Fentanyl Addiction Treatment, Side Effects and Signs

Fentanyl is a potent opioid and schedule II controlled substance.

Content Overview

What is Fentanyl Addiction Treatment?

Fentanyl is a potent opioid painkiller that comes in a variety of different formats. The available variety might be responsible, in part, for the high rates of addiction associated with this drug. Fentanyl users have many ways to abuse or become addicted that will lead to negative side effects. Detox can treat withdrawal and therapy programs can help in a long-term recovery. Treatment lasting for a year or longer could help people to build resistance to the urge to abuse this powerful drug.

Prescription opioid pain relievers are one of the most common drugs of abuse in America. In 2012 alone, over 2 million people reported abusing them, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Only 169,868 of those people sought treatment, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a potent opioid and schedule II controlled substance. It was first synthesized in 1960 by Paul Janssen and went on to be marketed for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. It is one of a handful of prescription opiates that are approved for long-term treatment plan. That being said, this may be one of the reasons that it is one of the most addictive painkillers. Fentanyl comes in more forms than almost any other prescription painkiller, including:
  • Transdermal patches
  • Sublingual dissolving tablets
  • Nasal spray
  • Lozenges
  • Injectable liquid
  • Dissolvable film strips
One of the biggest demographics that abuse fentanyl includes individuals who were prescribed the drug for pain. Over time, users may begin to misuse the drug by using it more often than prescribed in belief that it will be more effective. Not only is this untrue, but it poses many risks to the user’s health.
According to NIDA, opioid analgesics were involved in half of all cases treated in American emergency rooms during 2012 for non-medical reasons. Many of these patients suffered from depressed breathing, coma, and a loss of sensation for pain. Many others suffered from an overdose of prescription opioid painkillers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes 46 people die daily as a result of using these drugs.
Signs of addiction include:

  • Tolerance
  • Using to avoid withdrawal
  • Preoccupation with fentanyl
  • Failing to quit when one wants to do so
  • Opting out of social activities to use drugs
  • Using fentanyl despite its negative effects
  • Some people may end up dependent on opioids like fentanyl due to a genetic predisposition to addiction. Children of alcoholics are a strong example of this. They are 3-4 times as likely to end up dependent on a substance as an adult in comparison to children with non-alcoholic parents, the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress.
    Others might be at risk because of health issues. Some start using fentanyl to treat their pain and end up abusing it. Health ailments aren’t limited to physical health either. If you have a mental health disorder, you are also more likely to engage in substance abuse as a way of self-medicating the symptoms of your mental health issue.
    Dependency is partly a psychological issue, but primarily a physical one for most addicts. Long periods of time spent abusing fentanyl cause dysfunction in the brain. When you abuse opioids for a while, the dopamine receptors in the brain start to malfunction and cannot operate effectively without opioids driving them.

    The Road to Recovery

    There is no quick fix for fentanyl addiction. Bouncing back won’t happen overnight. In fact, treatment for opioid dependency generally takes at least a year. In that time, most recovering individuals opt for medical maintenance programs, such as those that use methadone and buprenorphine.


    Therapy can help individuals to work well with others and improve communication skills ” practices that come in handy for recovering addicts who are trying to repair broken relationships with family members and other loved ones.


    Holistic treatment is always an option, too. Most addicts are not strangers to stress and anxiety ” two issues that practices such as meditation and yoga can help to improve. According to one study, 300 people who took part in a two-hour session of yoga reported a 14.7 percent decrease in anxiety.
    These therapeutic practices can also aid people with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. One study that compared the effectiveness of varying relapse prevention tools noted 17 percent of people who participated in a traditional program had relapsed within the following year, while 14 percent in a 12-step program did. Only 9 percent who practiced mindfulness returned to substance abuse, Reuters states. In general, comprehensive care that incorporates various treatment approaches can best address complex cases.

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