One of the most dangerous substances circulating in our communities today, fentanyl affects countless individuals across the country. The opioid epidemic has continued to worsen over the last several years and fentanyl abuse has become an increasingly troublesome problem right alongside other opioid addictions.
Are you concerned that a loved one may be abusing fentanyl? If so, you’re not alone. Initiatives, programs, and treatment centers all across the country offer a variety of options to combat fentanyl abuse. You can have the support you’ll need to help your loved one fight back against this dangerous and potentially deadly drug.
Read on to learn more about the dangers of fentanyl abuse – and how to recognize the signs and symptoms. Understanding how the drug affects people can help you to better determine whether or not your loved one is struggling. From there, you can help them find the right intervention and treatment options available for a long-standing recovery.
What You Need to Know About Fentanyl
A few words about fentanyl itself will help you to better understand what the substance is all about. This knowledge may be a critical component to helping you identify whether or not a loved one is abusing it.
Fentanyl is an opioid (narcotic) medication often used for pain prevention and relief. It is commonly used with anesthesia and helps to mitigate pain after surgery or other medical procedures. However, it can quickly become addictive and is often available on the street in potentially dangerous compounds or dosages.
There are a few brand names and other names associated with fentanyl. They include the following:
These names vary based on how the medicine is administered. Options include tablets, lozenges, patches, sprays, and injections. In most cases, the term ‘fentanyl’ still serves as a catch-all for all these different brand names and forms of the medication.
Fentanyl and Addiction
Much like other opioids, fentanyl binds itself to the body’s pain and emotion receptors. As a result, the brain boosts its dopamine levels and produces a high. Ongoing use and abuse of this narcotic can lead to a physical dependence. This is why it remains such a risky and dangerous drug.
Here are a few critical facts about fentanyl from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration:
- Fentanyl is an extremely high potency narcotic.
- It is between 30-50 times stronger than heroin.
- It is from 50-100 times more potent than morphine.
- Fentanyl’s high potency makes it extremely dangerous – even in very small doses.
- Even just 2 milligrams can be a lethal dose of fentanyl.
- Many overdoses and deaths from heroin and other opioids occur when those narcotics are laced with the much stronger fentanyl.
Fentanyl also goes by a wide variety of street names. A few examples are listed here:
- China Girl
- Dance Fever
- Murder 8
The DEA also notes that countless overdoses occur as a result of the raw strength of fentanyl. Furthermore, multiple varieties are even more potent than those listed above!
For example, carfentanyl is a compound often used as a tranquilizer for large animals like elephants. It has nearly double the potency of normal fentanyl and is up to 100 times stronger than heroin. This may cause immediate overdoses in people who may not know the type of narcotics they receive or use.
Signs of Fentanyl Overdose
Like other narcotics, fentanyl overdose is a serious and potentially fatal situation. The drug naloxone (brand name Narcan) is often used by EMS to immediately treat an overdose. However, someone overdosing on fentanyl may require multiple applications of Narcan due to its above-mentioned potency.
Signs of a potential drug overdose include the following:
- Disorientation or Stupor
- Dramatic Decrease in Pupils (Pinpoint)
- Clammy Skin Cold to the Touch
- Loss of Color in Hands/Fingers/Feet/Toes
The so-called ‘overdose triad’ for fentanyl and other opioids includes pinpoint pupils, decreased respiratory function, and a comatose state. In any of these scenarios, you should call EMS immediately. In severe cases of emergency, you may also need to administer CPR until EMS arrives on the scene.
Understanding and Recognizing Fentanyl Abuse
No one ever wants to find their loved one in the midst of an overdose. This is why it is so important to identify the warning signs of fentanyl abuse prior to this point. Even just a little vigilance can help you spot the telltale signs of addiction and abuse. For many people, identifying the problem is the first step toward intervention and eventual recovery.
With that said, you must also distinguish between the acute effects of fentanyl as well as the prolonged effects of fentanyl abuse. Recognizing when someone is actively high often occurs with several easy-to-identify symptoms. However, identifying abuse through long-term effects is not always so easy.
Signs of Acute Fentanyl Use
People under the influence of fentanyl and other opioids often demonstrate several physical and mental symptoms. As mentioned above, many of these symptoms can escalate into serious problems with an overdose. But you can also use these qualities to help you determine if a loved one is actively under the influence.
The most common symptoms of active fentanyl intoxication are noted below:
- Confusion: May seem confused or disoriented.
- Pinpoint Pupils: A signature sign of acute opioid intoxication.
- Decreased Respiration and Fatigue: Slower breathing often occurs alongside fatigue or tiredness.
- Trouble with Balance or Walking: May stumble, have trouble standing, or may not be able to walk.
- Dizziness or Fainting: May have dizzy spells that lead to falling down or fainting.
- Slurring of Speech: Difficulty understanding words.
- Vomiting or Nausea: May have bouts of sickness to the stomach that leads to vomiting.
- Itchiness All Over Body: May have localized or general itchiness across the body.
- Generalized Weakness: Often seen as difficulty exercising or little strength for regular activities like walking or pushing open doors.
- Stiffness in Joints or Muscles: Difficulty moving or bending extremities.
- Depression: Generalized sadness, melancholy, or unwillingness to act.
Again, one of the most signature signs of opioid use comes in the form of pinpoint pupils. Intoxication from other substances like alcohol often will cause many of these listed symptoms. However, the pinpoint pupils typically occur only with narcotics and not other intoxicants.
Signs of Fentanyl Abuse
Ongoing usage of fentanyl and other narcotics produces multiple effects on those who are suffering from addiction. These effects can often be observed even when someone is not actively using. In some cases, they can help to serve as a so-called ‘smoking gun’ of evidence of abuse.
The physical effects of fentanyl abuse frequently encompass these symptoms:
- Frequent Illness and Weakened Immune System: Opioid abuse decreases immune system function, and this leads to a higher frequency of illnesses.
- Stomach and Gastrointestinal Issues: Ongoing fentanyl abuse causes gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, bowel obstruction. In extreme cases, it may also cause bowel perforation.
- Seizures: Addicts may experience seizures even when they have no history or medical risk for them.
- Breathing Problems: Many fentanyl and opioid addicts experience chronic, decreased respiration. As a result, this leads to recurrent problems with shortness of breath.
Beyond the physical, fentanyl also affects people mentally and emotionally. Often, the psychological effects are even more detrimental to a person suffering from addiction. Additional mental/emotional symptoms of fentanyl abuse include:
- Withdrawal from Friends/Family: May remove themselves from normal social functions and activities and withdraw into solitude.
- Paranoia: Many people experience undue paranoia relating to a variety of factors. Frequently, this paranoia relates to their fentanyl abuse and people accusing them of an addiction.
- Delusions: While acutely high, many addicts suffer active hallucinations. But they may also suffer from various delusions related to their addiction. These delusions could lead to even more emotional distancing from loved ones.
- Depression and Decreased Motivation: Those who suffer from addiction may lose motivation to do even basic tasks like going to work. This often coincides with depression and a general inability to act and participate in regular activities.
- Lying and Deception: Fentanyl abusers will frequently lie and deceive their loved ones while in the throes of their addiction. Many of these people may not have a history of lying prior to this time.
- Risky, Dangerous, and Unusual Behavior: Those who suffer from addiction may also engage in behavior that is unlike their typical actions. This frequently includes dangerous, risky, and impulsive actions that leave family and loved ones highly concerned.
No matter the situation, fentanyl abuse is a serious and difficult situation for everyone involved. However, your loved one may be suffering in the midst of an addiction she/he has no control over. This is why it is so important to understand the warning signs of addiction and abuse.
Intervening to Address Fentanyl Abuse
Although it is extremely difficult, an intervention may be necessary to help someone suffering from fentanyl addiction. These interventions always come from a place of love. Ultimately, they may also help to save your loved one from succumbing to their addiction.
The good news is, you have help right where you need it. There are plenty of addiction treatment centers which specialize in opioid addiction. These facilities share the same goal as you and your family: to help your loved one overcome their addiction. Furthermore, they work to identify and overcome the triggers which may lead to fentanyl use again in the future.
Fentanyl abuse treatment typically encompasses two primary areas. The first, detox, eliminates the physical and emotional symptoms of withdrawal after quitting. Second, rehabilitation focuses on long-term recovery. The goal in this stage is to identify the root causes of addiction and the triggers that may lead to relapse.
Through counseling and education, former addicts are given a supportive, caring environment where they can express themselves freely. Depending on the facility, additional care options may be available for those suffering from fentanyl addiction. This may include ongoing medical management to slowly wean those in recovery off the drug. Approaching addiction in this manner often helps improve long-term recovery and it decreases the chances of a relapse.
The Value of Harm Reduction Treatment
Harm reduction programs include treatment for opioid addiction using countermeasure drugs such as methadone or suboxone. These programs focus on helping patients transition into less risky behavior while progressively weaning them off of opioid addiction. Furthermore, counseling and routine medical exams ensure a safe, positive recovery.
Like methadone, suboxone helps to treat people who have suffered from fentanyl abuse and addiction. The treatment can often be administered as an outpatient process. That way, patients do not have to disrupt their everyday lives as much as they would within a short- or long-term rehab facility.
In many cases, addicts will first have to undergo a detox to reduce the risk and danger to themselves. From there, they have a variety of options when it comes to treatment.
One of the most critical goals of any fentanyl abuse treatment is to prevent future usage and relapse. This will typically become a major component to any rehab or outpatient treatment programs. In the end, the objective is to help recovering addicts to stay on the road to better health.
Recovery Oasis: Fentanyl Abuse Help for Your Loved One
The staff at Recovery Oasis prides themselves on their caring, compassionate approach to treating those suffering from addiction. They provide a variety of programs and services centered on patient recovery. This includes everything from suboxone treatment and outpatient care to family counseling and education initiatives.
Fentanyl abuse and addiction does not have to destroy the lives of you and your family. Please know that you have the help and support you need for your loved one right here.
Professional services from centers like Recovery Oasis lead to significantly higher recovery rates for those struggling with addiction. You and your loved one can get the help and support you need to win this fight.
To learn more about what Recovery Oasis offers, please contact us today. We’re happy to tell you all about our treatment options. From there, we’re confident we can find the right recovery choice for your loved one.
If you fear your loved one suffers from fentanyl abuse or addiction, don’t wait another minute to act. Use this article to help you identify the signs and symptoms of addiction. That way, you can take action and help your loved one take a positive step toward recovery.