Fentanyl is a generic synthetic opioid that is a narcotic pain reliever. This drug typically has a high risk of abuse. Fentanyl is the main ingredient in different branded drugs, including Fentora, Sublimaze, and Duragesic. This synthetic narcotic comes in different forms, including as a tablet, as a patch, spray, and lozenge. Each of these forms is potent and very addictive. An overdose could prove to be fatal. Fentanyl is actually 50-100 times more powerful than morphine (an opiate derived from the poppy plant).

Symptoms of Fentanyl Abuse

According to the American Addiction Centers, one of the biggest demographics that abuse fentanyl includes individuals who were actually prescribed the drug for pain. Over time, the individuals may begin to misuse the drug by using it more often than prescribed in belief that it will be more effective. This is not false, but it poses many additional risks to the individual’s health.

In order to diagnose substance abuse disorders, medical professionals use a tool called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, or DSM-5 for short. It is a diagnostic tool within the mental health and addiction treatment community that assists in evaluations of patients. According to the DSM-5, a person is considered to be suffering from a substance use disorder note, if at least two symptoms emerge within the same year period. There are a total of eleven possible symptoms that could constitute as showing abuse. The more symptoms that are present, the higher the grade of abuse disorder along a spectrum from mild to severe.

According to the American Addiction Centers, the DSM-5 specifically recognizes opioid use disorder. An individual who would be considered to be experiencing fentanyl addiction would be clinically considered to have an opioid use disorder. These are the short descriptions of the 11 symptoms that are associated with opioid use disorder:

  • More fentanyl is taken and for greater length of time than initially intended. Usually an individual begins taking more over time.
  • The individual would like to or has tried to stop abusing fentanyl but is unable to do so.
  • A significant portion of an individual’s time, energy, and money is used to obtain fentanyl, abuse it, and recover from its use.
  • The person has urges or cravings to use fentanyl.
  • As a result of the continual fentanyl abuse, the person is not able to adequately complete responsibilities at home, work, or school.
  • Even though the fentanyl abuse is may cause various problems in an individual’s life, the person continues to abuse it.
  • The person withdraws from or reduces participation in work, social, recreational, and other opportunities to abuse fentanyl.
  • The individual continues to abuse fentanyl even when there though he or she is aware of the dangerous possibilities because of it, such as driving while under the influence of drugs.
  • The use of fentanyl continues, although it is causing or exacerbating a psychological or physical problem.
  • The individual develops a tolerance to the drug. Tolerance is the natural process in which the body requires more of a drug in order for the person to experience a high similar to that of an earlier period of use.
  • Withdrawal symptoms begin when the use of fentanyl stops or the familiar dosage is decreased.

Over the last decade fentanyl has proven to play a major role in the current opioid epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded these past few years as being a part of deadliest drug crisis in our country’s history. The CDC cites that in 2015 alone, 33,091 Americans died from an opioid overdose. Opioid overdose with the use of drugs such as fentanyl rivals other causes of death, for example the number of vehicle traffic deaths (33,736) and firearms deaths (33,594) reported in 2014.

Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Use

The American Addiction Centers explains that a person who uses or abuses fentanyl, or who is in withdrawal from the drug, will show various signs and symptoms, which may include:

  • A rapid heartbeat
  • Pounding in the ears
  • Chest tightness
  • Mood changes
  • Poor balance or coordination
  • Hallucinations
  • Abnormal thoughts
  • Opening a fentanyl patch to eat its gel beads
  • Buying fentanyl illegally from others who may have a lawful prescription
  • Showing fear at the prospect of not having access to fentanyl

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl addiction is a serious disorder that can have life-threatening effects if left untreated. Treatment for fentanyl addiction is multi-faceted: Medication-assisted therapy (MAT) has been proven to help individuals remain free from fentanyl even after leaving treatment. MAT is a proven and effective way to treat opioid use disorder and studies show that it can reduce opioid use as well as other risky behaviors that may lead opioid users to health problems such as sexually transmitted diseases. MAT treatment, alongside cognitive behavioral therapy, helps individuals change their way of thinking about drugs and cope with daily life stresses and triggers to remain drug-free.