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Drug Spotlight: What you Need to Know about Fentanyl

The news has been filled with stories about fentanyl lately and for good reason. This highly addictive, highly potent opioid is quickly claiming dozens of lives. Though it is not a new drug, it has taken the United States by storm in recent months. One of the scariest issues is that some people don’t even know that they are taking fentanyl. They believe that they are taking heroin, not knowing that is has either been cut with fentanyl or replaced entirely by this powerful drug. A fraction of a milligram can mean the difference between life and death.

Fentanyl is an opiate that is as much as 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is typically prescribed by doctors for patients who experience severe pain following an accident or surgery, or those with chronic pain who have developed a tolerance to traditional opioids. It may be administered intravenously, as a patch, or as a lozenge. However, when manufactured illegally, it is often in powder form. Doctors prescribe it in micrograms because of its potency, but this type of precise measuring it not often used by those who sell illicit drugs. This increases the risk for overdose exponentially.

Reports showed that between 2013 and 2015, more than 5,500 fentanyl-related overdose deaths were reported across just 12 states. That doesn’t take into account the other 38 states. California is one state that has been hard-hit recently. While naloxone can help to reverse a fentanyl overdose, it often takes more than one dose due to the high potency of fentanyl. This is complicated by the fact that some people may not have even realized that they were taking fentanyl to begin with. Much of this illegal fentanyl is being brought in from Mexico and China.

The Effects of Fentanyl

Fentanyl is an opioid like morphine and heroin and has a high risk of drug addiction. It blocks the sensation of pain and stimulates a surge of dopamine in the brain which triggers a sense of euphoria. This can quickly rewire the brain’s reward system and lead to dependency and drug addiction. However, not all of the effects of fentanyl are quite as pleasurable or desirable. Other side effects may include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Constipation
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in appetite
  • Slowed breathing
  • Itching
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating

An overdose can suppress breathing to dangerously low levels which can be fatal. However, once addiction develops, people may feel that they have to keep using fentanyl to function or feel normal. Withdrawal symptoms can also be very unpleasant, especially since fentanyl is such a powerful opiate. People may continue using so that they don’t have to endure withdrawal.

Overcoming Fentanyl Addiction

Fortunately, there is treatment for addiction to fentanyl and other opioids. Medication-assisted treatment can help curb cravings and ease the symptoms of withdrawal by making the brain think that it is still receiving the drug. Drugs such as buprenorphine, methadone, and suboxone are commonly used. Other drugs such as naloxone are used to block the effects of opioids so that even if they are taken, the person does not feel the euphoric or sedative effects. These various drugs are known as opioid agonists, partial agonists, or antagonists depending on how they affect the brain and opioid receptors.

These medications are often used in conjunction with evidence-based therapies and holistic treatment approaches. After detoxing their bodies from all addictive substances, clients engage in intensive therapy to address not only underlying issues contributing to addiction, but also the impact that it has had on their life. By changing their patterns of thinking, learning healthier coping mechanisms, recognizing triggers, reducing stress, and putting new routines in place, clients can create a lifestyle conducive to long-term recovery.

Top rated drug rehab centers in California create personalized treatment plans that align with each client’s individual needs as it relates to addiction and their future. They incorporate a variety of treatment methods ranging from medication-assisted treatment and cognitive-behavioral therapy to meditation and 12-step work. There are also effective non-12-step methods. This diversity addresses the physical, mental, emotional, and social impacts of addiction.

Fighting Back Against Fentanyl Abuse

Increased awareness of fentanyl and its dangerous effects is essential. Engaging in addiction treatment and rehabilitation can reduce your risk of accidentally or knowingly taking fentanyl or other opioids. Opioid addiction is a serious problem but one that is treatable. Chapters Capistrano provides high quality, comprehensive treatment for opioid addiction to help you or your loved one start a new chapter in your life. It’s not too late to seek treatment and make a change. Contact Chapters Capistrano at 888-973-0230 to discuss your addiction concerns and learn more about our addiction recovery programs and how they can be the right fit for your needs.