Fentanyl Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & When To Get Help

Are you unsure whether you or your loved one is struggling with fentanyl addiction? Read below to learn how to spot the warning signs.

Understanding Fentanyl Addiction

Learn about fentanyl addiction

Fentanyl is a heavily monitored opioid that is prescribed in the hospital setting for the short-term alleviation of pain resulting from various types of surgeries, injuries, or complications. Because of its potency, fentanyl can also be used when other prescription painkillers are not enough to provide a person with relief as they heal. Like other opioids, fentanyl and its synthetic derivative counterparts which are made illegally and without regulation, cause feelings of elation and euphoria that can result in an addiction to these substances.

The abuse of prescription fentanyl and fentanyl derivatives has grown rapidly in recent years. When an individual uses fentanyl outside of the prescribing doctor’s guidelines, he or she runs the risk of developing a substance use disorder that can be difficult to overcome without professional help. But men and women who use unregulated illegal fentanyl derivatives put themselves at even greater risk of harm because these substances can contain unknown toxic substances.

Left untreated, this kind of opioid abuse will damage physical health and emotional wellbeing, and can even cost an individual his or her life. For these reasons, those individuals who are struggling with a fentanyl use disorder can best be treated in a treatment center that understands the needs of those suffering from a fentanyl dependence.


Fentanyl addiction statistics

According to the Cincinnati Inquirer, Cincinnati averages about four overdoses per day, but a report shed light on a shocking new statistic. Recently there were 174 fatal heroin overdoses in a mere 6 days, a tragic situation that overwhelmed emergency response personnel in Cincinnati. Out of these 174 deaths, it came to light that many were the result of use of fentanyl derivatives which are much stronger than heroin. These fentanyl-like substances such as Carfentanil are incredibly dangerous as they are used to tranquilize large animals like elephants, and have proved to be deadly for human use. This loss of life in Cincinnati is but one example of the ways that this new wave of opioid use is wreaking havoc in communities all over the country.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for fentanyl addiction

As with any type of substance abuse, there is no single factor that can signal the onset of a fentanyl or fentanyl derivative addiction. And while each individual is different and has a unique set of experiences, there are some common indicators that may lead one to be more susceptible to developing a fentanyl use disorder. Some of these causes are briefly outlined in the following:

  • Environment: It has been demonstrated that early access to environments where substance abuse is prevalent can contribute to a person developing a chemical dependence later in life. This could be attributed to the fact that this experience may serve to normalize drug and or alcohol abuse.
  • Genetics: Having a family history that includes addiction may result in a person developing addictive behaviors him or herself.
  • Personal traits: There are certain traits that are commonly seen in individuals who suffer from chemical dependence such as risk-taking behavior, impulsivity, thrill-seeking, and co-occurring mental illness.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of fentanyl addiction

When an individual is struggling with the pain of a fentanyl or fentanyl derivative addiction, he or she may exhibit some or all of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Euphoric or depressed mood
  • Anxiety
  • Fixation on securing more of the drug
  • Inability to function in life’s major functions
  • Disinterest in activities one formerly found to be enjoyable
  • Severe cravings for more of the drug
  • Needing to use the drug more often or in larger doses to achieve the same high
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Confusion


Effects of fentanyl addiction

Without treatment, an individual who abuses fentanyl and fentanyl derivatives will face a host of negative consequences including:

  • Damage to internal organs
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Isolation, loss of relationships
  • Exacerbated pre-existing conditions
  • Legal troubles
  • Loss of child custody
  • Abuse of other illicit substances
  • Contracting diseases such as HIV or hepatitis
  • Difficulty functioning at work, job loss
  • Overdose
  • Death


Signs, symptoms, and effects of fentanyl withdrawal

Over time, an individual who abuses fentanyl or fentanyl derivatives will develop a tolerance for the drug, and will experience painful symptoms of withdrawal when he or she abruptly ceases his or her drug use. Some of these symptoms include the following:

  • Aches and pains
  • Dilated pupils
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Runny nose
  • Frequent yawning, fatigue
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea


Signs, symptoms, and effects of fentanyl overdose

An overdose is the most serious consequence for abusing these types of drugs, and the risk is even higher for those individuals who are abusing fentanyl derivatives due to their unknown content. If you or someone else is exhibiting the following symptoms, it is recommended to seek emergency medical help immediately:

  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Breathing problems
  • Seizures
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sleepiness
  • Poor coordination
  • Cold or clammy skin

Co-Occurring Disorders

Fentanyl addiction and co-occurring disorders

Regardless of which came to light first, substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders often go hand in hand. Individuals who are grappling with an addiction to fentanyl often exhibit symptoms of the following conditions:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Depression
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Other substance use disorders
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