Fentanyl is a highly addictive drug in the family of opioid painkillers. While opiates occur naturally in nature, Fentanyl is not a natural substance. It is a synthetic pharmaceutical drug, prescribed to manage cases of severe pain in patients following surgery, injury, or during treatment for cancer. Fentanyl is also used as an anesthetic or for sedation during surgery.1
Fentanyl is an opioid pain reliever, meaning it works in the same way as other opioids. It binds to pain receptors in the brain, inhibiting their communication, thus relieving and reducing sensitivity to pain. It also stimulates dopamine production, one of the brain’s chemicals involved in the feeling of happiness.
Though Fentanyl is used for medical purposes, it can lead to the development of addiction in patients. Medical patients are not the only group subject to Fentanyl addiction; it is also a commonly abused street drug.
Dangerous enough on its own, when used recreationally Fentanyl is often mixed with other substances either for purposeful polydrug use or because it’s been mixed with other ingredients to increase profit from selling. As a result, it can be difficult for users to know how much Fentanyl they have taken and which other substances they have taken it with.
In 2017, there were almost 30,000 Fentanyl-related drug overdose deaths in the U.S. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recognized Fentanyl as the biggest contributing substance in opioid overdose deaths in the country.
Effects of Fentanyl
Fentanyl, like all other opioid pain relievers, presents a high potential for abuse and addiction.3 Outside of strict doctor’s recommendation, Fentanyl is used recreationally for its pleasurable effects, primarily feelings of euphoria and relaxation.
As with all opioids, frequent use of Fentanyl causes the brain to adapt to its presence, so in order to achieve the desired effects, more of the drug must be taken. This can lead to dependence, addiction, and potentially overdose and death.
Noticing the signs of Fentanyl abuse can help the loved ones of those using the drug recognize the need for professional help. While symptoms of abuse can vary among users, general signs of abuse to keep in mind include:
Itching and scratching
Neglect of work or school-related responsibilities
Lies and secrecy
Fentanyl is a highly addictive substance with extremely intense withdrawal symptoms. Sudden cessation of use is not usually considered life-threatening, but users are advised against quitting cold turkey.
The severity of withdrawal varies among individuals and depends on a number of factors, such as:
Length of time of abuse
Form (powder, pill, gel)
Withdrawal symptoms include:
Withdrawal from Fentanyl should involve a fully supervised medical detox and rehabilitation. The withdrawal process can be extremely difficult, and unless a person is safely and professionally monitored, the risk of relapse is high. As with all substances of abuse, cessation of use and the resulting withdrawal symptoms can significantly exacerbate any underlying mental health conditions and lead to suicidal ideation.
At Heather R. Hayes & Associates we are experts in intervention and crisis management. Our professional team members are highly skilled in the intervention process and can offer much needed support for individuals and families affected by Fentanyl addiction. We provide dedicated case management to help our clients move through the recovery process as smoothly as possible from the earliest stages of recovery.
Time is of the essence when it comes to substance addiction. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today if you or any of your loved ones are struggling with addiction.
1 Algren D, Monteilh C, Rubin C, et al. Fentanyl-associated fatalities among illicit drug users in Wayne County, Michigan (July 2005-May 2006). Journal Of Medical Toxicology: Official Journal of the American College Of Medical Toxicology [serial online]. March 2013; 9(1):106-115.
2 “Fentanyl | Drug Overdose | CDC Injury Center”. Cdc.Gov, https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/fentanyl.html. Accessed 16 Oct 2020.
3 “Drug Scheduling”. Dea.Gov, https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling. Accessed 16 Oct 2020.
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Ethical Intervention and Treatment: A Guide to Ethical Practice Contributions by Heather R. Hayes, M.Ed., LPC, CAI, CIP, Founder & CEO of Heather R. Hayes
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