Fentanyl Abuse – Symptoms and Signs of Addiction

Fentanyl abuse is a grave concern in the midst of the ongoing opioid crisis. This potent and often lethal drug has emerged as a major contributor to the escalating rates of addiction and overdose deaths worldwide. With its high potency, fentanyl poses significant risks to individuals who misuse it, even in small quantities. As such, it’s crucial to understand the symptoms and signs of fentanyl use and abuse to address this growing public health issue.

At Alamo Behavioral Health, we are no strangers to the dangers fentanyl poses to public health. From short-term effects like euphoria and slowed breathing to long-term consequences such as physical dependence and cognitive impairment, recognizing the warning signs can make a life-saving difference. We delve into the crucial details surrounding fentanyl abuse, shedding light on its impact and the importance of seeking professional help.

What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance due to its high potential for abuse and addiction. It is primarily prescribed for managing severe pain, especially in cases of advanced cancer or chronic pain conditions. However, it is also illegally manufactured and distributed, leading to widespread fentanyl abuse.

What makes fentanyl particularly dangerous is its potency. It is estimated to be up to 100 times stronger than morphine and significantly more potent than heroin. Even small amounts of fentanyl can have a profound impact on the body, leading to intense euphoria and sedation.

Unfortunately, this same potency also makes it highly addictive and often lethal. Fentanyl abuse can quickly lead to physical dependence and tolerance, requiring higher and riskier doses to achieve the desired effects. Moreover, the misuse of fentanyl significantly increases the risk of overdose, as its potency makes it easy to accidentally take a lethal dose. Finally, fentanyl is considerably hard to quit, as any center for fentanyl detox in Texas will attest to.

The consequences of fentanyl abuse are alarming, and it is critical to recognize the dangers associated with this highly addictive and potentially lethal drug.

A close-up of a person’s hand holding pills.
Fentanyl may be prescribed to treat severe pain, but fentanyl abuse typically occurs through its illicit forms.

Fentanyl’s role in the ongoing opioid crisis

Beyond its own potency and dangers therein, fentanyl also contributes significantly to the ongoing opioid crisis. Declared an epidemic by the HHS since 2017, the ongoing opioid crisis continues to claim lives across the US today.

Indeed, fentanyl’s role in the ongoing opioid crisis is undeniably significant and concerning. The widespread use and abuse of fentanyl have contributed to a staggering increase in drug overdoses and deaths. Fentanyl is frequently mixed with other illicit drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, or counterfeit prescription pills, without the users’ knowledge. This combination significantly amplifies the potency and danger of these substances.

Unfortunately, due to its high potency, even a tiny amount of fentanyl can have devastating effects. Individuals who unknowingly consume fentanyl-laced drugs are at a heightened risk of overdose and death. The opioid crisis has been exacerbated by the illicit production and distribution of fentanyl, as it is cheaper and easier to produce than other opioids. This has led to an alarming surge in fentanyl-related fatalities, as it is frequently found in street drugs sold under various names.

The pervasive presence of fentanyl in the illicit drug market underscores the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to address fentanyl abuse, increase access to addiction treatment, and implement harm reduction initiatives. Efforts to combat the opioid crisis must prioritize education, prevention, and effective interventions to save lives and mitigate the devastating impact of fentanyl abuse on individuals, families, and communities. It is these pressing needs that continue to drive our own efforts as the best center for medical detox Texas has to offer.

Symptoms of Fentanyl abuse

With the above in mind, it is crucial to look for early signs of fentanyl use or addiction. As with all illicit drugs, early interventions tend to work best as the addiction hasn’t yet fully developed and has taken its toll.

Symptoms of short-term Fentanyl use

Before any addiction can occur, short-term use must take place. Symptoms of short-term fentanyl use can vary but will typically include:

  • Euphoria and Sedation: Fentanyl abuse can induce a sense of intense euphoria, leading individuals to seek its pleasurable effects. However, this state of euphoria is often followed by sedation, where users feel excessively calm and relaxed.
  • Slowed Breathing and Heart Rate: One of the most concerning effects of fentanyl abuse is its ability to depress the respiratory system. It can cause shallow and slowed breathing, which can lead to oxygen deprivation and potentially life-threatening consequences. Similarly, fentanyl can also lower heart rate, further impacting cardiovascular health.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Fentanyl use can trigger gastrointestinal distress, causing nausea and vomiting. These symptoms can contribute to dehydration and nutritional deficiencies, posing additional health risks.
  • Drowsiness and Confusion: Short-term fentanyl use often results in extreme drowsiness, making it difficult for individuals to stay alert or engage in daily activities. Confusion and cognitive impairment may also arise, affecting decision-making abilities and overall cognitive functioning.
  • Pinpoint Pupils: Another telltale sign of fentanyl abuse is the constriction of pupils, resulting in “pinpoint” pupils. This physical manifestation is a result of the drug’s impact on the nervous system and can be observed during periods of intoxication.

Short-term fentanyl use can be rightly worrying due to the potential health risks associated with these symptoms. Therefore, recognizing these short-term symptoms is crucial in identifying fentanyl abuse and taking prompt action to prevent further harm to the individuals involved.

Notably, many such symptoms may be shared among different opioids. As such, it’s always best to consult an opioid detox center in Texas or your vicinity to obtain a proper diagnosis.

A man in a yellow shirt yawning.
Excessive drowsiness may be among the most innocuous signs of fentanyl abuse.

Symptoms of long-term Fentanyl use

Where short-term effects may seem rightly concerning, long-term effects can be truly life-threatening. Especially if left unobserved for long, such symptoms can lead the individual directly to dependence and addiction.

Long-term Fentanyl abuse symptoms also vary but will typically include the following:

  • Physical Dependence: Prolonged fentanyl abuse can lead to physical dependence, and individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms if they attempt to stop using fentanyl abruptly.
  • Tolerance Development: Over time, the body can develop a tolerance to fentanyl, requiring higher doses to achieve the desired effects. This escalation in dosage can significantly increase the risk of overdose.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: When a person dependent on fentanyl stops using or reduces their dosage, they may experience a range of withdrawal symptoms. These can include intense cravings, anxiety, restlessness, muscle aches, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Cognitive Impairment: Long-term fentanyl abuse can have detrimental effects on cognitive function. Users may experience difficulties with memory, attention, problem-solving, and overall cognitive performance.
  • Respiratory Issues: The respiratory system is particularly vulnerable to the effects of fentanyl abuse over an extended period. Chronic use can lead to severe respiratory problems, such as chronic cough, shortness of breath, and an increased susceptibility to respiratory infections.

Understandably, long-term fentanyl use puts the user’s life at significant risk due to the potential consequences of these symptoms. Any of the above on their own, and especially in combination with others, can pose an immense danger to an individual’s health.

Such symptoms also tend to be too powerful to escape from without professional help; most DIY detox attempts tend to fail, and many also put the individual’s well-being at risk. It’s thus always advisable to seek the help of a dedicated drug detox program Texas has to offer instead of attempting home treatments.

A woman in red lipstick behind a plastic membrane.
Respiratory issues are among the most dangerous fentanyl symptoms.

Signs of addiction to Fentanyl

It is important to distinguish the signs of use from those of addiction. Fentanyl is indeed highly addictive, but an established addiction may have very different symptoms from those of use.

Addiction symptoms can include:

  • Cravings and Compulsive Use: One of the prominent signs of fentanyl addiction is experiencing intense cravings for the drug and an inability to control its use. Individuals may prioritize obtaining and using fentanyl above all else, even in the face of negative consequences.
  • Neglecting Responsibilities and Relationships: Addiction to fentanyl can lead to a decline in fulfilling obligations and responsibilities, such as work, school, or familial duties. Individuals may neglect important relationships, withdraw from loved ones and lose interest in activities they used to enjoy.
  • Financial and Legal Issues: Fentanyl abuse often leads to financial struggles as individuals prioritize obtaining the drug over meeting financial obligations. This can result in mounting debt, job loss, or involvement in illegal activities to sustain the addiction.
  • Isolation and Social Withdrawal: Individuals addicted to fentanyl may withdraw from social interactions, isolating themselves from friends, family, and support networks. They may avoid social events or activities that do not involve drug use, leading to a decline in social functioning and connections.
  • Failed Attempts to Quit: Despite wanting to quit or reduce fentanyl use, individuals struggling with addiction often find it difficult to do so. They may make repeated attempts to quit or cut down but are unsuccessful due to the grip of addiction.

As highlighted above, signs of addiction to fentanyl should warrant immediate attention, as fentanyl is a highly addictive and lethal drug. Its potency and potential for overdose make it an incredibly dangerous substance to become addicted to.

The overlap between mental health and addiction

Having outlined the above, it is also crucial to highlight the deep connection between mental health and addiction. NIDA’s findings are equal parts illuminating and concerning:

  • Of all adults with substance use disorders (SUDs), 37,9% also had a mental health disorder
  • Among all adults with mental health disorders, 18,2% also had substance use disorders
  • Of all who experienced both, 52,5% received treatment for neither, and only 3,9% received treatment for both

This connection often results in what is known as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis, where both a mental health disorder and substance use disorder coexist. Many individuals with mental health disorders turn to substance abuse as a way to cope with their symptoms. Individuals may use substances like fentanyl to self-medicate, attempting to alleviate the distressing symptoms of their mental health condition. However, this self-medication approach can exacerbate the underlying mental health issues and lead to a vicious cycle of addiction.

Furthermore, individuals with mental health disorders are at an increased risk of developing co-occurring disorders, as the presence of one condition can make a person more susceptible to the development of another.

Understanding the overlap between mental health and addiction is crucial for effective treatment approaches that address both the substance abuse and the underlying mental health issues. Integrated treatment programs that provide comprehensive care for co-occurring disorders can significantly improve outcomes and help individuals break free from the cycle of fentanyl abuse and its detrimental impact on mental well-being. This is why inpatient dual diagnosis treatment centers in Texas and across the country are often best equipped to address fentanyl addiction in dual-diagnosis contexts.

An young man with his therapist
Poor mental health and substance use overlap at alarming rates.

The overlap between mental health disorder symptoms and Fentanyl addiction

Fentanyl addiction specifically also presents a unique overlap with mental health disorders, which does warrant attention. In some cases, this may inform symptoms and signs of fentanyl use.

Fentanyl abuse can intersect with various mental health disorders, intensifying symptoms and complicating treatment. Notable examples include the following:

  • Individuals with depression may turn to fentanyl as a means of escaping their emotional pain, as the drug temporarily alleviates feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
  • Anxiety disorders can be intertwined with fentanyl abuse, with individuals seeking relief from overwhelming worry and panic through the drug’s sedative effects.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and fentanyl abuse may co-occur as individuals try to numb the distressing memories and hyperarousal symptoms associated with trauma.
  • Those with bipolar disorder may be particularly vulnerable to the allure of fentanyl as they seek stability and relief from the extreme mood swings characteristic of the condition.
  • Fentanyl abuse can also exacerbate symptoms of psychosis, intensifying hallucinations and delusions.

Understanding the overlap between mental health disorder symptoms and fentanyl addiction is crucial in recognizing the complexities of treatment. It is these complexities that have expanded United Healthcare rehab coverage to include dual diagnosis and have highlighted the need for comprehensive, integrated care that addresses both substance abuse and underlying mental health issues.

A depressed woman sitting on a bathroom floor representing fentanyl abuse.
An array of mental health disorders may co-occur with fentanyl abuse.

Seeking professional help for fentanyl addiction

With the severity of fentanyl abuse in mind, seeking professional help is often essential for a successful recovery. Early intervention is crucial to address the physical and psychological impact of the addiction. Detoxification and withdrawal management under medical supervision can help individuals safely navigate the challenging process of discontinuing fentanyl use and managing withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment options include inpatient treatment and outpatient programs, depending on the severity of the addiction and individual needs. In these programs, individuals can benefit from a combination of individual and group therapy, which provides a supportive environment for exploring the underlying issues contributing to the addiction and developing coping skills to maintain sobriety.

Additionally, aftercare and supportive services play a vital role in long-term recovery, providing ongoing support and resources to prevent relapse. These services may include continuing therapy, support groups, and connections to community resources. It is notable, however, that Humana rehab coverage may not extend to such programs beyond the initial treatment – so it is always wise to consult with addiction treatment providers beforehand.

Seeking professional help should never feel shameful; it is always the responsible thing to do. It offers individuals the guidance, expertise, and resources necessary to overcome fentanyl abuse, address co-occurring mental health concerns, and build a foundation for lasting recovery and improved well-being.

A close-up of two extended hands making contact.
Seeking professional help to deal with fentanyl abuse is never a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.

Recognize the symptoms of Fentanyl abuse and get the help you need

Recognizing the symptoms and signs of fentanyl abuse is crucial in addressing the devastating impact of this potent and deadly drug. Fentanyl addiction poses significant risks to individuals’ physical and mental health, often leading to tragic consequences such as overdose and death.

It is imperative that we take fentanyl abuse seriously and act swiftly when we observe these warning signs in ourselves or our loved ones. Early intervention and seeking professional help are paramount in combating fentanyl addiction and providing the necessary support and resources for recovery. By understanding the symptoms, acknowledging the overlap with mental health disorders, and recognizing the urgency of the situation, we can take proactive steps to save lives.

If you or your loved one are in need of professional addiction treatment services, whether for fentanyl or other substances, we at Alamo Behavioral Health are here for you. Please feel free to contact us today; our teams are always available and will be more than happy to help.

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