  • Supervised Detox: Medical detox under supervision helps manage fentanyl withdrawal symptoms safely. It also helps ensure that the addict does not go back to taking the drug to escape withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Inpatient Rehabilitation: An Inpatient treatment facility such as a rehab center can provide a structured environment for intensive care. These facilities offer medical help, counseling, and support to address both physical dependence and psychological effects of fentanyl addiction.
  • Outpatient Rehab and Long-Term Recovery: Outpatient rehab programs offer continued support through behavioral therapies, support groups, and ongoing counseling. This phase is critical for maintaining sobriety and preventing relapse.
  • Support Groups: Support groups can make the recovery journey significantly more manageable. Groups like Narcotics Anonymous help ex-addicts remain on the path to sobriety by providing them with a safe space. 

Preventing Fentanyl Overdose and Promoting Recovery

As fentanyl addiction becomes a prevalent health crisis, it’s essential to take steps that help prevent fentanyl addiction and overdose. 

  • Education and Awareness: Since most fentanyl addiction begins in adolescence, it’s important to educate this group on the harmful effects of this substance. Schools and media campaigns should focus on increasing awareness about the potential risks and signs of fentanyl addiction. Resources like drug abuse warning networks can provide credible information and stats. This can help kids stay away from drugs and also encourage parents to monitor their children for any signs.
  • Access to Treatment: Ensuring access to professional treatment options, including inpatient and outpatient rehab, is essential for adequate recovery. Accessible treatment helps with timely intervention and reduces the risk of overdose, coma, or death.
  • Support for Families: Family members play a super important role in supporting individuals with substance use disorder. Providing resources and support for families can enhance recovery outcomes.

In conclusion, fentanyl addiction is fast becoming a national health concern. It is a complex and life-threatening condition requiring immediate and comprehensive care. Understanding the risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options can help individuals and their families take proactive steps toward recovery. 

For those struggling with fentanyl addiction, seeking help from medical professionals and treatment centers is a crucial step in the recovery journey. With the proper support and dedication, long-term recovery is achievable.

About the author
Shannon M
Shannon M's extensive experience in addiction recovery spans several decades. Her journey started at a young age when she attended treatment aftercare sessions for a family member and joined Alateen meetings, a support group for young people affected by a loved one's addiction. In 1994, Shannon personally experienced the challenges of addiction and took the courageous step of joining Alcoholics Anonymous. This experience gave her a unique perspective on the addiction recovery process, which would prove invaluable in her future work. Shannon's passion for helping others navigate the complexities of addiction led her to pursue a degree in English with a minor in Substance Abuse Studies from Texas Tech University. She completed her degree in 1996, equipping her with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide compassionate and effective support to those struggling with addiction.