Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug, used in western medicine to treat pain including severe and long-term. At anywhere from 50-100,000 times the strength of morphine, Fentanyl can be delivered in smaller volumes than morphine or similar drugs.
Fentanyl is also increasingly abused on the streets, with users seeking it out for euphoric effects (similar to morphine, heroin, or prescription medication like Percocet). However, while relatively safe in medical settings, where the strength and dosage are tightly controlled, Fentanyl causes thousands of overdoses every year.
Individuals, who are often accustomed to weaker opioids, abuse fentanyl and overdose, resulting in hospitalization and death. With an estimated 29,000 overdose deaths related to fentanyl and other synthetic opioid abuse in 2017, fentanyl accounts for nearly half of all opioid related overdoses.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a fentanyl addiction, it’s important to get help. Addiction is a serious disorder that can impact your quality of life, long-term physical health, long-term mental health, and can even result in death. Getting help is important, and that starts with learning how to recognize the signs and symptoms of addiction.
Fentanyl Addiction Symptoms
If you suspect that your loved one is abusing fentanyl, you can look for signs and symptoms of abuse and addiction. While exact symptoms will vary depending on the individual and their frequency and volume of abuse, you can look for a series of specific symptoms that frequently occur in individuals abusing opiates.
For example, a person currently “high” on fentanyl will likely display slowed breathing, lethargy, may frequently fall asleep, may be difficult to wake, may show visible signs of euphoria or ecstasy, may be itchy, may vomit or complain of nausea, and will likely complain of headaches, blurred vision, or dizziness. In most cases, users will be sleepy, relaxed, and difficult to interact with almost constantly if they are using regularly.
Individuals with an addiction will also display symptoms such as:
Purchasing fentanyl outside of a prescription or doctor shopping
Combining fentanyl with other drugs or alcohol
Using fentanyl in ways that do not align with prescription such as before driving a car
Using too much fentanyl or increasing dosage over time
Continuing fentanyl usage even when it adversely affects their life
Addiction is a serious disorder and it will affect a person’s ability to function, it will cause them to withdraw, and they will likely start spending money on acquiring more of it. This will create noticeable changes in lifestyle, behavior, and personality over time.
Fentanyl Addiction Withdrawal
Fentanyl is an opioid drug, which will cause moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms when you quit or reduce your dosage. These symptoms will typically mimic those of a very severe cold or flu but individuals with poor health or heart problems are at risk of fatal complications. In addition, individuals withdrawing from fentanyl should seek out medical care to prevent relapse, which can result in a fatal overdose, as the body is no longer accustomed to the addict’s previous dosage.
Withdrawal symptoms typically include:
Anxiety and paranoia or agitation
Muscle aches, pain, and cramping
Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
Stomach cramping, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
Hot and cold flashes/sweating
These symptoms may be mistaken for a persistent and particularly severe cold or flu. However, they can be life threatening because patients may choke, suffer severe dehydration, or relapse and suffer overdose.
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment
If you or a loved one is addicted to fentanyl, it is crucial to get medical help. Opioid addiction recovery is specifically designed to support individuals through a safe detox before moving them into therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and counseling. Here, patients learn skills to cope with cravings and stress, unlearn negative behavior patterns contributing to substance abuse and addiction. This may also include medical support in the form of buprenorphine or another partial opioid agonist to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.
Fentanyl is dangerous and often deadly. Getting help is the simplest way to protect your loved one from further harm, so that they can recover and get back to their life, drug free.