Fentanyl Addiction: Definition, Common Signs & Options For Help


Prepare for a shock. Fentanyl makes the nightly news. Some of us wonder why anyone would willingly consume such a lethal drug.

But here’s the shocking fact about fentanyl addiction: It’s not a hooded gangster drug. It’s an FDA-approved synthetic opioid that doctors prescribe as an analgesic and anesthetic.

Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine alone. It’s an epic killer, and people who suffer from addiction to drugs don’t need our judgment. They deserve our compassion and access to a  program to help them overcome this awful addiction.

If you are having fentanyl issues or someone you know does, you’re not alone. Here’s how you can get treatment and improve your life.

What Is Fentanyl Addiction?

Fentanyl, or fentanil, is a go-to prescription opioid. It accomplishes one thing very well—it kills pain. Its original intent was to help people recover from surgery and reduce pain.

Its most significant side effect is addictiveness. The CDC revealed that it became a substantial factor in fatal overdose deaths in the USA in 2020. Fatalities rose by 38.4%.

Users might consume fentanyl for pain relief or sedation or crave the high that’s akin to euphoria. Fentanyl addicts risk their lives every time they use it. They also risk lives when they sell their prescription medication.

Addicts willingly endure the dangerous effects of:

  • Confusion,
  • Drowsiness,
  • Dizziness,
  • Vomiting,
  • Respiratory depression
  • The lives of others
  • Death.

Prescribed fentanyl is available in several formats:

  • Lozenge or lollipop,
  • Nasal spray,
  • Intravenous injection (hospital use)
  • Patch (extract and inject)

Fentanyl addiction is a very complicated addiction, and genetics can play a role. Individuals with a family history might be more susceptible. Legal users might also become addicted in as little as five to ten days.

Others might become addicted unknowingly. Taking illicit drugs makes users vulnerable, as many street drugs contain traces of fentanyl.

Do Fentanyl Urges Go Away?

Doctors prescribe fentanyl to treat a serious illness or extreme pain. Physicians work with their patients so that they consume the drug safely. It’s only recommended for a prescribed period.

A person who becomes addicted has to battle a complex change in brain receptors. These receptors prohibit the user from stopping without intervention or medical detox.

Addiction treatments help individuals build coping tools. These methods, combined with medications, restimulate the brain. They prevent relapses and start healing.

If you or someone you care about has a fentanyl addiction, there is a rehab program for you. You do not have to face this battle alone.

Forms of Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl addiction is a dangerous problem with deadly consequences. Fentanyl addiction doesn’t discriminate and can affect both supervised patients and illicit drug users.

Prescription Fentanyl Addiction:

Fentanyl is a recommended and physician-monitored prescription opioid. It’s used for patients who suffer severe pain from the following:

  • Surgical procedures
  • Chronic pain patients
  • Cancer patients
  • Palliative care
  • Acute pain (short-term)

Patients must follow a strict regimen as recommended by their medical professional. Patients who take prescription opioids with their doctor’s involvement still risk becoming addicted.

Illicit Drug Fentanyl Addiction:

Fentanyl used for recreational purposes is a serious problem. Users sniff, snort, smoke, or spike on blotter paper, swallow, and use the patch delivery. Others consume the mix sold as fake pharmaceutical drugs on the street.

Street fentanyl might also come from stolen prescriptions. It has many nicknames. On the street, fentanyl is mixed with heroin, cocaine, MDMA, and methamphetamine. These mixes produce a fast high, cost less for the dealer to make, and are extremely dangerous.

Fentanyl addiction is seldom cured without intervention. Several medications for addiction can help.

Fentanyl Addiction Statistics

If you or someone you care about is facing a fentanyl addiction, it’s time to seek help and understand the basics of addiction.

Over 9.2 million Americans used opioids in 2021, according to HHS.

Opioid deaths have more than doubled between 2010 and 2107, claiming over 47,600 lives.

Hospitals saw an even bigger increase in opioid-related deaths. They rose to 68,630 in 2020 and reached 80,411 in 2021.

Male opioid-related deaths have seen a sharp increase since 2016. They more than doubled, according to NIDA statistics.

In 2020, black people saw a disturbing increase of 44 percent in deaths. Native American or Alaskan Natives saw a 39 percent increase over 2019.

What are the Signs of Fentanyl Addiction?

Remember, there’s help if you are experiencing a fentanyl addiction. No one has to deal with this harrowing addiction alone. There are many signs and symptoms, but they won’t be the same for everybody.

Some Signs of Fentanyl Addiction:

  • Puts themselves and their family at risk by using or buying fentanyl without the advice of a doctor.
  • Using inadequate doses of fentanyl.
  • Demanding the drug despite its harmful psychological and physical side effects.
  • Have overwhelming urges to use the drug beyond prescribed quantities.
  • The person puts considerable resources behind finding, using, and recovering from fentanyl use.
  • Can no longer commit to the job, family, school, or friendships responsibilities.
  • Altered physical appearance.
  • Have a long list of excuses.
  • Spends excessive amounts of money on buying the drug illegally.

Continued Use After Prescription Treatment

Fentanyl addiction can happen to anyone. It’s not about making a bad choice. Patients recovering from extreme medical conditions may become addicted to fentanyl.

These users might get a street version of fentanyl to ease their suffering.

  • Declining Professional Treatment: Fentanyl is a widely prescribed treatment for patients to help with pain. Doctors prescribe it with extreme caution and strict dosage requirements. Addicts might go beyond the recommended dose. They’ll seek alternate methods of getting supplies.
  • Self-Prescribing Dosage: Fentanyl users might develop a tolerance to the dosage. They won’t get relief unless they increase the dosage without a doctor’s consent.
  • Overspend on Supply: Fentanyl is an expensive drug. The average cost per patch is about $10 with a prescription or $40 on the street. Addicts will pay whatever price is necessary.
  • Poor Lifestyle Choices: Fentanyl addiction affects all aspects of life. Users might become resentful of their family and hide their addiction. They may form unsuitable friendships and forsake their dietary and mental health.

Evidence of Withdrawal

The timeline of fentanyl withdrawal symptoms depends on many factors. Formulation and individual factors might vary.

  • Between 8 and 24 hours, mild symptoms appear.
  • The most significant withdrawal symptoms begin between 36 and 72 hours later. They’re the most uncomfortable.
  • From day 5 to day 8, symptoms might lessen. A feeling of normality begins, but everyone experiences withdrawal differently.
  • After a few weeks or months, some people experience a heightened sensitivity to pain. Cravings, depression, irritability, anxiety, and sleeping problems might linger. Some might experience PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome). This syndrome can last for a long time.

Withdrawal from fentanyl use is different for everyone. Your unique symptoms are just as valid as anyone else’s. Seek help.

Types of Unhealthy Fentanyl Behavior

Fentanyl users seek relief from intense pain, whether physical or mental. Fentanyl must be taken as prescribed by a physician. People with fentanyl addictions might self-dose.

Unhealthy behavior includes the following.

  • Buying fentanyl from illegal sources
  • Using mixed fentanyl and other substance cocktails
  • Using fentanyl with alcohol
  • Consume larger doses more frequently
  • Ignoring the advice of doctors or loved ones
  • Refuse to accept they have a fentanyl addiction problem
  • Spend large amounts of money on fentanyl
  • Use other fentanyl methods like injections other than those prescribed
  • Isolate themselves from loved ones
  • Steal to pay for the habit
  • Ignore fentanyl side effects
  • Develop unhealthy eating habits
  • Driving while under the influence

What Is the Main Cause of Fentanyl Addiction?

Opioids from synthetic or natural compounds are highly addictive because of their formulation. Opioids mimic the chemicals in our bodies.

They attach to the nerve cells and are called opioid receptors. These receptors provide pain relief, a sense of pleasure, or harness emotions. Of course, it’s much more complex, but it’s easy to see why many people become victims.

Long-term use affects how nerve cells perform in our brains. Soon, the cells adapt to having opioids in their system. When the opioids are taken away, uncomfortable feelings of pain and emotion return.

Not following a prescribed prescription regimen makes users more vulnerable. They begin a vicious cycle. In one moment, they feel great, and when the effect wears off, they feel terrible without it.

Opioids are part of a large family of substances. They include methadone, heroin, morphine, oxycodone, and tramadol. They’re all potent pain-relief medications that can lead to addictive behavior.

How Fentanyl Addiction Affects the Brain

When Fentanyl works as prescribed, it helps to ease physical and mental pain. The compounds in fentanyl attach to our bodies’ opioid receptors (we all have them) in our brains. They control our pain and emotion sensors.

Fentanyl brings users pain relief, emotional well-being, and happiness. People also experience negative effects. Confusion or drowsiness; constipation; sleepiness; addiction; and respiratory depression are some. It can further cause unconsciousness and lead to coma and death.

What Is the Personality of a Fentanyl Addict?

A fentanyl addict can be anyone. Persons with opioid-use disorder are extremely vulnerable. Men are more likely to suffer from fentanyl addiction (78% male vs. 22% female overdose victims).

Caucasians use fentanyl more frequently than other demographics. Women are more susceptible to cravings and relapse, according to NIDA.

Street drug users and heroin addicts might turn to fentanyl as a substitute. A shy person might be as likely to become addicted as an extrovert.

Is Fentanyl Addiction a Mental Health Issue?

Any addiction is a mental health illness, and fentanyl addiction is among the most dangerous for users. People who use fentanyl also endanger their families, friends, and the public, and exposure to it can be fatal.

Addiction is a mental health issue, as continued use affects brain function. It changes a person’s natural order of needs and desires. It demands that the user refuel the mechanics of the addiction by procuring the substance at all costs.

What Mental Illnesses Go Hand In Hand With Fentanyl?

Fentanyl drug dependence is like a game of Russian roulette and can impact people who already struggle with mental health issues.

  • Anyone already using opioids: Any opioid prescription or street drug user is more likely to supplement their cravings with fentanyl.
  • Anyone afflicted with depression: Fentanyl users experience euphoria and sedation, and relief from their condition.
  • Users coping with anxiety disorder: Anxiety disorder patients might crave the feeling of sedation and happiness from fentanyl. It makes them relax and calm.
  • Anyone with any mental illness: One in four people suffers from mental health problems. Not everyone gets professional help. Fentanyl helps people cope temporarily. It might also combat the side effects of other medications, although it’s dangerous to mix.

How Do I Stop My Fentanyl Addiction?

Please speak to a professional and certified addiction counselor or your family doctor. There is no shame in asking for help.

Prolonging the use of fentanyl will only worsen the condition. But there are tons of resources and addiction support groups to help you.

Can Fentanyl Addicts Ever Be Cured?

Fentanyl addicts can be helped, but not cured. Opioid addiction is a serious illness. It requires supervised behavioral therapy and prescription treatment medications. These medications counterbalance the same opioid receptors affected by fentanyl use.

Prescribed treatments to help treat opioid addictions include these methods:

  • Methadone to ease withdrawal
  • Buprenorphine works with opioid receptors to minimize withdrawal
  • Naltrexone blocks fentanyl effects
  • Behavior therapy counseling to overcome drug use and rebuild life skills

What Is the Most Common Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction?

The most successful treatment for opioid addiction relies on supervised drug therapy and behavioral counseling. Fentanyl addiction is difficult and dangerous to overcome alone, and you don’t have to.

There are many options available. Having a network of family and friends supporting you on your journey to recovery has many proven benefits.

What Can I Replace Fentanyl With?

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) using medications like methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone can help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. For pain management, explore non-opioid options with your healthcare provider.

  • Methadone: A long-acting opioid agonist that helps ease withdrawal symptoms and minimize cravings. It works by binding to the same opioid receptors in the brain as Fentanyl, without producing the same euphoric effects.
  • Buprenorphine: A partial opioid agonist that also binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It has a ceiling effect, which means it has limited potential for abuse and overdose.
  • Naltrexone: An opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids like Fentanyl. It prevents the pleasurable sensations associated with opioid use, reducing the incentive to continue using the drug.

Additional Addictions to Be Aware Of

Fentanyl addiction often leads to addiction or stems from other opioid drugs. Users might try various combinations of fentanyl. Heroin, morphine, cocaine, alcohol, other prescription drugs, meth, and oxycodone are popular choices.

If you know someone struggling with fentanyl, they’re prone to other addictions.

  • Hydrocodone Addiction: Hydrocodone is a popular generic drug ingredient. They are brand-name medications like Vicodin and Norco and are part of the opioid family.
  • Crack Addiction: Crack is a byproduct of mixing powdered cocaine with baking soda. It’s one of the most dangerous street drugs.
  • Morphine Addiction: Morphine is one of the oldest opioids made from poppies.

Wrapping Up

Fentanyl addiction is so much more than opioid addiction. It is a crisis that is destroying families and the lives of users.

The Joint Economic Committee estimates the opioid epidemic will cost the USA nearly $1.5 trillion in 2020. While adding a price tag substantiates the impact this drug has, it doesn’t do justice to the lives lost and those of all its victims.

If you’re concerned about your fentanyl addiction, please don’t feel alone. Help is waiting just for you.


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