With an epidemic of opioid abuse sweeping the nation, it is nearly impossible to go a day without hearing mention of the opioid epidemic or the lives it has claimed. One of the most common opioids involved in these conversations is the synthetic opioid, fentanyl.
Fentanyl, like other opioids, is a powerful pain reliever that can be effective for treating acute pain following a major dental or medical procedure. Unlike natural opiates such as morphine, however, fentanyl is entirely man-made, with up to 100 times the potency of morphine and heroin. This makes it stronger, but also much more dangerous for people abusing the drug.
Prescriptions for fentanyl come in the form of a patch, lozenge, or tablet and are sold under the following names:
Fentanyl is also illegally manufactured in the form of pills, drops on blotter paper, or powder. It is commonly mixed or laced with other opioids such as oxycodone (OxyContin) or heroin.
As a highly-addictive drug, monitoring all fentanyl use has become a top priority. This includes elderly patients and patients receiving fentanyl for chronic pain. If you suspect someone you know is abusing a fentanyl prescription, or purchasing fentanyl illicitly, it can be helpful to know the most common signs of fentanyl misuse.
Signs Of Fentanyl Abuse And Addiction
Fentanyl is a powerful drug that can cause significant changes in behavior, mood, and appearance when abused.
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Depending on the nature of a person’s fentanyl abuse, these changes may initially be subtle and capable of being overlooked. As the opioid problem progresses, however, the signs of their drug abuse may be more difficult to dismiss.
Common signs of fentanyl abuse may include:
- running out of a prescription early
- going to multiple doctors to get multiple drug prescriptions
- taking higher doses than prescribed
- taking it more often than prescribed
- chewing fentanyl patches
- snorting or injecting fentanyl
- isolating from friends and family
- preoccupation with getting or taking more fentanyl
- difficulties at work or in school
- mood swings between euphoria and depression
- unable to stop taking fentanyl on their own
- withdrawal symptoms with reduced or stopped use
Tying signs of drug abuse to a loved one can sometimes be difficult. It’s not easy to admit that someone you care about is struggling with a drug problem. If your loved one is denying their fentanyl use or appears to be in denial themselves, this can be even more challenging.
Physical And Mental Symptoms Of Fentanyl Abuse
In addition to changes in behavior, fentanyl abuse can also cause many physical and psychological symptoms. The types of symptoms experienced may depend on a person’s tolerance, dose, their method of use, and whether the fentanyl is laced with other drugs.
Physical symptoms of fentanyl abuse can include:
- dry mouth
- slow or difficulty breathing (respiratory depression)
- blurred vision
- slurred speech
- low blood pressure
- high tolerance
Mental and psychological symptoms of fentanyl abuse can include:
- loss of appetite
- drug cravings
High doses of fentanyl can also lead to overdose, which can be deadly if left untreated. People who take excessive doses or have recently undergone detox for fentanyl can be at increased risk for overdose.
If your loved one is experiencing unusually slow breathing, has stopped breathing, or is unresponsive, seek emergency assistance right away.
Who Is Most At Risk For Abusing Fentanyl?
Although anyone who takes fentanyl can be at risk for developing dependence, there are some populations that can be more vulnerable to its effects.
Those at increased risk for abusing fentanyl include:
- elderly people
- people who are prescribed high doses
- people who inject the drug
- those involved in the criminal justice system
- people who take fentanyl for an extended period of time (> a few weeks)
- people with a previous history of substance abuse or mental health problems
Fentanyl abuse and the abuse of other opioids is also increasingly common among pregnant people, based on rising rates of fentanyl addiction in newborns and infants.
Helping a person seek treatment for their fentanyl abuse can be life-saving. If you suspect that someone you know is struggling with fentanyl abuse or addiction, the time to act is now.
Treatment For Fentanyl Abuse
If you suspect or have become aware of a loved one’s fentanyl abuse, seeking professional treatment is essential. Based on the severity of your loved one’s drug abuse and other personal factors, there are several types of treatment that may be recommended.
Types of treatment for fentanyl abuse include:
- Detox services: Detox is the first step of treatment for any person who is dependent on a drug. The safest and most effective option for fentanyl detox is to enter a rehab facility for medical detox. This involves 24/7 medical supervision and treatment as a person undergoes fentanyl withdrawal. Attempting to stop fentanyl alone without medical support can be dangerous and is more likely to lead to relapse.
- Inpatient rehab programs: Inpatient drug rehabilitation (rehab) programs are live-in treatment programs for people overcoming drug abuse. This involves 24/7 supervision and a full schedule of treatment services to treat all medical and psychological aspects of addiction. Inpatient programs commonly include counseling, group therapy sessions, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT). These programs can be short-term (30-90 days) or long-term (90+ days) depending on the patient’s needs and the offerings of the facility.
- Outpatient counseling: Most people who complete an inpatient rehab program are recommended to continue their treatment on an outpatient basis. This typically involves attending counseling on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and any other treatment services recommended to suit your loved one’s needs. Continuing counseling after an inpatient program can provide ongoing support and help prevent relapse in the early stages of recovery.
- Support groups: Attending community groups for addiction recovery can provide an important source of support and stability for people recovering from opioid abuse. This provides an opportunity for learning and expressing struggles to others who can relate to their experiences.
Begin Your Recovery At The Bluffs
The Bluffs is a tranquil, Ohio-based treatment facility that offers a comprehensive treatment program for people overcoming opioid abuse and addiction. At The Bluffs, we have on staff a dedicated team of medical and behavioral specialists trained to provide the most effective treatment services to help patients achieve successful recovery.
Within our opioid treatment programs, we offer traditional treatments such as medication-assisted treatment and behavioral therapy, as well as holistic therapies to help build life-skills and encourage self-expression throughout the treatment process. Our philosophy at The Bluffs offers a unique and individualized treatment approach that attends to all the needs of our patients, including the emotional, psychological, and spiritual harms of living with addiction.
If you are looking to help a loved one find a treatment program for their fentanyl abuse, contact The Bluffs today for more information about our opioid abuse treatment programs.