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Opioid & Benzo Addiction

Opioid addiction is a very serious condition we can help with.

Fentanyl: Addiction, Withdrawal, and Recovery

Fentanyl is an opiate derived from the opium plant. It is a synthetic analgesic that can be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl is used for intense pains such as those experienced post-surgery or as the breakthrough pains that are a side effect of chemotherapy treatment. Fentanyl is a powerful and potentially addictive substance, and should not be used long-term to treat chronic pain. It works by encouraging the brain to ramp up dopamine production, which results in a more positive mood. It also blocks pain receptors.

Other Names for Fentanyl

Fentanyl is available in different formulas and brands.

Actiq

  • Lozenge on a plastic stick
  • Consumed like a lollipop
  • Prescribed for patients who are already using pain medications
  • Used in military medical protocols

Duragesic

  • Administered via patch
  • Introduced in the 1990s
  • Used for moderate to severe pain episodes
  • Lasts up to 3 days

Sublimaze

  • Intravenous, often delivered with pre-surgery anesthetics
  • May be injected to manage post-surgery pain

Subsys

  • Sprayed under the tongue
  • Gives instant pain relief
  • Used to address sudden increases in chronic pain, such as pain flares associated with cancer, arthritis, or fibromyalgia

Abstral

  • Quick-dissolve tablets
  • Placed under tongue for instant relief
  • Prescribed to patients who already use opiates for breakthrough pain

Lazanda

  • Nasal spray, used in a similar way to over-the-counter nasal decongestants
  • Used to treat pains associated with cancer

Fentanyl Abuse

When consumed, this drug produces feelings of euphoria and relaxation similar to heroin. This makes it a valuable street drug. When obtained on the street, Fentanyl may be called Apache, China girl, Chine white, dance fever, TNT, or crush.

Some signs of possible Fentanyl abuse include:

  • Slow or labored breathing while at rest
  • Seizures with no known underlying conditions
  • Dizziness
  • Blurry vision

Those who have never used opium-derived drugs, or have poor tolerance, have a higher risk of fatal overdose. The drug is known to have a high overdose rate when used for recreational purposes.

Abuse causes depression of the respiratory system, and may lead to complete respiratory failure. This condition is frequently fatal.

When combined with common narcotics, like other opiates or stimulates like cocaine, the drug’s effects may be magnified. Irresponsible use, whether prescribed or obtained illicitly, can have lethal results.

Fentanyl Addiction

When combined with common narcotics, like other opiates or stimulates like cocaine, the drug’s effects may be magnified. Irresponsible use, whether prescribed or obtained illicitly, can have lethal results.

Fentanyl causes the brain to signal the production of large amounts of dopamine, the chemical responsible for feelings of joy and comfort. This abnormal flow of hormones eventually changes overall brain chemistry and function, and can have a negative impact on the central nervous system. The brain can lose its ability to compose adequate amounts of dopamine without the drug, which leads to addiction. If someone becomes addicted while they are using legally prescribed drugs, they may turn to illegal methods of obtaining it when the prescription runs out.

Dependency creates a hormonal deficit. Users will need to use to bridge the gap and function normally. Increasingly greater doses are needed to achieve a euphoric high.

The onset of addiction can happen quickly. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes criteria for diagnosing substance abuse disorder. These guidelines provide healthcare professionals to identify behaviors that may signal tolerance issues or withdrawal symptoms.

Fentanyl Withdrawal

Long-term use of opiates leads to a physical dependence on the drug for daily functions. Addiction can occur in a month or less.

Continued use requires larger doses to achieve a high. An insufficient dose cannot correct the chemical imbalance, which leads to withdrawal symptoms.

Fentanyl abuse disrupts proper brain processes, which affects the user’s stability and sense of well-being. If the addicted user stops consuming the drug, the brain is not able to instantly correct the hormonal imbalance. While the body is attempting to stabilize hormone production, the following symptoms may be experienced.

  • Fast breathing
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose
  • Joint pain
  • Stomach cramps

Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline

Symptoms vary depending on time elapsed since last dosage.

After six to eight hours without using, withdrawal begins. Onset symptoms feel similar to a heavy flu infection. Initially, patients will feel chills, aching and cramping muscles, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Many suffering from withdrawal symptoms also feel extreme fatigue.

Symptoms reach peak strength in the first 48 hours. Fever, heavy sweating, loss of appetite, inability to keep any food or drink in the stomach, and severe mood swings are common. Sufferers often experience prolonged insomnia that can seven or more days after initial withdrawal symptoms present.

The intensity of withdrawal symptoms begins to fade after two weeks. Restlessness, fever, and loss of appetite may persist, but become more manageable. Depression, self-isolating behaviors, and irritability are common in weeks two through four.

Frequently, symptoms will return after the original withdrawal period.  This may signal PAWS, or post-acute-withdrawal syndrome, and is a common condition experienced by those recovering from Fentanyl addiction or the abuse of other potent substances. Irritability and pain can reoccur, and last for several days at a time. Episodes generally occur once every few months.

Fentanyl Detox

Drug detoxification is a process designed to remove harmful substances from the patient’s body. Those detoxing from Fentanyl use should do so under medical supervision. A trained medical professional can help patients reduce the severity of some withdrawal symptoms. They are also there to provide a quick response in case of any life-threatening complications.

When detoxing from Fentanyl addiction, doctors may suggest the patient start by lowering their normal dosage incrementally. This gradual decline in use allows the body to learn to function without the drug more easily and with less cravings. A doctor may also prescribe replacement substances, like Vicodin or Tramadol, to reduce withdrawal symptoms.

Some medications that might be used to ease Fentanyl detoxification:

Clonidine

  • Non-opiate pain reliever
  • Used for anxiety, cramping, muscle aches, sweating, and runny nose
  • Reduces severity of withdrawal symptoms

Users may still experience cravings when using Clonidine.

Buprenorphine

  • Synthetic opiate
  • Affects the brain receptors in a way similar to Fentanyl
  • Reduces cravings and the severity of withdrawal symptoms
  • Prescribed for recovery maintenance
  • Not recommended for severe addictions

Medications used during the withdrawal process or for long-term recovery maintenance may be prescribed by a primary care physician or psychiatrist.

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

Breaking a Fentanyl addiction can be difficult. Stopping suddenly, or “going cold turkey”, can be an uncomfortable process, but it is not life threatening. Drug addiction creates a physical dependency that makes withdrawal painful. Drug treatment centers can provide inpatient or outpatient services that may help those recovering from Fentanyl dependency.

Withdrawal symptoms vary, depending on:

  • frequency of use
  • delivery method of substance (such as intravenous or oral)
  • normal dosage

Symptoms can include irritability, chills, sweating, and restlessness.

Those who successfully recover from Fentanyl addiction are vulnerable to relapse. Having a doctor or other licensed medical professional to supervise the recovery process can reduce the chances of relapse.

It is possible to recover from Fentanyl dependency. Local support groups can be a valuable resource in the fight against drug addiction.

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