Fentanyl is an opioid drug prescribed as a pain reliever. It is a synthetic opioid, which means it is entirely man-made instead of extracted from a natural source. Most other opioids, like morphine, are derived from extracts of the opium poppy plant.
Just like a lot of opioid drugs, you can get addicted to fentanyl quite easily. Here’s why.
Fentanyl is much more potent than other opioids
Fentanyl is at least 100 times stronger than morphine, which is a more common opioid drug. In fact, fentanyl is the most potent opioid that you can be prescribed with.
Being that potent, doctors usually prescribe this only if you have severe pain. For example, when you’ve just gone through major surgery, if you’re fighting cancer, or if you have sudden severe pain, you could be given this drug.
Doctors do not give fentanyl to just anyone
Because the drug is powerful and has strong addictive properties, doctors will only prescribe it to you if other opioids don’t work anymore. If it’s your first time to take an opioid, your doctor would choose a milder one like oxycodone.
In fact, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies this drug under Schedule II. In other words, fentanyl has a high potential for abuse and can cause dependence. Because of this, the drug is tightly regulated.
Fentanyl is fast-acting
The target of fentanyl and other drugs like it are the opioid receptors of the brain. Once the drug is bound to those receptors, you would get pain relief and a “high” feeling. This high is what makes the drug very addictive.
Compared to other opioids, though, fentanyl reaches the receptors a lot more quickly. Once you take fentanyl, the effects are almost instant. And this makes the drug all the more addictive.
If you become dependent on the drug, there is another danger to your life. The more you keep taking fentanyl, the higher your risk of a deadly overdose. When this happens, your lungs will fail to function properly, and your breathing would stop. That’s the deadly part.
Now that you know how addictive this drug is, let’s look at what treatments are available for fentanyl addiction.
How do I know if I’m addicted to fentanyl?
Let’s clarify a few things first: dependence on fentanyl is not the same as an addiction to it. If you’ve taken fentanyl on prescription, you might not notice, but you could have developed a level of dependence on it. That’s not an addiction yet, but it can turn into an addiction if you don’t take steps to stop the dependence.
To prevent unintentional addiction, doctors often advise you to “taper off” your dosage. In other words, you are to slightly decrease your dose until you take no fentanyl at all. That way, you won’t feed drug dependence.
Addiction to fentanyl would drastically change your behavior. Here are some common signs:
- You gradually lose interest in things you used to enjoy doing, like sports, hobbies, and personal projects.
- You spend less time with your family and friends.
- More and more of your time and money go to finding more fentanyl and using it.
- Your circle of friends now consists of people who are also abusing fentanyl.
- You get into debt because of the drug.
- You get into arguments with your family and friends often when they show concern about your drug habits.
- Fentanyl has become your go-to stress reliever.
- You feel that you cannot live normally without the drug.
- You try to quit your drug habits but find that you can’t.
In other words, an addiction to fentanyl will disturb your usual lifestyle. Instead, you’ll adopt new behavior patterns that focus on drug use. Once these habits have become normal for you, addiction has taken hold.
What should I do if I’m addicted to fentanyl?
Your first instinct might be to just stop taking the drug entirely. But if you try to quit fentanyl cold turkey, you’ll face lots of withdrawal symptoms like:
- Muscle pains
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mood swings
While these symptoms are not fatal, they can become so annoying that you’ll want to take the drug again just to make the symptoms go away.
Knowing these, trying to quit fentanyl on your own rarely works. Even if you can bear the brunt of the withdrawal symptoms, your chances of relapse are very high.
The better thing to do is to get professional help. Talk to addiction recovery professionals so they can guide you towards the next steps. They will also help you find a good rehab center and the best treatments for your case.
What happens if I go to rehab for fentanyl addiction?
Typically, the first step you’ll undergo is known as detox. The aim of detox is weaning your body off of fentanyl. Often, medical professionals would let you take progressively smaller doses of the drug until you take none of it anymore. They may also give you medications to help manage the withdrawal symptoms.
The next steps consist of psychological and social therapies. Here, you’ll be talking to counselors and therapists who will help you in many ways. They would help you find out the root causes of your addiction. They will also teach you healthy ways to cope with stress and negative emotions, which often trigger you to use drugs. Also, some of them will work closely with your family, educating them on how to help you recover.
If you go to inpatient rehab, you’ll stay in a rehab center for a month or more. The length of stay depends on the rehab program, but typically it ranges from one to three months. It’s a long time, but the rehab process is worth it.
Once you’re in rehab, you’ll be in an environment that will really encourage you to change your lifestyle. Also, you’re in the company of people with the same goals. That kind of environment will help you recover faster and more effectively.