Fentanyl Addiction: here are The Facts

Fentanyl, a prescription opioid that is used to treat severe pain, can be purchased over the counter. Fentanyl can also be misused as it is a stimulant that produces euphoria. It can cause serious and even fatal side effects if it is misused over a long period of time. Read on for vital information about this potentially addictive drug.

Does Fentanyl Have Addictive Properties?

Fentanyl, a strong synthetic opioid, is almost 50 times stronger then heroin and is 100 times more powerful than morphine according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is classified as a Schedule II drug and is used to relieve severe pain and manage post-surgery pain," Clare Waismann M-RAS SUDCC II Director at Waismann Method(r), and Domus Retreat in California tells WebMD Connect to Care. Fentanyl is a drug that binds to the opioid receptors of the brain and spinal chord, increasing pleasure and decreasing pain. However, fentanyl also has a high potential for abuse and addiction. If misused, it can lead to shallow breathing, dizziness and extreme drowsiness.

Fentanyl works just like other opioids and opioids are highly addictive. In fact, opioid addiction has become a national crisis in America, states the American Society of Anesthesiologists. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 2 million Americans abuse opioids. Nearly 90 Americans die each day from opioid overdose.

"Fentanyl's addictive properties are due to its effects on the brain's reward system," Waismann says. When taken according to prescription, fentanyl triggers the reward system which creates pleasure and euphoria. Fentanyl misuse can lead to excessive dopamine production, which could cause intense cravings or compulsive drug seeking behavior.

Tolerating fentanyl over time can lead to tolerance. This means that the doses required for similar effects will increase. When people misuse fentanyl, withdrawal symptoms can also be experienced. Anxiety, anxiety, cramping and sweating are all possible withdrawal symptoms. Waismann says that it's important to seek professional assistance if you are trying to stop using fentanyl.

What Type of Addiction Does Fentanyl Cause?

"The type of addiction caused by fentanyl is known as Substance Use Disorder (SUD)," Colleen Wenner, LMHC, LPC, MCAP, Founder & Clinical Director of New Heights Counseling & Consulting, tells WebMD Connect to Care. Compulsive drug use despite negative consequences is a hallmark of Suicide Use Disorders.

According to Mayo Clinic, substance misuse disorder is a serious disease. Your brain can become distorted and it may be difficult to give up despite the harmful consequences. The risk of drug addiction varies with the type of substance. With respect to opioid painkillers, the risk of addiction is usually higher and addiction happens faster than with other substances.

"Fentanyl addiction has distinguished qualities that set it apart from other addictions. Fentanyl addiction is different from other drugs in that it doesn't cause physical dependence, but psychological dependence. This is not due to lack of self-control or will power. Instead, the brain chemical changes cause dependence on the drug's effects.

You may develop tolerance to fentanyl if you keep using it. Tolerance is when your body requires higher dosages to get the same level of euphoria. Wenner explained that tolerance can result in withdrawal symptoms.

Why are brains so fond of opioids?

Opioids can cause euphoria, which is a feeling of intense happiness, pleasure and relaxation. Waismann states that when opioids are bound to opioid receptors they produce dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter linked with pleasure and reward. "This dopamine flood produces euphoria and contributes to its addictive potential."

The opioids block the transmission of pain signals to the brain so they provide pain relief. The brain adjusts over time to opioids, making more dopamine. This leads to dysphoria (a state of feeling unwell) when the drug is not taken, which increases drug-seeking behavior and can lead to addiction," Waismann adds.

Cleveland Clinic says that your brain becomes more dependent on opioids and begins to malfunction when it is not. The result is an overwhelming desire or need to continue using the opioid, regardless of its harmful effects. The inability to control the use of the substance despite its negative consequences is, therefore, a key characteristic of addiction.

According to National Library of Medicine tolerance can develop over time. To achieve the same level of euphoria, you might feel the urge to consume more of the drug. This is also a sign of addiction.

The continued misuse of opioids can lead to physical and psychological dependence. When your thoughts, emotions and actions are controlled by drugs, you call it psychological dependence. When your body becomes so used to drugs that you can't stop or reduce the dosage, it is called physical dependence.

Fentanyl Addiction Symptoms

Research has shown that nearly one-third of people who use opioids to relieve pain, start misusing them, and more than 10% get addicted with prolonged use, states the Mayo Clinic. It can be hard to recognize if someone misuses opioids, such as Fentanyl. However, over time addiction leads to serious problems and noticeable signs and symptoms. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), opioid addiction may cause the following symptoms:

How to Treat Fentanyl Addiction

There are many treatment options available for opioid addiction, however, only one in four people struggling with opioid misuse opt for specialty treatment, states the APA.

One of the most effective treatments for opioid addiction is medication assisted treatment (MAT). It's a holistic treatment which includes counseling and behavioral therapies as well as medication. Studies show that MAT can help reduce your opioid addiction, improve treatment outcomes, and lower the chance of overdose.

"Fentanyl addiction is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that requires professional medical treatment," Waismann says. While there are no universal treatment options for addiction, the most successful ones share some similarities. Medical detox can be a great first step. This will help reduce withdrawal symptoms as well as manage any medical problems.

Fentanyl, a powerful opioid, can cause withdrawal symptoms that are severe and difficult to overcome. With the assistance of professionals in a hospital, medical detoxification can be achieved. Waismann states that the patients during this period will be monitored closely and provided support as they undergo withdrawal.

After detox it's important to offer ongoing support and treatment for all underlying mental disorders. Individual therapy and group therapy are all options for this type of support. Sometimes, medications can also be used to help with mental disorders. Sometimes, outpatient or residential treatment is necessary. Waismann explained that the goal of treatment was to assist with sobriety and regaining health. It also helps to rebuild one's life.

How do you achieve short-term and long-term recovery goals?

Abid Nazeer MD, FASAM is a Double Board-Certified Psychoiatrist, Senior Medical Advisor at Symetria Recovery. He says that the aim of short-term recovery or treatment is to detox someone off opioids. The short-term goal is to regain control over their lives.

But it's not over. A long-term plan should be in place. Because fentanyl causes extreme levels of dopamine in the brain which can lead to people having a harder time abstaining from using it. "So a long-term therapy plan will require a combination of different therapies. You need the support system, such as a therapist." Nazeer explained.

Are there any long-term effects of Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a useful drug to manage severe pain. However, there are potential side effects that can last a long time. Waismann says that both psychological and physical side effects may occur. For example, chronic fentanyl use can cause hypotension, respiratory depression and constipation. The brain can experience changes such as dependence or tolerance.

In some cases, fentanyl long-term abuse can cause cognitive impairments and memory loss. Additionally, if someone is addicted to fentanyl and does not get treatment, they are at risk of suffering a fatal overdose. Furthermore, addiction can lead to financial problems, relationship problems, and job loss" Waismann explains.

Is Narcan Effective on Fentanyl

According to the World Health Organization, opioid overdose deaths can be avoided if the individual receives Narcan (Naloxone), as well as basic life support.

Waismann claims that Narcan (naloxone), an effective treatment for opioid overdoses including those with fentanyl, is available. To increase your chances of success, the drug should be administered within a time frame. Sometimes, it is not enough to give Narcan one time. In these cases multiple doses may be required.

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