Are you looking for effective and efficient long term treatment programs? Perusing the many treatment programs available can be overwhelming and in order to get the necessary help with a substance use disorder or addiction, you must first have access to resources. With NuView Treatment Center providing evidence-based treatment for those suffering from opioid use disorders, people now have the peace of mind knowing that their quality of life is about to drastically improve as they embark on their journey to recovery!
Individualized Rehab for Opioid Addiction in Los Angeles
NuView Treatment Center in Los Angeles offers evidence-based treatment for individuals suffering from fentanyl addiction. Our Westside Los Angeles drug rehab facility provides a safe, comfortable setting for everyone and ensures that each individual receives our nonjudgmental, caring attention. We offer highly personalized treatment plans so that each client can develop coping skills fit to meet their unique personality and needs. Understanding that every person develops their substance abuse habits for different reasons, we take special care when it comes to finding new ways to mitigate the possible triggers that sometimes bring on relapse. In doing so, we aim to strengthen the fundamentals of long-term sobriety so that people can remain opioid-free long after leaving our center.
Evidence-Based Outpatient Programs for Fentanyl Addiction
When tackling addiction, more than one therapy approach may be necessary. Our counselors will work with you to create individualized plans that focus simultaneously on the roots of your addiction while providing support and structure during your recovery period. By using a combination therapy approach of group counseling and one-on-one counseling, we help clients focus on the situations they were in before becoming addicted as well as any issues that might pop up in their lives between meetings. These options allow us to proceed at your own pace whenever you are comfortable enough to do so in order to address any lingering challenges that might otherwise hinder your recovery.
Flexible Fentanyl Treatment Programs in Los Angeles
Our outpatient programs allow patients the freedom to pursue treatment without the constraints that come with inpatient addiction recovery. We offer evening and afternoon programs so people can recover from their addictions while still keeping up with their obligations such as going to work, school or caring for their families. We understand these challenges are tough on patients, but we have vast resources at hand, allowing people facing a variety of life struggles to get help when they need it most. We realize that each and every recovery from opioids is unique in its own way, so we constantly monitor progress of patients to ensure our plan of action to assist them in their journeys is continually moving forward. We want all of our patients to reach their fullest potential as soon as possible. With a small amount of time allotted per week, clients can take enormous strides toward new sober lives that are both joyful and meaningful.
Affordable and Insurance-Covered Addiction Treatment
NuView Treatment Center is dedicated to helping people maintain a long-term sober lifestyle as efficiently and affordably as possible. If you are struggling with addiction, trained specialists at NuView can work with you to find the right insurance solution for your specific problem. We want the process of getting clean and staying clean to be as stress-free and easy as possible, so let us help you figure out whatever we can while focusing on your sobriety! NuView is experienced when it comes to working with healthcare plans, and our outpatient programs are covered by most major insurance companies as well as many smaller ones. You don’t need to figure it out yourself either – just give us a call and let us deal with your insurance provider.
What is Fentanyl Addiction?
Fentanyl addiction is a debilitating medical condition that wreaks havoc on a person’s life. No matter how much a person desires to stop using this or other opioids, if they suffer from an addiction they will be unable to stop on their own. People who narrowly escape dying after a fentanyl overdose generally return to substance abuse shortly thereafter.
Many people withdraw from fentanyl, an arduous and painful process, only to relapse some time later. A person may recognize the extreme harms that their addiction is inflicting, but no matter how much they desire to stop, they will generally find that their own personal will power is insufficient.
Getting treatment for fentanyl addiction at an outpatient treatment center is essential. The withdrawal process alone generally requires a great deal of support and supervision. Detoxing from fentanyl is far easier in a safe, trigger-free, and supportive environment. Many opioid addicts benefit from slowly tapering their opioid dosage under medical supervision.
At an outpatient treatment center, clients can also take advantage of medication-assisted treatment, which utilizes a combination of behavioral therapy and medication to mitigate the symptoms and cravings associated with opioid withdrawal.
Beyond the detox phase, however, treating the underlying addiction is crucial to preventing relapse. Research shows that individuals who engage in addiction treatment programs over a long term basis have far lower chances of relapsing.
By addressing the problems and issues that are motivating a person’s substance abuse, formulating plans to deal with common triggers, and rebuilding lives from the ground up, outpatient treatment programs ensure that individuals can not only achieve physical abstinence from fentanyl, but develop sober lives that are happy, joyous, and free.
How Does Fentanyl Addiction Happen?
Fentanyl, an opioid analgesic often sold in the form of a transdermal patch, is a medication that is used to treat severe pain. Taking the drug can help alleviate extreme pain symptoms, and it is often prescribed in the context of invasive surgeries, chronic pain or major traumatic injuries.
Unfortunately, some people who are prescribed fentanyl fail to take the drug as directed – and others simply acquire it off the street. Taking the drug without the support or supervision of a hospital or physician is not only ineffective, it can be extremely dangerous. Fentanyl is not just an opioid — it is one of the most powerful opioids on the market. As a result, physical addiction occurs far more powerfully than it does even with heroin, and it is extremely easy to overdose as well.
The usefulness of fentanyl in pain treatment lies in the drug’s ability to activate opioid receptors, thereby alleviating blocking pain receptors. Like other opioids, activated opioid receptors cause the brain to release dopamine. Dopamine is the brain’s “reward chemical,” causing extreme pleasure and reinforcing drug-taking behavior. While fentanyl may be an effective painkiller, it also tends to hijack the brain.
Many recreational drug users end up taking fentanyl accidentally as well. Drug dealers are capable of acquiring fentanyl very cheaply and easily. Because of the drug’s potency, it is a common additive in heroin and other recreational drugs sold on the street. This not only increases the risk of overdose, but it means that many people who would normally stay away from fentanyl end up inadvertently becoming addicted to it.
What are the Signs of Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction?
Identifying fentanyl addiction can be complex, because the medication is often legitimately prescribed to treat pain. Nonetheless, certain behaviors may indicate that a person has an unhealthy relationship with fentanyl. If a person is taking the drug without following the guidance of their prescription, or if they are acquiring it illegally, then there is certainly a problem. Other symptoms of fentanyl addiction include:
- “Doctor shopping” or having more than one prescription.
- Buying the drug illicitly
- Fluctuations in weight and dramatic changes in physical appearance
- Snorting crushed up pills
- The inability to stop taking it despite a powerful desire to stop.
- The inability to feel joy without the drug
- Lack of ambition or feelings of indifference
- Unexplained hostile behavior, aggressiveness, or agitation
- Lying about usage to friends, family,, and loved ones.
- Taking higher doses or more frequent doses than prescribed
- Off-label use
- Using the medication to experience a “high”
- Strong cravings or withdrawal symptoms if stopped.
Do I Have a Fentanyl Addiction?
Addiction to prescription drugs is extremely common and can be fatal. In fact, even though these drugs have legal uses, they are often just as dangerous or even more dangerous than so-called illicit “street drugs.” If you find yourself taking prescription narcotics for non-medical purposes, such as making it through stressful days at work or school, or if you’re spending large quantities of money trying to obtain a consistent supply of these medications on the black market, there is a good probability that you’re addicted. You may think that other people close to you would notice an issue if you have been acting strangely lately, but oftentimes even loved ones and friends are in denial about drug addiction because they don’t want to admit someone they care about struggles with addiction. The best way to overcome prescription drug addictions is by adhering to a treatment plan and seeking professional help!
The one thing you shouldn’t do if you suspect you have a problem with opioids is resort to “doctor shopping,” as this is very much frowned upon by medical personnel and could very well result in your addiction getting even worse. If you do find yourself in need of detox, don’t worry because it doesn’t have to be the end of the world – it’s just a sign that you’re ready to reach out for professional help so that you can finally get back on track.
How Can I Help Someone with a Fentanyl Addiction?
If your loved one is abusing the prescription opioid drug fentanyl, they could be experiencing some very harmful side effects that permeate their everyday moods and behavior. Because of this, you may notice that they are alternating between excitable and depressed thinking patterns. Because fentanyl is derived from a class of drugs that includes morphine, it’s also likely your loved one will engage in irrational or desperate behavioral patterns as well. Above all else, we are sure it goes without saying, but when such things occur you must approach the individual with thoughtfulness and consideration. It’s important to understand that a person abusing opioids like fentanyl is not themselves and should therefore be treated carefully. At NuView’s Los Angeles outpatient rehab we are dedicated to helping people such as your loved one receive the help they need to live better lives after years of drug abuse.
In this situation, you’ll want to be a good listener. Not only will listening help you gain an understanding of their struggles, but it also allows them to open up and get pent up frustrations off of their chest. Just remember that no matter what they share with you, they most likely already know the consequences of their fentanyl addiction. It’s okay to share your thoughts, but in the end, it’s more important that you’re there for them.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with opioid use disorder, it is important to advise them to speak to professionals who can advise them on whether they would benefit from medical-supervised detox in a professional clinic. Opioid addiction is brutal and life-threatening, particularly in the case of fentanyl, so it’s important that a person gets appropriate medical attention when they are trying to get sober, as there are aspects of this process that could pose further dangers without the correct kind of support.
You can be a key resource in helping those who are addicted by simply being aware of all the available treatment options, and research what kind of treatment may work best for a person with an opioid addiction. Some people with addictions might not always be mentally at full capacity so your ability to do the research necessary for finding out about the different kinds of treatments for an addiction to drugs can be very handy!
Do some exploring to find out if there are any local treatment centers that are covered by your family member’s insurance or that you could potentially afford, and think about which ones might be best for your family member. NuView Treatment Center is fully covered by most major healthcare plans. Lastly, keep in mind that it is completely natural for the addiction recovery process to be challenging and often quite long-term, but through your support your loved one’s chances of overcoming their roadblocks become much higher.
How Is Fentanyl Addiction Treated?
When a person is overusing prescription opioids, it’s time for them to consider getting some help. There are a lot of barriers to overcome and treatment can be labor-intensive – but the benefits outweigh these potential setbacks. After getting sober, not only will they feel healthier, they’ll feel more in control of their life and have a better understanding of what they want to do with it. They might find that with comprehensive rehab, they can learn better coping skills when dealing with difficult situations and how to break destructive habits that no longer serve them. Rehabs come in many forms – residential programs offer round-the-clock care while outpatient facilities may require daily visits or even weekend check-ins depending on the needs of the patient.
NuView Treatment Center specializes in providing outpatient programs to individuals who are struggling with addiction to prescription drugs and looking to rebuild their lives. With outpatient rehabilitation, clients can live at home, go to work, or school while going through recovery that sometimes requires much more intervention or attention than others because of a high risk of relapse.
When treating an opioid addiction, patients should first address the physical dependence they will inevitably suffer from after taking fentanyl at consistently high doses. The intensity of withdrawal symptoms that can occur after ending a dependency on this kind of drug demands gradual tapering over time to allow them to end their dependence without experiencing burdensome psychological or physical stress. We at NuView Treatment Center make every effort to personalize and optimize our patient’s treatment plans by working in conjunction with supervising physicians who help our patients taper their dosages as steadily and pleasantly as possible so that when they’re ready to leave us, we’re confident they can smoothly transition back into a healthy lifestyle.
However, opioid addiction is more than just an ailment that is physical in nature (although it may be that as well). It’s a psychological and interpersonal problem as well. Recovery from it takes more than merely meeting the bodily requirement of removing the substance from one’s system. The underlying reasons why someone started abusing prescription drugs at all must also be addressed for recovery to be complete and lasting. Addressing one’s lifestyle, mental health, and relationships are all critical aspects of helping a person overcome their struggles with addiction.
How Do Outpatient Programs Help Fentanyl Addicts?
Once clients step foot in NuView Treatment Center, they are greeted by a friendly caseworker who will help them to piece together a personalized treatment plan for their needs. Because most outpatient sessions include individual and group therapy, counselors at NuView Treatment Center must have diverse areas of expertise. NuView Treatment Center approaches the different needs presented by our client base using many evidence-based approaches, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Other approaches and treatment modalities our staff members offer include:
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- Relapse prevention training
- Urine tests to ensure abstinence
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavioral therapy
- Individual therapy
- Fitness and health education
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Medication monitoring
- Mindfulness, yoga, and meditation activities
- Career and education planning
- 12-step programs and 12-step alternatives
- Drug education
Complementary and Alternative therapies
Fentanyl is a dangerous drug that can cause addiction very quickly. If you or someone you love becomes addicted to an opiate like fentanyl, this person will likely benefit from the help of a recovery center that provides a variety of holistic and alternative treatment modalities designed to help patients safely beat their addiction. The best facilities like NuView Treatment Center offer compassionate care to anyone in need and are always ready to help those in recovery as they strive to never turn to drugs again.
Alternative and holistic therapies that our staff members are capable of utilizing include:
- Art therapy
- Sound therapy
- Nutritional programs
- Fitness programs
Taking opioids for long periods of time can actually lead to a low production of dopamine, endorphins, and other crucial neurotransmitters that the brain needs to feel happy and whole! Fortunately, these holistic and complementary therapies can help clear troubling emotions like fear and anger while also activating endorphins and neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. Regaining the ability to feel more at ease and in tune with your values will help you feel like your old self again!
What Types of Outpatient Programs Are Useful for Fentanyl Addiction?
NuView Treatment Center understands that everyone’s recovery is different and not one treatment approach works for everyone. That’s why NuView offers a variety of outpatient recovery plans to give people struggling with substance abuse the opportunity to heal themselves without compromising the lives they lead.
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
Partial hospitalization programs are designed to treat individuals who are dealing with addiction. They are medically supervised, last five-to-eight hours a day five days a week, and they allow clients to live in their homes. This enables them to continue their everyday lives while taking advantage of psychiatric help and medical support offered through the program. While NuView’s partial hospitalization program is just one of many options available when seeking an effective treatment plan for addiction, it could be the best choice for some clients because it offers such close supervision and support.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
At IOPs, clients participate for several hours a day for several weeks at a time. In these outpatient sessions, they learn how to identify their triggers and are taught how to cope with them as well. Therapy and skills training workshops enable clients to begin developing the foundations for fulfilling sober lives.. Most importantly, after having invested such significant quantities of time and effort into their lives and sobriety, those in recovery find joy in maintaining their new lifestyles.
Evening Intensive Outpatient Program (Evening IOP)
At NuView, we also provide a unique evening IOP that can offer the same high-quality clinical practices as our traditional IOP and be attended in the evenings after work or school. Many people seeking treatment for buprenorphine addiction have hectic schedules which require them to balance demanding careers and responsibilities for their family’s health and wellbeing. Our evening IOP affords them the chance to attend recovery sessions when it suits them best and allows time to put their lives first during this stressful time.
Outpatient Program (OP)
NuView’s outpatient program is the lowest level of care on our spectrum of services. We work with clients who are transitioning from our higher levels, as well as those new to recovery from opioid addiction. For many people, the challenges experienced while trying to overcome addiction can be isolating and difficult to manage without being surrounded by a positive support system. NuView’s outpatient program helps them implement daily changes and address the occasional cravings and inevitable challenges of early sobriety. We teach new skills that promote self-reliance so they can comfortably exit the structured environment of a treatment program and begin taking accountability for their own recovery.
How Can I Afford Fentanyl Addiction Treatment?
You shouldn’t settle for any care or treatment that doesn’t focus on your needs completely. At NuView Treatment Center, we’re dedicated to helping you with not only the legal, financial and employment obstacles that stand in your way of developing a prosperous recovery, but with assisting you with pursuing programs that will give you the best chance at a future in sobriety.
Addiction is a genuine and very serious mental health disorder. It is a recognized condition for which all healthcare insurance companies are legally required to offer coverage. NuView’s team of caseworkers and addictiion experts have developed relationships with most major insurance providers as well as many smaller health plans so you can begin treatment without a hitch!
How Does NuView Treatment Center Support Families?
NuView Treatment Center provides a complete spectrum of healthcare and treatment programs designed to meet the needs of each person seeking help for drug or alcohol addiction – including family members who are affected indirectly. NuView supports, educates, and transforms the lives of all those who have family members or friends suffering from addiction—so that both addicts and their loved ones can experience personal growth toward a lifestyle of wellness.
We encourage family members of addicts to participate with us at our meetings and workshops. While the addict is going through the recovery process, a family member can use the meetings to learn how to deal with addiction and develop a better support system for themselves – building relationships with other people who are going through the same things they are! The most important thing that anyone who is in need of a helping hand can do is open their eyes and admit vulnerability. You don’t have to go through addiction alone, whether you’re fighting your own battle or supporting someone else’s – reach out to NuView today and make new friends or seek advice from experts who understand what you’re going through.
Life After Fentanyl Addiction in Los Angeles
You might look forward to a life without opioid addiction when you get clean and healthy at NuView Treatment Center, but we also encourage you to develop healthier habits as part of your recovery. We want you to have the energy and stamina needed for work, friends and family activities – all the things that will help you keep your sobriety!
We support clients at all times of their life, whether they’re looking for some extra help getting back on track or if they need advice about a new career. A major part of our role is helping people make decisions about their lives and the way they live them. Ultimately we want the clients that come to us to thrive in all areas of their lives so there’s never a reason for them to relapse into any substance use because it can ruin almost every aspect of life when it gets out of control.
In the past, most of us who have successfully overcome an addiction found support from other people in meetings or through informal help by friends and family. NuView maintains contact with its alumni, allowing them to get involved in the lives of our newly recovering clients as well as staying in touch with each other. We never abandon anyone, even after they have graduated from our outpatient programs.
If you don’t have the courage to do something about your drug abuse situation, it will continually worsen over time. Substance use disorders are chronic conditions which often require monitoring and professional care. The great news is that with treatment and support, opioid addiction does not have to define you permanently or ruin your life! A new life is possible – and you don’t need to struggle with fentanyl alone.
Frequently Asked Questions
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. Opioids are a class of drugs that are derived from the opium poppy. Opium and its byproducts have been used for thousands of years for medical, religious, and recreational purposes. In the last few hundred years, scientists have managed to manufacture stronger and stronger opioids, which range from heroin to oxycodone.
Synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which share a chemical structure with other opioids but are produced in a lab using entirely artificial means, are capable of being far stronger.
Fentanyl is a legal prescription opioid analgesic. This means that, like other common addictive opioid painkillers, it is used primarily to treat severe and chronic pain. It is often given to patients in hospitals who are experiencing acute pain, either following an injury or to help with the pain associated with surgical operations. This potent painkiller is also often prescribed to individuals with chronic conditions that cause extreme pain, such as cancer.
Unfortunately, liberal prescribing practices and aggressive marketing campaigns by the pharmaceutical industry have resulted in this legal painkiller being prescribed to many people who could just as easily benefit from a weaker drug. As a result, in the last decade fentanyl prescriptions have soared.
Many people mistakenly assume that if a drug is legal, then it must be safe. This couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to fentanyl, which not only poses a high risk of addiction but a high risk of overdose as well. Even people who take their prescriptions exactly as prescribed are likely to develop some degree of physical dependence on the drug.
Due to the drug’s euphoric effects and the fact that tolerance to these effects develops relatively quickly, even people with legitimate prescriptions are often tempted to misuse or abuse their medication. A significant percentage of people who develop opioid addictions started off using legal opioid painkillers like fentanyl.
However, not everyone begins abusing the drug using a medical prescription. Fentanyl is also a popular street drug. The vast majority currently being sold on the street is produced in illicit laboratories run by criminal organizations. Because this drug is so potent in small doses, it is easy for drug dealers and distributors to move their product around undetected.
It is also common for drug dealers to add or substitute fentanyl for other drugs, such as heroin. Adding fentanyl is a cheap way for drug dealers to increase the perceived potency of other recreational opioids.
Unfortunately, they often do not tell their buyers that the drug has been added. The result is users unwittingly expose themselves to an opioid that is many times more potent than heroin. For this reason, overdoses are common among recreational drug users, even drug users who had no intention of taking fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a narcotic pain reliever that comes in many different forms. Prescriptions are available via a variety of routes of administration. The most common formulations of prescription are the transdermal patch, spray, lozenges, and tablets.
These formulations have differing rates at which people experience effects, but they are all extremely powerful and addictive. All formulations of fentanyl carry a high risk of addiction and overdose.
The two most common formulations are the transdermal patch and sublingual tablets or lozenges. The patch can be placed on the skin. It is designed to deliver a steady dose of fentanyl over a 48 hours period, making it ideally suited to people suffering from chronic pain.
Sublingual formulations like the fentanyl tablet or lozenge, however, are designed to provide a quick-acting dose of the drug to treat sudden acute pain. In recent years, the fentanyl lollipop has emerged as another popular quick-acting formulation.
Most recreational opioid users alter prescription fentanyl in order to abuse the drug more effectively. While quick-acting formulations of fentanyl, such as the tablet or lozenge, are the most immediately obvious choices for any would-be abuser, the patch is also widely misused.
Individuals can scrape off the sticky gel-like substance on the back of their patch in order to consume it more quickly. This psychoactive gel-like substance can be injected right into the bloodstream, brewed into a tea, or dried out and smoked.
Doing so is extremely dangerous since the dosage contained on the back of a single fentanyl patch is designed to last for over 48 hours. Consuming such a high dosage of an already very potent drug can easily lead to a fatal overdose.
Illicit fentanyl often takes the form of powder. While some people specifically seek out fentanyl on the street, it is far more common for people to accidentally consume the drug that has been added to other drug products, such as heroin or cocaine.
The fentanyl additive can make drugs seem more potent, but it increases the risk, since people with no experience taking are likely to have insufficient tolerance to handle the drug — and even people who do have experience with the drug can experience an overdose if they make the slightest miscalculation in their dosage.
It is possible to quit taking opioids “cold turkey,” a method that involves immediately stopping. When a person does this, the intensity of the withdrawal effects will be very severe. While getting through these withdrawal effects is of course possible, the excruciating discomfort is likely to make most people relapse – which can be demoralizing at best and fatal at worst.
Moreover, many addicts relapse even after getting past the withdrawal symptoms – especially if they haven’t put in the time and effort necessary to address the underlying reasons for their addiction. Even after quitting fentanyl, people who suffer from opioid addiction will continue to experience cravings and obsessive thoughts about opioids. For this reason, it is common for people to relapse on opioids even after going through all the trouble of withdrawing from them. They may recognize their relapse as irrational, and they may have a strong desire to stay off of opioids, but fentanyl addiction makes them powerless to control their own decisions.
For this reason, it is crucial that people suffering from fentanyl addiction get outside help. Withdrawing from fentanyl and achieving physical abstinence is not sufficient for long term sobriety. Engaging in an addiction treatment plan and getting support from an outpatient treatment center is essential for anyone hoping to recover from this debilitating — and often fatal — addiction.
Fentanyl addiction is a legitimate mental health condition. The clinical term for fentanyl addiction is “opioid use disorder.” The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which psychiatrists and mental health professionals use to diagnose mental health disorders, recognizes opioid use disorder. Opioid use disorder can occur on a wide range of intensities, and the symptoms of opioid use disorder vary from person to person.
For this reason, the DSM-5 lists 11 distinct symptoms of fentanyl addiction. Mental health professionals diagnose the disorder along a continuum. Individuals showing 2-3 symptoms are said to suffer from mild opioid use disorder. Those demonstrating 4-5 symptoms are said to suffer from moderate opioid use disorder, and people with more than that are considered to have severe opioid use disorder.
The eleven symptoms of opioid use disorder are:
- A person often takes opioids in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than they intend to
- A person has a persistent desire to cut down or control their opioid use, but they are often unsuccessful
- A person spends a large portion of their time in activities necessary to obtain, use, or recover from the effects of fentanyl abuse
- They experience cravings, or a strong desire to use fentanyl or other opioids
- Their regular use results in failures to fulfill role obligations at work, school, or home
- Fentanyl or opioid use continues despite the occurrence of persistent social or interpersonal problems caused by or worsened by the effects of opioids
- Important activities are given up in order to engage in the drug abuse
- Using fentanyl or other opioids in situations in which it is physically hazardous, such as driving while under the influence
- Continuing to use the drug despite knowing that one has a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is caused by or exacerbated by opioids
- Developing a tolerance, causing one to need increased quantities of opioids to achieve the desired effect
- Suffering from opioid withdrawal symptoms
However, for concerned friends and family members, looking at the official diagnostic criteria for an opioid use disorder is not sufficient. Individuals who are abusing drugs and alcohol often go to great lengths to hide their substance abuse. They may do so partly out of shame, due to the stigma that surrounds addiction, but they may also want to avoid detection so that their loved ones do not put any obstacles in between them and their next “fix.”
Since young people are not always 100% honest about their substance abuse habits, it is often a good idea to look out for common physical and behavioral symptoms of fentanyl abuse.
Obviously, individuals who have been prescribed fentanyl or another related opioid painkiller are the most obvious candidates for addiction, but anyone – even people without a chronic pain condition – can acquire the drug.
Common signs and symptoms of fentanyl addiction include:
- Unusual drowsiness
- Notable weight loss (and in some cases weight gain)
- Changes in sleep habits
- Frequent flu-like symptoms Lack of attention to personal hygiene and grooming
- Changes in exercise habits
- New financial difficulties
- Dealing with friends, family, classmates, or colleagues
- Isolating from friends or family
- Decreased libido
- Uncontrollable cravings
- An inability to control opioid use
- Losing jobs or failing classes
- Problems with the law
If someone in your life is exhibiting these signs, it is often a good idea to have a frank discussion with them about their substance abuse. If it becomes clear they are abusing fentanyl, help them understand that they need outside help in order to manage their addiction.
They may be in denial about wanting to quit, or they may deny having an addiction altogether, but more likely than not they have recognized the harms of fentanyl and made at least one unsuccessful attempt to quit already.
Make sure they know you are on their side and help them locate an outpatient treatment center, and chances are they will at least be open to the idea.
People addicted to fentanyl face a wide range of long term consequences, some of which are due to the direct effects of the drug, and some of which are due to the nature of addiction itself. To begin with, addiction to any substance causes people to prioritize their substance use above all else.
Given the drug’s potency and high potential for physical dependence, this effect is especially notable for fentanyl. People addicted to it are likely to stop engaging in activities and hobbies that once gave them joy. Many tend to isolate from friends and family members so that they can engage in substance abuse. Loneliness and isolation are common consequences of opioid addiction, and moreover, loneliness is a significant factor that can motivate further substance abuse.
Over time, it is common for fentanyl addicts to stop functioning in essential areas of their lives, including school and work. At best, this can reduce their chances of achieving their ambitions, but more commonly the harms are even more severe: many people drop out of school or lose their employment entirely. Financial problems can accumulate, resulting in homelessness.
A strong desire for drugs combined with financial ruin can drive people to engage in criminal activity, such as theft, which can entrench them in legal as well as financial problems. These problems can feel insurmountable, driving people to abuse opioids as a form of escapism.
When fentanyl activates opioid receptors, these receptors release high quantities of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is in large part responsible for the extreme feelings of pleasure and euphoria that occur during a fentanyl high. Dopamine causes pleasure because its purpose is to reinforce behaviors and make people return to them again and again. It plays an essential role in the brain’s motivation and decision-making centers.
Dopamine is naturally released during many activities, including sports, accomplishing goals, and sex. Fentanyl releases quantities of dopamine far exceeding any other activity. Each time a person uses the drug and experiences a surge in dopamine, their drug-taking behavior becomes further reinforced. In this sense, it is able to “hijacks” the brain.
Over time, the brain and body adapt to the effects of the drug. Fentanyl is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, which means that it inhibits the activity of the brain and body. Over time, the central nervous system learns to balance the effects of opioids by increasing its activity.
As a result, the same dose of fentanyl gradually becomes less effective over time. This phenomenon, known as tolerance, means that people need to take high doses of the drug to achieve the effects to which they are accustomed. When people take higher or more frequent doses to get high, their physical dependence on the drug becomes even stronger.
Long term fentanyl abuse also inflicts a wide range of harms on a person’s physical and mental health. Sustained fentanyl use increases the risk of anoxic injury (damage to body tissues due to significantly decreased oxygen) as well as multiple organ system damage. Physical health problems, whether related or unrelated to fentanyl abuse, tend to go untreated, putting people at significant risk.
Fentanyl addiction can also lead to the development of or worsen mental health conditions. Addiction tends to lead to moodiness and emotional problems, but long term use can cause people to develop permanent mental illnesses, including major depression and anxiety disorder.
Like many of the other consequences of fentanyl addiction, mental health disorders can cause people to engage in further substance abuse to get temporary relief from their emotional distress.
Fentanyl addiction also has a high likelihood of leading to other forms of drug abuse. In fact, the vast majority of people who abuse heroin began by using prescription opioid painkillers like fentanyl. Why do people switch to heroin? Ultimately, prescription opioids can be expensive and are often difficult to come by.
No matter how uncomfortable a person may feel about using so-called “street drugs,” once an opioid addiction has developed, few people have objections to purchasing cheap and widely available drugs that satisfy their needs.
As a result, addicts may turn to a wide variety of opioids. They may also consume other drugs alongside their opioids, such as cocaine, crack, crystal meth, or alcohol, either accidentally, as a way to “take the edge off” of withdrawal symptoms, or to “improve” the effect of opioids. This kind of polysubstance abuse increases the dangers – especially the risk of overdose.
But is there a difference between physical dependence and addiction on fentanyl? Yes. In fact, it is crucial to understand that physical dependence and addiction are distinct phenomena. While physical dependence is, by definition, a bodily condition, addiction is a mental health disorder. However, the two conditions tend to reinforce each other.
Once a person has developed a physical dependence on opioids, they will find it difficult to stop taking the drug. When they reduce their dosage or stop taking fentanyl, they will experience withdrawal. The symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal are both physically and emotionally excruciating.
Fentanyl withdrawal is very painful and makes it difficult for a person to function. This makes it very difficult to stop using the drug. When people have a physical dependence on fentanyl, they will likely stop at nothing to avoid the miserable symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
People who are trying to avoid withdrawal will often turn to other opioids, such as heroin, which are often far cheaper and easier to obtain. For this reason, it is often helpful to recognize that fentanyl addiction is a kind of opioid addiction. Individuals who were prescribed the drug and would never normally use “street drugs” can thereby become heroin addicts. In fact, the vast majority of heroin users started off taking prescription opioids.
When people suffer from fentanyl addiction, they are unable to stop using it no matter how much they want to. They often recognize the harms that the drug abuse has inflicted on their lives, but they are generally powerless to stop using it.
Physical dependence and addiction to fentanyl generally go hand in hand, but not always. Some people, for instance, do manage to withdraw successfully from the drug, at which point they no longer experience withdrawal symptoms or physical dependence.
Part of the reason fentanyl is so difficult to quit is that once a person has developed a physical dependence on the medication, they experience opioid withdrawal symptoms when they cut down their dosage – and especially when they stop taking fentanyl completely. Opioid withdrawal is one of the most painful and arduous drug withdrawal experiences in existence, and it tends to progressively get worse over the course of the detoxification process.
People with a strong desire to stop taking fentanyl may begin this process, only to relapse midway through. No matter how strong a person’s willpower is at the beginning of the process, the certain knowledge that taking another dose of fentanyl will relieve their suffering tends to weaken their resolve dramatically. For this reason, it is crucial to get outside help and support during the withdrawal process.
Common symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal include:
- Insomnia and restlessness
- Increased sweating
- Watery eyes and runny nose
- Irritability and anxiety
- Stomach cramps, nausea, and diarrhea
- Overall weakness
- Muscle, joint, and bone pain
- Widened pupils
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Rapid breathing
- Mood problems
- Shaking, chills, ad goosebumps
- Intense cravings
Fentanyl has a relatively short half-life, meaning it is halfway processed and eliminated from the body in 8-10 hours. For most formulations of the drug, especially quick-acting sublingual formulations, the acute withdrawal symptoms generally begin between 2 to 4 hours after a person’s last dosage.
For people taking the patch, acute withdrawal symptoms often begin somewhat later, due to the slow-release delivery system of the transdermal patch. For individuals taking the patch, withdrawal symptoms often start 24 to 36 hours after the patch has been removed.
Acute fentanyl withdrawal tends to become more intense and painful over a few days. The peak withdrawal effects generally occur after two to four days. At this point, the physical and emotional symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal are at their most severe.
During peak withdrawal, individuals are also likely to experience the strongest cravings for fentanyl — or ultimately for any opioid that can relieve their misery. It is important to understand that peak withdrawal is relatively short-lived and that it is possible to get through it.
In fact, fentanyl withdrawal generally lasts approximately one week. While symptoms rarely completely disappear after this time, most people begin to experience an abatement of withdrawal symptoms after 7 days. It is common for people to experience a few new ones sometimes as acute withdrawal becomes less severe.
Common long-term withdrawal symptoms include:
- Anhedonia (the inability to experience pleasure)
- Relapse dreams
- Negative feelings, such as remorse, guilt, self-loathing, anger, and low self-esteem
- Being on a “pink cloud”: ie, feeling excessively happy about being drug-free and ignoring the realities of one’s life
After getting through withdrawal, physical cravings for opioids do disappear. Psychological cravings, however, can last far longer – especially if an individual does not treat the underlying reasons for their substance abuse. Outpatient therapy can help address triggers and psychological cravings and allow people to live drug-free for the rest of their lives.
A small percentage of people experience a few symptoms of acute withdrawal for additional weeks, months, or even years after quitting opioids. This phenomenon, known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), is little understood. Generally, the symptoms are not as severe as those experienced in the initial days of withdrawal, but without a support system, the symptoms of PAWS can be distracting and sometimes debilitating.
These long-term symptoms, while not as obviously severe as acute withdrawal symptoms, can often drive people to relapse. For this reason, getting long-term addiction treatment in an outpatient program is essential not just for acute withdrawal, but for the period of time following withdrawal as well.
By far the greatest risk of fentanyl abuse, in both the long and the short term, is the risk of a life-threatening overdose. Between the years 1999 and 2018, over 232,000 people in the United States died as a result of a prescription opioid overdose. It is important to recognize that anyone who uses this drug puts themselves at risk of dying prematurely.
Fentanyl is extremely potent, and illicitly produced analogs such as carfentanil can be 10,000 times more potent than morphine. New users obviously face a high risk, but even people who have developed a tolerance for opioids can easily overdose if they make even the slightest miscalculation in their dosage.
How does a fentanyl overdose occur? Fentanyl is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, meaning it inhibits the functionality of the central nervous system. The CNS is responsible for managing and coordinating all brain and bodily functions, including automatic life-sustaining processes like breathing. When a person takes a high dose of the drug that is too much for their body to handle, they can suffer from central nervous system depression.
A fentanyl overdose symptoms are:
- Low body temperature
- Respiratory depression (slowed or entirely stopped breathing)
- Stupor, loss of consciousness, or coma
- Small pupils
Due to fentanyl potency, overdosing on the drug can result in death very rapidly — often in a manner of minutes or even seconds.
Opioid overdoses can be reversed if they are treated immediately. If a person is overdosing on fentanyl or any other opioid, they can be saved by being administered naloxone. Naloxone, an opioid antagonist that can be administered through a nasal spray, immediately reverses an opioid overdose.
While naloxone can save lives if it is applied in time, it is important to understand that it sends a person into immediate opioid withdrawal, which generally requires treatment. It is also common for a person to re-enter fentanyl withdrawal once naloxone wears off. For this reason, it is crucial that anyone overdosing be provided with the medical support they need.