What is Fentanyl Addiction and what are its effects on the body? This is what we’re going to discuss in this article. But first, let’s get to understand addiction in general. Addiction is commonly referred to as having an unusually great interest in doing something harmful or dangerous to our health. Psychologically, it refers to the inability of someone to stop consuming a chemical, drug, substance, or an activity, even though they knew it will affect them physically and mentally.
Addiction to drugs, such as cocaine, is the most common addiction we know, but addiction does not only refers to its dependency on drugs. It may also refer to behavioural addictions such as the inability of a person to stop overeating, gambling, overworking, smoking, and most commonly, playing computer games.
Addiction is also a chronic disease that may result from taking medications, overusing of prescribed opioid painkillers/pain relievers, that causes over so many untimely deaths. A person experiencing addiction cannot control themselves.
They cannot control the way they use a substance or the way they partake in an activity because they become dependent on these things that they think they can no longer live their daily lives without it.
Mostly, addiction starts by voluntarily using a drug or being involved in an activity, however, addiction takes place over their bodies where they can no longer control themselves.
Related article: What is Addiction? Understanding Addiction
Symptoms of being addicted and its withdrawal
There are primary symptoms and indications of addiction, these are uncontrollably seeking the drugs, uncontrollably engaging in harmful behaviours that are habit-forming, neglecting or the losing of interest on the activities that do not involve the harmful substance or behaviors that they are currently into, relationship difficulties to someone or to their loved ones, the inability of stopping the use of drugs, changes in physical appearance, including the noticeable abandonment of their hygiene, and increased risk-taking.
While being addicted is not only the problem, the withdrawal or people withdrawing from the use of these substances or activity may also experience certain symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, irritability, shaking, and tremors, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
Related article: How to Prepare for Drug Withdrawal Symptoms?
Consequences of Being a Drug Dependent
Addiction does not only pose negative effects on your health but a series of destruction in every aspect of a person’s life—may it be the user or the people surrounding the user. Some addicts did not even know what they have gotten themselves into. Here is a list of consequences that every drug dependent that must be aware of:
Uncontrolled use of drugs can damage the various functions of a person’s body and can even change a person’s appearance. Drug addicts often look older than they usually are. Drugs can potentially damage the organs, cause hormonal imbalance, cancer, fertility issues, gastrointestinal disease, and even sexually transmitted diseases.
Drugs can also change how a person behaves; may it be through depression, memory loss, mood swings, psychosis, anxiety, aggression, or paranoia. The emotional effects may also vary for each individual. But the common experience is that the effects cause a lot of stress to the person and the people he or she is with.
Most of these illegal substances are highly regulated and banned in many states and by local or federal governments. Those who are caught being involved in these illegal transactions and proven guilty will face serious charges.
Some of the most common charges to any drug user or drug dealers are large fines, extensive jail sentences, probation, arrest records that make it hard to get a job, driver’s license suspension and transportation difficulty, strict community service requirements, and restriction to live on certain communities.
Due to the drug’s ability to alter a person’s emotion and behaviour, it will create conflicts in relationships may it be between families, friends, or even couples. Some addicts will find it hard to blend in with his/her friends that are non-users and will only find enjoyment with those who also abuse the substance. Thus, eventually, result in the shrinking of an addict’s social circle.
At some point, an addict may continue to abuse drugs on an individual basis that makes them isolated from human contact. This will make them prone to depression and anxiety with the fact that loneliness will eventually kick in upon losing contact.
Also, other effects on a person’s life caused by drugs include job loss, divorce, and suspension or expulsion from organized activities.
What is Fentanyl Addiction?
After talking about addiction in the previous part, we are now going to focus on another kind of addiction that is currently taking up a place in society today, this is called Fentanyl Addiction. So, what is fentanyl addiction?
Fentanyl is a cure that leads to addiction. Fentanyl is a prescription drug that is similar to morphine but is more potent thus, it is one of the most prescribed drugs by doctors and one of the top options by patients for cases of reducing or alleviating chronic pain.
It is used to treat patients experiencing severe pains and also those who are physically tolerant to other opioids. Opioids are a class of naturally occurring drug substance found in opium poppy plants. Most opioids are found in plants but there are others like Fentanyl that are made inside a laboratory which chemical structure is patterned to the natural one.
Fentanyl is a drug made of synthetic opioids. The composition of the drug explains why Fentanyl causes addiction if not regulated. Fentanyl reacts once ingested or enter the system.
It binds to the body’s opioid receptors which can be found on our central nervous system specifically to the area responsible for controlling pain and emotion. The unregulated intake of Fentanyl will make a person lose its tolerance to painkillers at the same level.
It can also affect the mental state of a person in which they will not be able to feel any pleasure apart from taking the drug. Some of the symptoms are the difficulty of breathing, feeling confused, drowsiness, nausea, constipation, sedation and even unconsciousness.
Addiction to Fentanyl causes a person to slow down their breathing which leads to a decrease in the amount of oxygen to the brain. Worse is that it can cause coma, brain damage or even death.
Fentanyl addiction is due to its potency. The drug has the ability to make the patient totally dependent on it that somehow causes withdrawal issues when a person stops taking the drug. People who stopped taking the drug may experience sleeping disorder, diarrhea, vomiting, severe cravings, body malaise and uncontrollable body movements. These symptoms make people taking the drug find difficult to stop.
Currently, there are drugs that can aid withdrawal issues such as lofexidine. Apart from prescription drugs that counter the side effect of Fentanyl on one’s body, it is best to address the issue with behavioural therapy in order to fully overcome the addiction caused by the drug.
Therapy is done in addressing the addiction target patient’s expectation in the adverse effect of drugs and being dependent on it as well as it helps manage one’s stress once it is triggered. Behavioural treatment if applied along with medicine is found to be an effective answer in addressing Fentanyl addiction.
The high potency of Fentanyl makes it ideal for treating patients suffering from chronic pain. However, its adverse effect if taken more than what is prescribed is alarming. Unconsciously, people taking the drug becomes dependent which later on will lead to addiction.
The addiction caused by the drug needs intervention else will result in a complication or worse it can cause death. We should always bear in mind that one should be responsible for knowing the adverse effect of a drug prior to taking it and everything is good if moderated.
Those people who have easier access to the drug (like the people who are working on a hospital where fentanyl is frequently administered) also have a higher possibility of falling as prey to fentanyl addiction.
Methods of Using Fentanyl
Permissible fentanyl which is prescribed by doctors can be in the form of a shot; there are also patches that are placed on a person’s skin. The drug may also be taken as lozenges.
On the other hand, illicit fentanyl varieties that can be linked with recent overdoses are made in laboratories and is patterned just like the natural one. This synthetic drug is sold illegally and is placed in nasal sprays or eye droppers when being sold to users.
It only takes a little amount of fentanyl to make a high compared to other drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine that for it is actually 80-100 times stronger than morphine—also a pain medication which acts directly to the central nervous system that alleviates the amount of pain. This is why some drug dealers are mixing fentanyl to other drugs for it becomes a cheaper option.
Further, people who are constantly using this drug become imaginative in making street names to avoid detection from law enforcement and ensuring privacy in terms of their communication. These slang terms can be derived from the colour, shape, or consistency of the drug, the effects of the drug, abbreviated forms of the name, expanded forms of the name, and those who commonly use the drug.
As for fentanyl, the most frequent slang terms are He-Man, Great Bear, Goodfellas, Dance Fever, China White, China Town, China Girl, and Apace.
Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction
There are common indications that show that the abuse is using fentanyl. These signs and symptoms include confusion, difficulty of walking, depression, muscle stiffness, shaking, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, weakness, labored breathing, slowed or altered heart rate, pinpoint pupils, itching and scratching, nausea, vomiting, visual hallucinations, weight loss, sleepiness, slurred speech, and worst, this may lead to unconsciousness, coma, or even death.
Fentanyl Abuse Effects
In addition to the signs and symptoms mentioned above, there are also effects on the physical and mental health of people involved in a long-term fentanyl problem. Physical effects include seizures, the difficulty of breathing, weakened immune system, and severe gastrointestinal problems such as bowel obstruction and perforation.
Meanwhile, mental effects may also occur such as paranoia, social withdrawal, delusions and personality changes.
Related article: Mental Health
Therapeutic Strategies in Overcoming Fentanyl Addiction
Overcoming fentanyl addiction is difficult, but if the patient is willing and committed to undergo a comprehensive long-term treatment plan, the prognosis could be possible. A person who is addicted to fentanyl can begin the long process of going through comprehensive treatments by following the diagnosis and a medically administered period of detoxification (a special treatment to stop using drugs or alcohol which can help addicts).
For this very serious kind of addiction, the best option for a successful recovery of these addicts is a residential treatment on RTC or Residential Treatment Centers, also commonly called Rehabilitation Centers. The risk of relapse and the high possibility of relapse to happen again could lead to an overdose, and residential treatment care is also the safest option.
Fentanyl addiction has a comprehensive treatment plan such as a variety of therapies which includes individual therapy for the patient, behavioural therapies, alternative therapy, family therapy, and group therapy and support.
Typically, individuals who abuse substances don’t enter treatment all alone thus, group therapy. Group therapy is one of the most proven tools to help people who are struggling with addiction. The goal of this specific therapy is to have a better understanding of their disorder and feel encouraged at the same time.
The comprehensive treatment plan may also include medications when needed, appropriately. These medications for fentanyl addiction can minimize the withdrawal signs and symptoms and also helps prevent cravings for fentanyl drug.
Moreover, patients of fentanyl addiction can benefit from the series of therapies and medications through learning strategies and by creating plans for their life after the treatment.
These strategies may include the learnings on healthy-coping strategies, management of stress, and how to make positive changes in their lifestyle, and most importantly, learning to prevent relapses or learning to control themselves to avoid using fentanyl or other drugs again.
The first strategy in relapse prevention is a long-term treatment. During the treatment, patients will learn how to recognize the thing that might trigger the relapses, as well as how to avoid them. They may also learn how to use their lifestyle changes to reduce the possibility of relapsing.
Related article: 6 Warning Signs of Relapse
Deaths caused by Fentanyl Overdose
Incorrect usage of fentanyl has been in the spotlight for the past few years. This drug is also responsible for the death of the music legend, Prince Rogers Nelson, as well as many of the famous celebrities throughout the country.
The use of fentanyl has been rising and fast growing. Among the 70,200 estimated drug overdose deaths in 2017, 28,400 deaths are related and caused by fentanyl. An example of this is the death of Tom Petty, an American singer-songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and the lead singer of ‘Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ that was formed in the year 1976.
Tom died at the age of 66 in October 2017. He died because he was accidentally overdosed by the mixture of different medications of which fentanyl is much present. He was prescribed with a fentanyl patch to help ease the pain that he had from his injured and fractured left hip.
Over a year and a half earlier from Tom’s death, the music Legend, Prince Rogers Nelson (also an American singer-songwriter, musician, actor, and filmmaker), died April 2016 while dealing with the same hip injury and fentanyl overdose.
Not only that, over the past 10 years, fentanyl was also responsible for the thousands of deaths of several musicians and the number one leading factor of in the deadly and fatal drug overdose death of the former Wilco guitarist, Jay Bennett, also the 3 Doors Down guitarist, Matt Roberts, Slipknot bassist, Paul Gray, and the rising rapper in the month of November, on the same year, Lil Peep, after taking fentanyl and a combination of other deadly drugs.
Thus, it is really important to know the signs and symptoms of people suffering Fentanyl addiction that was mentioned above to help lessen the number of deaths caused by this drug and to help prevent someone to be addicted.
How can we help someone who is into Fentanyl Addiction?
If you already know someone who is abusing fentanyl by verifying the fentanyl addiction signs and symptoms, it is very important to get help as soon as possible and find treatments right away because abusing such drugs is deadly. Related article: How to Tell if Your Loved One has a Drug Addiction
This kind of addiction needs to be addressed properly. Its effects are severe, causing someone to suffer from respiratory depression and nausea up to a coma, and the worst cases lead to death.
But the good thing is, those who struggles from fentanyl addiction can find recovery through Addiction Recovery Programs which may vary from inpatient (those patient who stays in the hospital for the treatment) and outpatient (those patient who is undergoing a medical treatment without being admitted to the hospital) basis with incorporate several steps such as the safe medical detox from fentanyl, evaluation, variety of therapies (which was mentioned earlier, can be done individually or by group), and the participation in the 12-step recovery programs (created and established by the founders of Alcoholic Anonymous to publish guidelines in overcoming alcohol addiction).
Inpatient residential treatment also provides safe and comfortable detoxification rather than the outpatient treatment, immersive care, and provides an environment different from the patient’s everyday environment in order to change their lifestyle better, and family educational programs because parents’ diagnosis with fentanyl addiction aren’t the only ones who suffered and needed help but also their family members. This family educational programs will help them heal their broken relationship with the patient and this build bridges to improve the family’s life.
Above all, if you find out that your friend or relative is struggling with this kind of addiction, the best effort you can do is to hand support for this will help them have better chances of overcoming their addiction. There are a lot of reasons why helping someone with addiction becomes challenging.
They may not want to change what they are doing or they may not want to talk about with you. Despite the hardships that you might encounter, focus on building trust, fostering honesty, and respecting privacy.
It may take time but the important thing is that you encouraged your loved one to get the help they need. And once they decided to undergo the fentanyl addiction treatment, it is essential that you are with them all along. In spite of the fact that this a very difficult thing to do, it’s a basic initial phase in helping them accomplish a sound and cheerful life in recovery.