Fentanyl Addiction, Side Effects, & Rehab Options
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is an extremely strong synthetic (made in a lab) opioid. Fentanyl, which was created as a prescription medication, is also made and sold illegally.1 Illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF) is gaining popularity as both a drug of use and as an adulterant added to other illicit drugs or counterfeit pills and has played a major role in the country’s opioid overdose epidemic.2
What Is Prescription Fentanyl Used For?
Prescription fentanyl is mainly utilized for the management of severe pain, such as pain associated with surgical procedures, or for chronic pain in patients who have become tolerant to alternative opioid painkillers.4
Fentanyl is sold and prescribed in several forms (e.g., lozenges, patches or injections) and under many brand names such as:5
As a very powerful prescription opioid, fentanyl does have a high potential for misuse, which can mean:6
- Taking fentanyl in a way or dose other than prescribed.
- Taking someone else’s fentanyl.
- Taking fentanyl with the primary intention of getting high.
Prescription fentanyl may be diverted for illicit use by those seeking it for its euphoric effects, but the major growing problem in the U.S. is fentanyl and fentanyl analogues (chemicals that are structurally similar to fentanyl and have similar effects) that are manufactured illegally and then added to other street drugs such as heroin, meth, cocaine, or MDMA to increase their potency. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is also increasingly being found in counterfeit pills sold on the streets, such as counterfeit Xanax, OxyContin, and Adderall. Drug users with little to no tolerance for fentanyl who unknowingly use fentanyl-laced substances can easily overdose and die.5
Beginning in 2013, the U.S. began to see a steep rise in overdose deaths involving both prescription and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a trend that is not letting up. The rate of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids in 2021 was 22 times the rate in 2013.1 Nearly 71,000 opioid overdoses in 2021 involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.1
Dangers of Fentanyl Use
Fentanyl has some significant health risks, whether taken a prescription or used illegally. Appropriate prescription use monitored by a medical professional will mitigate many of the inherent dangers of fentanyl; however, any misuse of either prescription or illicit fentanyl introduces numerous health risks, including opioid dependency, addiction, and overdose.4
Short-Term Effects of Fentanyl Use
Like other opioids, fentanyl binds to the body’s opioid receptors to produce pain relief, relaxation, and euphoria.4 The less-desirable side effects of fentanyl are also similar to other prescription and illicit opioids and include:1,4
- Small pupils.
- Difficulty urinating.
- Slowed or difficult breathing.
Very little fentanyl to cause an overdose. Fentanyl-laced drugs may contain far more fentanyl than would be deadly for the average person.7 Additionally, fentanyl can have a synergistic effect with other opioids including heroin, which means a person who takes prescription opioids or who is addicted to heroin has an increased risk of overdose when combining with fentanyl (knowingly or unknowingly).8
The 3 most common symptoms of an opioid overdose, known as the opioid overdose triad, are:9
- Very tiny (“pinpoint”) pupils.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Problems breathing (slowed, stopped or erratic breathing).
Someone exhibiting these or other signs of fentanyl overdose needs immediate medical attention. If you suspect someone has overdosed, call 911 immediately and wait with the person until responders arrive. If you have Narcan (naloxone) available, administer a dose.10 Because fentanyl is so potent, additional doses of naloxone may be needed.11 If the person does not resume breathing in 3-5 minutes, administer a second dose.12
Place the person in the recovery position with their top leg and arm crossed over their body to prevent choking should they vomit.10 Do not leave the person alone, even if you’ve been using drugs too. Many states, including Nevada, have Good Samaritan laws that protect you from arrest for drug use if you’re helping someone in an overdose emergency.13
NOTE: It’s extremely important that if you witness an overdose, you call 911, even if administer naloxone. While naloxone will reverse overdose effects for 30-90 minutes, fentanyl will stay in the body for longer and the person may re-experience the effects of overdose if they don’t get medical help.11
Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl
Long-term use of opioids including fentanyl can lead to numerous health problems that include:14
- Chronic constipation and related bowel problems.
- Mood disorders.
- Hormonal imbalances in both men and women.
- Increased fracture risk in older individuals.
- Suppressed immune system.
- View more.
One of the most serious risks of fentanyl use is the risk of opioid addiction, a chronic and progressive disease with devastating consequences.4,14 A person who struggles with an addiction to opioids will prioritize the seeking out and using of fentanyl and other opioids, even when doing so harms their health, their relationships, their finances, or other key areas of their life.4
People who use fentanyl chronically will likely develop a physiological dependence, meaning they will suffer uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to quit or reduce their use. Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms include:4
- Bone and muscle pain.
- Shivering and goosebumps.
- Restless legs.
- Insomnia and/or poor sleep.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Strong opioid cravings.
Fentanyl Addiction Signs
Someone who has lost control of their fentanyl use may exhibit the signs of an opioid use disorder, which include:15
- Using opioids in higher amounts or for longer than intended.
- Trying and failing to quit or cut back on opioids.
- Spending a large percentage of one’s time in obtaining, using, or recovering from opioids.
- Failing to attend to one’s personal obligations at home, school or work due to opioid use.
- Cravings for opioids.
- Giving up important activities and hobbies in favor of opioid use.
- Using opioids when doing so can be physically dangerous, such as before using heavy machines or prior to getting behind the wheel.
- Continuing to use opioids even when it is clearly causing or worsening social/relationship problems or physical or psychological heath issues.
- Needing more opioids to feel their effects.
- Having to take opioids to avoid withdrawal or feeling withdrawal symptoms upon cutting back.
All of these are representative of a compulsion to use opioids despite the resulting harm. Without treatment, consequences of this compulsive may continue to grow in severity. Fortunately, treatment for opioid use disorder is effective, and it has helped many people recover from addiction.15
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment in Las Vegas, NV
Recovery from fentanyl addiction is possible through evidence-based addiction treatment. This often entails behavioral therapy, medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD), peer support, and more.16
At Desert Hope, we offer multiple levels of addiction treatment including:
- Medical detox.
- Residential treatment.
- Partial hospitalization program (PHP).
- Intensive outpatient program (IOP).
- Standard outpatient treatment.
- Sober living.
We can talk you through your recovery options when you call us at . We can also help you instantly check your insurance benefits with our quick online benefits check.
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