Fentanyl is an opioid drug often used to treat severe and long-term pain issues. Though the medication can be taken safely under a doctor’s care, many individuals do abuse it in order to experience the euphoric effects it can cause when taken in high doses. Call 800-442-6158 Who Answers? today if you or someone you love has been misusing opioids and is in need of substance abuse treatment.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.” The drug can be prescribed as a lozenge, a sublingual tablet, a dissolvable tablet, or a film. It is sold under the brand names
Most of the time, it is used as a treatment for breakthrough pain in individuals who have experienced chronic pain issues (due to medical problems like cancer) and are already dependent on and tolerant to the effects of opioids. The medication is usually not given when a weaker opioid will be effective.
Many people, unfortunately, abuse fentanyl because it is a strong opioid drug that can stave off withdrawal symptoms while also causing an intense high. However, the drug is extremely addictive, and in some cases, even more dangerous in an abuse situation than heroin.
Fentanyl Side Effects
Fentanyl can be taken safely, as long as it is prescribed to patients who require and can handle its effects and it is taken exactly as prescribed. Like with most drugs, though, it does have certain potential side effects of which users should be aware. The National Library of Medicine lists the common side effects of fentanyl as
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Difficulty urinating
- Changes in vision
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Dry mouth
- Sudden reddening of the face, neck, and upper chest
- Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
- Back pain
- Chest pain
- Swelling of the hands, arms, feet, or lower legs
- Pain, sores, or irritation in the mouth area (usually caused by the dissolvable tablet)
These effects are usually mild and will often subside. If you experience issues with your fentanyl side effects worsening or not going away, it is important to contact your doctor as soon as possible. However, fentanyl, like most opioids, can also cause potentially dangerous side effects, and users should be aware of these as well.
Dangers of Fentanyl Use
One of the most dangerous potential effects associated with fentanyl is respiratory depression. Like other opioids, the drug can cause one’s breathing to slow, but if a person takes too high of a dose, they could stop breathing altogether. This will result in an overdose, and the individual will need to receive treatment in a professional medical center as soon as possible.
Other dangers associated with the drug include
- Depression: All opioids have the potential of causing depressive symptoms or worsening preexisting depression syndromes in those who take them. Especially those who abuse the drug put themselves at serious risk of experiencing this issue.
- Anxiety: Similarly to the way fentanyl use can cause depression, anxiety disorders and issues can worsen or form as a result of the drug’s use.
- Hallucinations: According to the US Food and Drug Administration, hallucinations are one of the more uncommon occurrences associated with fentanyl use. If you experience this issue, you should talk to your doctor immediately.
- Seizures: Experiencing seizures as a result of taking fentanyl is a rare occurrence but it does happen. This is especially likely to occur when a person who regularly has seizures takes the drug. Therefore, it is important to tell your doctor if you have a history of seizures before taking fentanyl.
- Muscle rigidity: As stated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, “Fentanyl appears to produce muscle rigidity with greater frequency than other opioids.”
- Allergic reactions: Like most drugs, people can potentially be allergic to fentanyl. The signs of an allergic reaction include hives, rash, and itching.
One of the most severe dangers of the drug’s use, however, is that it is so much more potent than other opioids. This can lead to serious issues when fentanyl is abused, as many users do not realize the danger of taking large doses of the drug and how it can even be more hazardous than heroin abuse.
Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms
Users can quickly become tolerant to the effects of the drug as well as dependent on it, especially if they take it consistently over a long period of time. This can lead to the need for the individual to be slowly weaned off the drug in order to avoid any serious withdrawal effects.
According to the NLM, the withdrawal symptoms associated with fentanyl dependence are similar to those caused by other opioid drugs and include:
- Muscle aches
- Increased tearing
- Runny nose
- Abdominal cramping
- Dilated pupils
Most individuals who become dependent on fentanyl need to be weaned off it under a doctor’s care. If a person has been abusing the drug, however, this can be a much more serious issue, and other medications are often necessary to reduce the symptoms and help the patient avoid relapse.
Unfortunately, fentanyl abuse is one of the most dangerous abuse syndromes associated with any opioid drug. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl abusers are especially likely to experience overdose because of the intensity of the drug and its potency. Most of the fentanyl overdose deaths that have occurred in recent years are also the result of illicitly manufactured versions of the drug.
According to the DEA, fentanyl abuse has been on the rise in recent years. An outbreak of overdoses and deaths associated with the drug lasted from April 2005 to March 2007, but there is still a large market for fentanyl abuse and illicit manufacture and distribution today.
The drug is able to rival heroin in its effects, which is why so many people abuse it. It is stronger than most other opioids, which allows addicts to stave off withdrawal symptoms for heroin by taking the medication. Sadly, though, many do not realize the likelihood of severe side effects that large doses can cause. “Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, which includes fentanyl, increased by 72% from 2014 to 2015” (CDC).
Fentanyl Addiction and Treatment
Fentanyl, like other opioids, is also highly addictive when misused in any form. A person who uses the drug to get high consistently will not be able to control their desire for it and will often act dangerously in order to obtain more. In most cases, those who do abuse fentanyl are already addicted to dangerous opioids, especially heroin, and will need intense, long-term treatment in order to recover.
First, most individuals require treatment for the severe withdrawal symptoms the drug can cause. This is also known as detox, or treatment with pharmacological agents meant to minimize withdrawal symptoms, including methadone, buprenorphine, or clonidine. Then, patients can be treated specifically for their opioid addiction.
Treatments for Fentanyl Addiction
- Methadone: Many individuals may need to be maintained on methadone in order to safely recover from their fentanyl abuse. The drug is a synthetic opioid used to reduce withdrawal symptoms, minimize cravings, and block the opioid receptors in the brain. Many patients choose to stay on methadone maintenance for a year or more, sometimes even indefinitely.
- Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is another option for maintenance that is less likely to be abused than methadone. However, as stated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, buprenorphine isn’t as effective for the treatment of severe dependencies as methadone. Because most individuals who have been consistently abusing fentanyl will usually have more intense addictions and dependencies, most patients will likely require methadone.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: CBT is a helpful therapy program for addicted individuals. Patients relearn positive attitudes, beliefs, and actions as well as skills that can help them avoid relapse.
- Contingency management: CM allows patients to receive a reward every time they pass a drug test, which helps to encourage reward seeking in ways that do not require drug use.
- Group therapy: In group therapy, patients can relate to other individuals going through similar experiences with addiction and build stronger support systems.
Only through professional treatment can an individual suffering from fentanyl addiction truly recover in a way that is safe and effective.
Seek Help for Opiate Addiction Now
Fentanyl addiction and abuse is extremely serious, and rehab is absolutely necessary for recovery. You can find the best program for your current needs by calling 800-442-6158 Who Answers? now. We will match you with the most effective program for your recovery and help you put an end to your substance abuse.