Understanding why Fentanyl is Addictive

If you think your loved one is suffering from fentanyl addiction, you need help as soon as possible. You also need knowledge. That includes understanding why fentanyl is addictive. It also includes learning how to spot the signs of addiction. In addition, you should know which treatments can help your loved one return to a fentanyl-free lifestyle.

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Why Is Fentanyl Addictive?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. This means that researchers created this drug in a laboratory. All opioids have the potential to cause addiction. It does not matter whether they are natural or man-made.

How do opioids trigger addiction? When you take them, they make pleasurable changes in your normal brain chemistry. Gradually, your brain can grow used to these chemical changes. In time, you can come to physically depend on them. You can also develop a psychological dependence on opioids. When these two things happen, addiction has begun.

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Fentanyl is one of the Most Powerful Opioids

Fentanyl stands as one of the most powerful opioids available. In fact, it can be as much as 100 times stronger than the opioid medication morphine. Because it is so powerful, the drug may trigger addiction faster than other types of opioids.

Much of the fentanyl available in the U.S. is made legally in legitimate, regulated laboratories. Doctors use this legal product to treat certain types of severe pain. It comes in forms that include:

  • Lozenges
  • Patches
  • Tablets
  • Dissolvable films

Unfortunately, a large percentage of America’s fentanyl supply is made illegally. Illegal forms of the medication do not come from regulated labs. Instead, they come from illicit labs. Illicit labs often combine fentanyl with other addictive substances. They may also combine it with harmful contaminants.

How long does it take to get addicted to fentanyl? Research shows that even short-term use can lead to serious problems. That is also true for other opioids. For this reason, doctors recommend that you only use it for several days if at all possible.

Addiction is just one potential problem for fentanyl users. You can also abuse the medication without being addicted. For this reason, doctors treat both addiction and serious abuse as symptoms of the same condition: opioid use disorder, or OUD. Many people with OUD have symptoms of both addiction and non-addicted abuse.

It does not really matter what form of fentanyl triggers an addiction. Fentanyl patch addiction looks basically the same as addiction to lozenges, tablets, or dissolvable films. All that matters is that addiction is present.

Fentanyl Addiction Signs

So, how can you know if a person is addicted to fentanyl? Doctors look for certain telltale signs of a problem. Possible fentanyl addiction symptoms include:

  • Taking fentanyl more often or in larger amounts than you meant to
  • Trying and failing multiple times to stop taking fentanyl
  • Turning to fentanyl use as a substitute for your previous favorite activities
  • Spending much of your day obtaining fentanyl, taking it or recovering from it
  • Using fentanyl despite knowing that it harms your mental or physical health
  • Needing more and more fentanyl to feel its effects
  • Experiencing fentanyl withdrawal if you cut back or stop taking it

Symptoms of fentanyl addiction withdrawal can include:

  • Muscle pain
  • Pain in your bones
  • A powerful desire to keep using fentanyl
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Uncontrollable spasms in your legs
  • Goosebumps and cold flashes
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Other forms of opioid withdrawal produce similar symptoms. However, in people withdrawing from fentanyl, these problems can be severe. They often appear just hours after you stop using fentanyl.

You should also be aware of the OUD symptoms related to abuse, not addiction. These symptoms can include:

  • Using fentanyl repeatedly while doing dangerous things like driving
  • Continuing to use fentanyl despite harmful effects on your relationships with others
  • Continuing to use fentanyl despite harmful effects on your work or school performance

To get diagnosed with OUD, you only need to show two symptoms in a 12-month period of time. That includes symptoms of either addiction or abuse. Only a trained doctor can officially diagnose opioid use disorder.

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Fentanyl Addiction Rate

No one knows exactly how many people in the U.S. suffer from fentanyl addiction. Why not? There are two main reasons. First, no one knows for sure how many people use illegal forms of the drug. In addition, no one knows for sure which illegal opioid products contain fentanyl and which do not. Illicit drug manufacturers often combine different types of opioids and lie to their customers about what they are really selling.

Still, it’s possible to estimate fentanyl addiction statistics. How? By tracking the number of people who die from overdoses of the drug. Research shows that the number of fatal fentanyl overdoses is sharply on the rise.  This indicates a similar rise in the number of people taking fentanyl. It is also a rough way of estimating that addiction to the drug is growing more common.

Treating Fentanyl Addiction

Fortunately, fentanyl addiction is treatable. To get the help you need, you may need to enroll in an inpatient addiction program. However, some people recover in outpatient programs.

All forms of opioid addiction are treated with the same basic methods. These methods include the use of evidence-based medication. They also include the use of evidence-based therapy.

Medications for Fentanyl Addiction

Addiction doctors can use three different approved medications to treat a fentanyl addiction. These medications are:

  • Methadone, a relatively strong opioid substance
  • Buprenorphine, a weaker opioid substance
  • Naltrexone, an opioid blocker or anti-opioid

Many people are surprised to learn that doctors use opioid medications to treat fentanyl addiction. However, research shows that these medications work well when used properly.

How do they work? Both methadone and buprenorphine are weaker than fentanyl. Still, they produce a significant opioid effect. Doctors use this effect as a temporary substitute for taking fentanyl. This will help you make it through opioid withdrawal while keeping your symptoms as mild as possible. Eventually, you will stop taking the medication and begin opioid abstinence.

When you no longer have opioids in your system, your doctor may give you naltrexone. This medication stops any future doses of opioids from reaching your brain. In this way, it helps take away your motivation to use fentanyl or other opioids.

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Therapy for Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl addiction recovery also relies on the use of a form of therapy called behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy helps you do such things as:

  • Understand why you started abusing fentanyl
  • Learn how to manage your stress
  • Meet the goals of your treatment plan
  • Learn how to recognize situations that increase your desire to use fentanyl
  • Learn how to maintain abstinence even in difficult situations

Types of behavioral therapy that can help you recover include:

  • Motivational interviewing
  • Contingency management
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT

Medication and therapy are often used together. Addiction specialists call this two-part method Medication-Assisted Treatment or MAT.

Preventing Fentanyl Addiction

You can also take steps to prevent fentanyl addiction from happening. Probably the most important thing is to realize just how easy it is to get addicted to this powerful opioid. You can also:

  • Take fentanyl only under strict doctor’s orders
  • Limit the amount of time you take fentanyl
  • Use safer options to treat your pain symptoms
  • Keep other people from accessing your prescribed fentanyl

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Get More Information on Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid. You can get addicted even if you only take it for a short amount of time. People addicted to fentanyl have a condition called opioid use disorder, or OUD. If you know what to look for, you can spot signs of this disorder. However, only a doctor can make an official diagnosis. Symptoms of OUD can include both addiction and non-addicted abuse.

No one knows exactly how many people suffer from fentanyl addiction. However, the addiction rate seems to have increased in recent years.

You can get effective help for your fentanyl problems at Pathfinders. We will work with you to create a treatment plan that fits your goals. Depending on your situation, you may need inpatient or outpatient care to recover. In some cases, our Fentanyl addiction treatment programs will use medication. We also use several kinds of behavioral therapy. When used together, these methods are called medication-assisted treatment or MAT. By following key guidelines, you can prevent fentanyl addiction from occurring.

Need more information on fentanyl addiction and treatment? Just contact our specialists today at 866-414-0220.


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