Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid used to treat intractable pain, such as cancer-related pain or pain after a serious surgery. Fentanyl is commonly prescribed in a patch and fentanyl patch abuse is prevalent.

Fentanyl was first synthesized in the 1960s by Janssen Pharmaceuticals and was initially used as a general anesthetic during surgery. Today it is only legal in the medical world for its use in the reduction of severe pain in cancer patients. This potent opioid comes in many forms including a spray, tablet, lozenge and film. Duragesic is a skin patch, Sublimaze is an injection, and Actiq is delivered orally through a “lollipop.” The drug has a short onset and duration and, therefore, has become highly addictive. In addition to fentanyl patch abuse, lozenges, lollipops and pills are all common forms in which this opioid is used and abused.

Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl is considered 100 times stronger than morphine and an amount equivalent to the size of three grains of sugar is lethal to an adult human. Fentanyl is listed as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration, meaning that it is extremely addictive and should only be used in very limited scenarios.

The Effect Of Fentanyl Abuse On The Brain and Body

Fentanyl abuse is responsible for thousands of overdoses per year in the United States, and the two main sources are the prescription drug industry and Mexican drug cartels. Fentanyl addiction is prevalent, and drug cartels across the world are synthesizing this product for a cheaper price and lacing it with other substances such as heroin and cocaine for an even more lethal cocktail.

Like all opioids, fentanyl acts on the brain’s mu opioid receptor, which produces a euphoric state in the body and, as a result, desensitizes the body’s natural painkillers, endorphins. After prolonged use of fentanyl and other opioids, the body becomes desensitized and needs a higher dose and more frequent use to produce the same effects. As a result, the addiction cycle continues in a vicious pattern, creating a euphoric high, followed by painfully depressing withdrawals.

Fentanyl drug abuse and fentanyl abuse side effects produce a decreased breathing rate (known as respiratory depression), constipation, dry mucus membranes, a euphoric state and drowsiness. Respiratory depression eventually leads to death when this drug is taken in excess. Withdrawal symptoms of fentanyl, like other opioids, are extremely painful and although not life threatening, are the main reason why users continue to partake in this dangerous drug. Withdrawal symptoms from fentanyl include severe bone pain, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, mood swings and diarrhea. Many people describe these symptoms as “on the brink of death.”

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

With drug cartels around the world synthesizing this potent drug and selling it on the streets, addiction rates have skyrocketed, resulting in lives lost. Seeking professional help from an addiction treatment center may be the only way to alleviate this drug problem.

Multiple pharmacological agents are used to alleviate the withdrawal effects and break the addiction cycle. Methadone, naltrexone and Suboxone can be used to treat opioid dependence by reducing the side effects of withdrawal and curbing cravings that can lead to relapse. Most drug-rehabilitation facilities offer at least one of these treatment options. Treating opioid addiction with medication-assisted treatment has been ongoing for over thirty years.

Initially, methadone, which is a type of opioid, was the treatment of choice for opioid addiction. This opioid agonist binds to the same receptors as heroin, resulting in a similar high. The amount of methadone is slowly tapered over time, but many patients become addicted to methadone, resulting in another addiction cycle. In 2002, pharmacological options besides methadone were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to combat the heroin epidemic.

The FDA approved the use of the combination of buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) to manage opioid dependence. Because a partial opioid agonist/antagonist is combined with an opioid antagonist, this combination acts by blocking opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Naltrexone is a well-known opioid antagonist used for the treatment of opioid addiction. It was first introduced in clinical trials for opioid addiction treatment in 1973. Specifically, naltrexone is used to prevent relapse after withdrawal from opioids. It is extremely important that the body is completely free from opioids when naltrexone is administered, because severe withdrawal effects will occur when this medication eliminates all opioids from the body. Vivitrol is the injectable form of naltrexone that can be administered on a monthly basis.

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment at Sovereign Health

At Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego, our expert staff is experienced in treating teens with fentanyl addiction and other opioid use disorders. Our substance abuse treatment programs create a customized plan that is tailor-made for the specific needs of all patients, an approach that maximizes their likelihood for a quick and lasting recovery.

Family therapy is a vital component in our treatment plan. Parents and siblings are important figures in an adolescent’s life and, as such, play a large role in the teen’s treatment and recovery. To learn more about Sovereign Health’s adolescent treatment programs, please contact our admissions team at our 24/7 helpline.

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