Fentanyl
Addiction

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a pain reliever. It’s a synthetic opioid drug like morphine or codeine, but it’s 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Because it is an opiate, it binds to opioid receptors in the brain, much like heroin does. It’s used to treat patients who have recently had surgery or experience chronic pain and have grown tolerant to other opioids. Fentanyl is available in a prescription form under Actiq®, Duragesic®, Fentora®, and Sublimaze®.

Since fentanyl binds to opioid receptors in the brain, it can become highly addictive. Many fentanyl users may be unaware that they are taking fentanyl, because it is often laced in with other street drugs or used in place of drugs, such as heroin. Abusing fentanyl can have bad consequences, including death.

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What does Fentanyl look like?

When prescribed, Fentanyl is an opioid that comes in the form of a blue or white pill. It can also be laced with Xanax and benzodiazepines, which are used to treat anxiety. Street fentanyl can be designed to look like other less potent prescription pills. Illegal fentanyl can also come in the form of gel patches or lollipops.


How is Fentanyl taken?

Illegal fentanyl can be smoked, snorted, injected, or swallowed. Most illegal fentanyl is produced as a powder, but it can also come in the form of a pill, candy in blotter paper, powder, tablet, spray, or a film placed under the tongue.

Why do people use Fentanyl?

People use fentanyl to experience a feeling of euphoria and relaxation. People mix it with other drugs to create a feeling of getting “high.” Others use it unintentionally when it is laced with another drug such as Xanax. Mixing fentanyl with other drugs can be a deadly combination. It’s often used in place of other drugs because it doesn’t take as much to achieve a high, making it a cheaper alternative for drug dealers.

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History of
Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a manmade opioid that is used when other opioids aren’t having the same effect in a person who has suffered from extreme pain or a condition such as cancer. Fentanyl was first produced in Belgium in 1959. It was used as an anesthetic and for pain relief. In the 90s, the fentanyl patch was created for chronic pain. It was also available in the form of a lollipop with the brand Actiq.

Illegal fentanyl is distributed from China to the United States due to the lack of regulations in the pharmaceutical industry over there. China is known to be a large distributor of drugs that are illegal in other countries, as well. They produce counterfeit prescription drugs like oxycodone that are laced with fentanyl.

What are the Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction?

Symptoms of fentanyl addiction become apparent when the person who is addicted to the substance begins to withdraw from social situations, work, and recreational situations. They will have a preoccupation with using and finding fentanyl. A significant amount of each day revolves around using or recovering from fentanyl. If it was first prescribed to the abuser, they will likely use it longer than it is intended.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
  • Euphoria
  • Eating fentanyl gel beads
  • Abnormal thoughts
  • Mood swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Chest tightness
  • Lack of coordination
PARAPHERNALIA
  • Blotter paper
  • Torn packages
  • Plastic bags
  • Powder residue
  • Glass vials
  • Needles
  • Pieces of foil
  • Spoons in abnormal places

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What are the Effects of Fentanyl Addiction?

The effects of fentanyl addiction begin with a feeling of euphoria, but as the addiction continues, the abuser may experience slowed breathing, nausea and vomiting, sweating, constipation and a loss of appetite. Because addicts become all-consumed by obtaining and consuming fentanyl, it is easy to take too much and have an overdose.

Short-Term Effects of
Fentanyl Addiction
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Heart rate changes
  • Weakness
  • Ulcers, mouth sores, or white spots
  • Shallow breathing
Long-Term Effects of
Fentanyl Addiction
  • Confusion
  • Death
  • Convulsions
  • Organ damage
  • Passing out
  • Decreased oxygen in tissues
  • Mood changes
  • Fatigue

Fentanyl
Addiction Statistics

72.2%

increase of deaths from 2014 to 2015 from synthetic opioids.

56,516

deaths involving synthetic opioids in the U.S. in 2020.

50-100x

Fentanyl is this much more potent than morphine.


How is Fentanyl Addiction Treated?

If you or someone you love has experienced a fentanyl overdose, you will notice they’ve become sleepy or have passed out. They may snore and appear to be impossible to wake up, become limp, and their lips may turn blue or purple. A naloxone kit can temporarily reverse the overdose while you’re waiting for help from 911. Naloxone comes in a spray or as an injectable.

Fentanyl addiction is treated in rehab first with a detox where the abuser is slowly tapered off of fentanyl to avoid painful or uncomfortable side effects and withdrawals. Fentanyl users can seek inpatient treatment, such as we offer here at Gratitude Lodge. Cases of fentanyl addiction that haven’t gone on as long can be treated with outpatient recovery services. We partner with local outpatient services if that fit is right for you or your loved one.

Common Drug Combinations with Fentanyl

Alcohol is commonly paired with fentanyl, which can be a deadly combination due to shallow breathing and the risk of sedation. Xanax is also a common lethal combination that has received attention in the media for being responsible for the recent death of musician Lil Peep .

  • Alcohol
  • Xanax
  • Heroin
  • Benzos
  • Cocaine
  • Stimulants
  • Oxycodone
  • MDMA

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