Fentanyl, a synthetic opiate that is at least 50-100 times stronger than morphine, is highly addictive. A person who uses or abuses fentanyl, or who is in withdrawal from the drug, will show various signs and symptoms, which may include:
This means that fentanyl is a narcotic pain reliever that carries a high risk of abuse. Typically, fentanyl is used after surgery for the treatment of severe pain. The drug is the main ingredient in different branded drugs, including but not limited to Fentora, Sublimaze, and Duragesic. This manmade narcotic comes in different formats, including as a tablet, patch, spray, and lozenge. All formats are potent, addictive, and an overdose could prove fatal. In fact, fentanyl is 50-100 times more powerful than morphine (an opiate derived from the poppy plant, as is heroin).
Symptoms and signs are related. A person who abuses fentanyl will experience symptoms while a concerned onlooker would see signs. For instance, a person may feel dizzy but an onlooker might see the person’s head droop or the person fall while walking.
It’s also helpful to understand how information about drug abuse is collected. There are various reliable sources, such as a pharmaceutical company study (if it’s made available to the public), research on side effects, and user feedback (sometimes in a research study and sometimes from articles or informal online forums). To understand the symptoms and signs of fentanyl abuse, it is useful to consider them from the standpoint of a mental health professional.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), is a main diagnostic tool within the mental health and addiction treatment community. Per the DSM-5, a person is considered to be suffering from a substance use disorder (note, the term addiction is no longer used) if at least two symptoms emerge within the same 12-month period. There are a total of 11 possible symptoms. The more symptoms that are present, the higher the grade of use disorder along a continuum from mild to moderate to severe.
The DSM-5 specifically recognizes opioid use disorder. A person who would be considered, in lay terms, to be experiencing fentanyl addiction would be clinically considered to have an opioid use disorder (at the severe end of the continuum). The following is a paraphrased description of the 11 symptoms associated with an opioid use disorder:
The side effects associated with fentanyl can emerge, with greater severity, in individuals who abuse this drug. For this reason, it is helpful to consider some of the most common side effects, which include but are not limited to:
There is a great danger implicit in tolerance — as the fentanyl intake rises, so too does the risk of harmful side effects. The body wants to promote survival but once drugs are introduced, and drugs are foreign substances to the body, the system gets turned into a potential engine of personal destruction.
When a person stops using fentanyl or considerably reduces the familiar dose, withdrawal symptoms emerge. The following are some of the most common withdrawal symptoms associated with fentanyl:
Based on Mary’s account, the following are things that people who abuse fentanyl may do in order to obtain and use this narcotic:
Further, it’s not just that drugs cost money, but that people often stop being able to take care of their basic needs or keep a job. On the one hand, there’s the direct cost of fentanyl use, and on the other hand, there are all of the lost opportunity costs. The recovery process addresses each facet of drug abuse. Treatment can safely transition people to an opioid substitution therapy or guide them through a complete detox process. It can then address the root causes behind the fentanyl abuse and empower them with tools to build a drug-free future.