Fentanyl Addiction

Drug addiction comes in many different forms, each one bringing dangerous and life-altering effects to those who suffer from these problems. One of the common misunderstandings surrounding the term “addiction” is the idea that most people who struggle with substance abuse are dependent on illicit drugs, such as heroin or cocaine. Many people think that only those who have illicit drug use problems need treatment. But, this belief is far from true.

It’s absolutely possible for individuals to become dependent on and addicted to prescription drugs. Legal substances such as alcohol and medications can be extremely addictive and habit-forming. So, those who use these substances regularly are certainly at risk for developing problems. Such is the case with those who use fentanyl.

Understanding Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl, a pharmaceutical drug, is one of the most powerful legal substances available. In fact, it’s even stronger than morphine, which has been known to lead to addiction in many cases. Doctors usually prescribe fentanyl to patients who have recently undergone surgery and are experiencing pain as a result.

Also, individuals who are dealing with breakthrough pain may also receive a prescription for fentanyl. Breakthrough pain is, essentially, the pain people feel even though they’ve already used a painkiller. It is, in a sense, the pain that breaks through the pain-relieving effects of opiate medication. 

Fentanyl is a synthetic narcotic drug that works like other opioids; it binds to the opioid receptors in the body, causing pain-blocking effects. This drug comes in various forms, including tablets, sprays, and patches. 

Since fentanyl is so powerful, many of the people who use this drug on a regular basis are certainly at risk for developing a dependence problem. But, this doesn’t usually happen overnight.

First, people may begin to develop a high tolerance for fentanyl. This means that they’re bodies become used to the drug and, as a result, people need to use a higher dosage in order to feel the effects of the substance. 

After a person’s tolerance level is built up, the individual may struggle to feel “normal” if he or she doesn’t use fentanyl. This is because the body goes into withdrawal if the person stops using drugs. In order to eliminate this discomfort, people usually take more fentanyl and may even begin to use it more often or in other ways than they were directed by the doctor.

What Are Some Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction?

When a person becomes dependent on fentanyl, the signs and symptoms of their substance use problem may not be extremely evident or obvious. Sometimes, individuals who continue to function normally despite a dependence or addiction problem are referred to as “functioning addicts”.

But, people who are struggling with addiction, whether or not they seem to be able to continue working or taking care of responsibilities, are suffering from a serious problem and should get help as soon as possible.

Regardless of whether a person is able to hide their substance abuse or carry on as if the issue isn’t present, there may be some signs which could indicate the truth about their situation. So, if you have a friend or family member who is using fentanyl (illegally or for medical reasons), you may want to keep an eye out for these signs.

Does your loved one:

  • Seem to lack an appetite?
  • Suffer from headaches often?
  • Have trouble seeing properly?
  • Ask to borrow money often?
  • Steal money from you or others?
  • Steal medication from you or others?
  • Look as though he or she has lost weight?
  • Sometimes suffer from nausea and/vomiting?
  • Spend a lot of time in isolation or with drug users?

All of these could happen if your friend or family member is addicted to fentanyl. If the individual is abusing this drug, it’s likely that at least some of these signs will appear in his or her life. It’s also important to keep in mind that continued fentanyl use can do more than simply change your loved one’s behaviors; it can alter the individual’s life and cause serious health problems.

The Effects of Continued Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction

In many cases of fentanyl abuse, people who continue to use this substance become addicted to it. This means that they develop an uncontrollable craving for fentanyl. Although they may know that abusing this drug is harmful and dangerous, individuals who are addicted to it can’t control their drug use habits. They’re bodies literally depend on it and suddenly ending the use of this drug can result in serious and even life-threatening effects.

Still, those who suffer from fentanyl addiction problems should seek professional help immediately as fentanyl use may experience some very intense and severe effects, including the following:

  • Swelling in hands
  • Swelling in feet
  • Sleep problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Nightmares
  • Seizures
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Itchiness
  • Hives
  • Convulsions
  • Balance problems

Some people who abuse fentanyl for a long time may even begin to experience changes in their heart rate and various pains throughout their bodies. There are also cases in which people develop sores in their mouths as a result of continued fentanyl use.

Mental Health and Fentanyl Addiction

Often, addiction isn’t the only problem people face. Often, mental health disorders come right along with substance misuse. In many situations, people who suffer from addiction also have one or more mental illnesses. 

Sometimes, people who have a mental health disorder, behavioral disorder, or mood disorder develop a substance use problem as a result of their pre-existing disorder. In other words, mental health challenges can actually cause addictions to develop. 

One of the reasons this happens is because the symptoms of mood or behavioral health disorders can be overwhelming and challenging to cope with. So, many times, people who suffer from these disorders turn to alcohol or drugs in order to treat the symptoms they’re experiencing. Or, they may begin to depend on the medications they use to treat their disorder.

There are also situations in which addiction causes mental health disorders to develop. For instance, a person who abuses a powerful and highly addictive drug may develop depression or anxiety. 

When a person has multiple disorders (addiction and mental illness), it means that he or she has co-occurring disorders. This is considered to be a dual diagnosis. 

One of the best things a person with co-occurring disorders can do is seek a dual diagnosis treatment program like ours here at 1st Step Behavioral Health. Not only will the program address the individual’s struggle with substance use, but it will also help the person to work through the effects of his or her mental health disorder.

Getting Treatment at 1st Step

If you or someone you know is struggling with fentanyl abuse, please contact us here at 1st Step Behavioral Health. We are dedicated to helping our clients to overcome and remain free from substance abuse. You deserve to live an addiction-free life and we are committed to making sure you get to do that! Contact us today to get started on the road to recovery!

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.