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How Is Fentanyl Addiction Treated?

fentanyl addiction

Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, has emerged as a significant public health concern, contributing to a surge in overdose deaths in recent years. Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that deaths involving opioids were 81,083 in 2023. The majority of these deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Understanding the nature of fentanyl distribution and addiction, along with the treatment options available, are crucial for addressing this ongoing crisis and helping people win back their lives.

What is Fentanyl?

Initially developed as a prescription pain reliever, fentanyl is approximately 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It works by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors, which control pain and emotions. These same receptors also bind endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller. There are different types of endorphins, and beta-endorphins are released during or after the body’s physiological response to pain or a stressor.

Of course, endorphins are also released due to pleasurable activities like laughter, sex, and exercise. When opioids bind to those receptors, the body experiences relief from pain as well as feelings of intense euphoria. Because of this high potency, the risk of overdose is increased, especially when mixed with other illicit substances like cocaine or heroin.

With repeated use of fentanyl, the brain adapts to its presence, making it increasingly difficult to feel pleasure without the substance. This can lead to the inability to feel pleasure from anything, which may indicate the presence of opioid use disorder, or OUD.

People who take prescription fentanyl get it as a shot, lozenge, or patch. Illegally produced fentanyl, on the other hand, comes as a powder that can be snorted or a liquid that can be injected or placed in an eye dropper or nasal spray bottle.

Because fentanyl has no taste or smell and is cheap to manufacture, it is often mixed into other drugs like cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine. This illicit mixing of fentanyl into other drugs has grown into a major source of U.S. overdose deaths each year.

Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction

Identifying the symptoms of fentanyl addiction is the essential first step toward getting professional help. Symptoms can include:

  • Taking more fentanyl than intended
  • Spending excessive time and money obtaining or using fentanyl
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home
  • Continued use despite negative life consequences
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using fentanyl
  • Dry mouth and nose
  • Impaired visual acuity
  • Slowed gastrointestinal activity
  • Worsening or onset of mental health disorder symptoms
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Recognizing a Fentanyl Overdose

Fentanyl overdose is a life-threatening emergency characterized by the loss of consciousness, slowed or even stopped breathing, and clammy skin. Prompt administration of naloxone, a medication used to reverse opioid overdose, is critical in saving lives.

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

Treating fentanyl addiction often involves the combination of medication and behavioral therapies. The fentanyl treatment process begins with a medically supervised detox, that is, a process where the addict is enabled to safely withdraw from fentanyl while a team of medical professionals aids in the management of fentanyl withdrawal symptoms.

A medical assessment follows the detox period, which typically lasts between three and five days. It is during this medical assessment that a course of actions is decided upon, taking into account the addict’s age, physical makeup, and how they had been using fentanyl.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT for short, features prescription Medications like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone to help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, allowing people to focus on their recovery. MAT includes additional behavioral therapies along with medication.

Behavioral Therapies

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI) and group therapy can help people deal more effectively with drug cravings, address their mental health issues, and with modify their behaviors to develop healthier coping strategies.

A Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline under which people withdraw from fentanyl can vary. It all depends on the person, the average daily amount of fentanyl used, and whether there were any other drugs that were taken along with fentanyl. That said, fentanyl withdrawal usually lasts between seven and 10 days.

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can appear six hours after taking the last dose. These symptoms will likely increase until peaking, about one to three days into the process. Then they start to resolve over the course of a week or so. Some people experience less intense withdrawal symptoms for weeks afterward.

Though the process of fentanyl detox can be uncomfortable, it is not usually life-threatening. Still, one should watch out for dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, what with all the diarrhea and vomiting. Sometimes fentanyl withdrawal requires the use of intravenous fluids or other medical interventions, which is why attempting detox alone is a bad idea.

Recovery from Fentanyl Addiction

Recovery from fentanyl addiction is a lifelong journey that requires ongoing support and commitment. After a medically supervised detox and a medical assessment, treatment options typically include the following:

Inpatient Rehab. Residential treatment facilities offer 24/7 care, providing a supportive and comfortable environment in which to recover from fentanyl addiction.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP). PHP is an outpatient treatment, meaning the client can live at home while undergoing treatment. As such, PHPs are appropriate for those displaying moderate to severe symptoms of withdrawal and co-occurring mental health disorders.

Outpatient Programs (IOP/OP). Intensive outpatient (IOP) or outpatient (OP) programs allow individuals to attend counseling and therapy sessions while living at home or in a sober living environment. They generally involve fewer hours than PHP.

Aftercare. Continuing care programs, such as group support meetings and sober living arrangements, help people maintain their sobriety after completing more formal treatment.

In conclusion, fentanyl addiction is a complex issue with severe consequences if left untreated or unaddressed. By understanding the symptoms and treatment options available for fentanyl addiction, people can take proactive steps towards recovery and reclaiming their lives from the grips of addiction.

Learn More About Fentanyl Addiction with Northpoint Colorado

Want to learn more about the many possible reasons for pursuing recovery? Northpoint Colorado is here for you. Every day, we help people needing treatment increase their motivation to reach their goals.

Northpoint Colorado is a premier provider of recovery services. Our customized approach supports your attempts to detox from any addictive drug. It also supports your efforts to reach a point of stable, lasting sobriety. Call us today at 888.231.1281 or complete our online form.