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Fentanyl Addiction: Signs, Effects and Detox

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Fentanyl addiction is widespread throughout the United States, with fentanyl presenting as one of the most potent synthetic opioids. A perilous medication, it is a prescription painkiller for treating severe pain in hospital settings, like epidurals for women in labor, transdermal patches for pain relief through the skin, and lozenges in other cases. There is a need for this type of pain relief for medicinal purposes.

Still, the illicit use of fentanyl as a recreational drug, often mixed with other substances, is illegal and highly addictive. Illegal fentanyl, coming from international labs and sent to the US, is 100 times more potent than morphine and is deadly in the tiniest dosages.

Fentanyl Addiction Dangers

The Drug Enforcement Agency seized more than 59.6 million fentanyl-laced pills in 2022 and more than 13,000 pounds of fentanyl powder. In 2023, fentanyl seizures were comparable to 287 million deadly dosages. This is more believable when you realize that only 2 milligrams of fentanyl can kill you. Overdose can coincide with administration through snorting and smoking, with injection being the most dangerous form of use.

Types of fentanyl brands include Fentora, Sublimaze, and Duragesic. The forms of this highly addictive synthetic narcotic are tablets, patches, sprays, and cough drops. Fentanyl addiction occurs easily as tolerance to the drug builds quickly. As the user takes a higher dosage to achieve the same euphoria, overdose can occur with the increase in dosage. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the opioid crisis involves a high percentage of overdose deaths from 1999 through 2013.

The opioid crisis held 3 waves of overdose death increases, including the following:

  • The initial wave saw an increase in prescription opioid overdose deaths, including natural and synthetic opioids and methadone, in the late 1990s.
  • The second wave was in 2010, with increasing overdose deaths involving heroin.
  • The third wave began in 2013, with overdose deaths increasing with synthetic opioids, with a significant rise in fentanyl.

Effects of Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction

Fentanyl addiction falls under the same diagnostic tools for the diagnosis of mental health conditions and substance use disorders. Fentanyl abuse effects are different depending upon the method of ingestion.

Behavioral changes result from users doing whatever it takes to get their hands on more of the drug. The effects are increasingly dangerous in the unknown component of other substances with the fentanyl and the dosage.

Fentanyl addiction can also cause a range of physical and psychological symptoms, such as the following:

  • Tightness in the chest and rapid heartbeat
  • Pounding in the ears
  • Balance and coordination problems
  • Mood changes and abnormal thoughts
  • Hallucinations

Signs of Injecting Fentanyl

Intravenous injection of fentanyl can occur from the prescription drug Sublimaze or with illicit recreational use by removing the gel from fentanyl patches and injecting the contents. The risk lies in not being sure of the dosage, and minimal amounts can result in overdose.

A research study by the Center for Drug Use and HIV found that among their study participants, 83% of those injecting drugs were urine testing fentanyl positive, although only 18% were intentional. The Alcohol and Drug Foundation provides the following risks injecting drugs, including fentanyl.

Injection of illicit drugs can result in an increased risk of:

  • Tetanus
  • Infection
  • Vein damage
  • Hepatitis B and C, HIV, and AIDS if sharing needles

Snorting Fentanyl Signs

Those with a fentanyl addiction who are snorting fentanyl receive an immediate sense of euphoria as the drug enters the bloodstream quickly. Part of the drug is swallowed during snorting, which causes a later effect to occur subsequently.

A danger lies in the idea that additional dosage can be snorted when, in reality, the entire result is not complete. It is hazardous as fentanyl can be mixed with other drugs unknowingly.

Snorting fentanyl can produce the following physical and mental side effects:

  • Sleepiness and weakness
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Decrease in appetite and weight loss
  • Headache and impaired vision
  • Dry mouth and sweating
  • Pain in chest or back
  • Difficulty with sleep
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Unusual dreams and odd thoughts
  • Hallucinations

Smoking Fentanyl Signs

Some people smoke fentanyl with heroin or methamphetamine. In 2012, during the opioid crisis, one-third of fentanyl-related overdoses included heroin. Again, controlling the dosage, which is so important when using fentanyl, is difficult when smoking and mixing with other drugs. This raises the chance of overdose and death in many individuals.

Fentanyl Addiction Symptoms

In addition to the above signs and symptoms of fentanyl addiction, there are other physical, psychological, and behavioral effects from the abuse of fentanyl to be aware of. Thus, if someone exhibits the following signs or symptoms and there may be a substance use disorder as the reason, it is clear that help is available. Addressing concerns compassionately and with unthreatening understanding is the best way to talk about seeking help.

Fentanyl addiction symptoms can include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and severe constipation can result in weight loss
  • Lightheadedness and dizziness
  • Urinary retention
  • Hallucinations
  • Trouble sleeping and bad dreams
  • Swollen limbs
  • Itching, hives, and shaking
  • Difficulties seeing clearly
  • Dry mouth and appetite loss
  • Headache and depression
  • Sweating and fatigue

Fentanyl Withdrawal and Detox

Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, but the symptoms are manageable if a medically managed detox occurs. Not typically life-threatening, withdrawal symptoms can be highly uncomfortable.

It is essential to participate in a professional facility detox program to avoid extreme dehydration, elevated sodium levels, heart issues, and persistent vomiting and diarrhea. Moreover, without the attention of professional treatment staff, detoxing at home could cause additional use because of the discomfort and then result in an overdose.

The symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal can include any of the following symptoms:

  • Irritability, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and anxiety
  • Runny nose and watery eyes
  • Muscle and joint pain, stomach cramps and backache
  • Sweating or chills
  • Restlessness, widened pupils, and fast breathing
  • Overall weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) provides particular patients with substitution therapy using methadone or Suboxone. A safe transition takes place, replacing the fentanyl with the treatment medication. Eventually, total detoxification occurs over months. After the initial assessment for fentanyl addiction, a solid treatment plan based on individual personal factors is set in place.

Comprehensive Fentanyl Addiction Treatment is Available in California

Recovery is possible for those experiencing a substance use disorder with fentanyl. Sierra Health + Wellness in California offer medically monitored detox programs to manage uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Many options are available for continued treatment and a successful recovery.

Contact the center to discuss the best options for individual needs and wants for beginning a sober recovery journey.