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Fentanyl is a powerful opioid prescribed to treat intractable pain, arising from cancer or after surgery. The drug provides quick relief from pain, but its effects do not last long. It can be mixed with alcohol and other drugs like cocaine to heighten the effects.

First synthesized in the 1960s by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, fentanyl was initially used as a general anesthetic during surgery. At present, the drug is legal in the medical world, and is used for managing severe pain in cancer patients. Owing to its powerful pain-relieving and relaxation-inducing properties, the drug is often abused and sought for illicit purposes.

Fentanyl addiction

Fentanyl is considered to be approximately 100 times more potent than morphine. One can understand its danger from the fact that an amount equivalent to the size of three grains of sugar is lethal for an adult human. Listed as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), fentanyl is extremely addictive and should be used with caution.

Known by various names, such as Apache, Jackpot, Friend, Tango and China Town, among others, the opioid is available as a nasal spray, tablet, lozenge, film and injection. The patch form is the most widely abused substance, whose effects may continue to increase for the first 12-24 hours of wearing it, lasting for up to 72 hours. In addition to it, lollipops and pills are also common forms of abusing the drug.

Effect on brain and body

Fentanyl abuse is responsible for thousands of overdoses every year in the United States, and the two main sources are the prescription drug industry and Mexican drug cartels. The drug cartels synthesize the product at a cheaper rate and lace it with other substances, such as heroin and cocaine, for an even more lethal cocktail. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 228,000 people misused prescription fentanyl products last year. However, the figure may underrepresent people who misused the drug illegally manufactured in clandestine laboratories.

Like all opioids, fentanyl acts on the brain’s mu-opioid receptor, which produces a euphoric state and thus, desensitizes endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller. After a prolonged use, the body needs a higher dose and more frequent use to produce the same effects. The addiction cycle continues in a vicious pattern, creating a euphoric high first, followed by painfully depressing withdrawals.

Signs and symptoms of abuse

Similar to other commonly abused opioid analgesics, fentanyl addiction causes confusion, dizziness, vomiting and urinary retention. Additionally, it decreases the breathing rate (known as respiratory depression), and causes constipation, dry mucous membranes, euphoria and drowsiness. Excess intake can also lead to instant death. In addition to causing short-term effects, fentanyl abuse also produces significant long-term effects including gastrointestinal problems, weakened immune system, seizures, paranoia, hallucinations, social withdrawal and personality changes.

As the drug is both physically and psychologically addictive, a person abusing it will experience mental, physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms once he/she abruptly stops its usage. Withdrawal is not life-threatening, but it can be painful. The symptoms include severe bone pain, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, mood swings and diarrhea. Many people describe the experience as “on the brink of death.”

Owing to the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, it is important to undergo treatment at professional addiction treatment centers. Fentanyl detox treatment provided under the care of medical professionals helps manage the pain that accompanies detox, and prepares the patient for further treatment.

Fentanyl addiction treatment

Fentanyl addiction rates have skyrocketed in recent years, resulting in increased emergency department visits, hospitalizations, overdoses, drug seizures and deaths. Seeking professional help from a certified rehab center may be the only way to remove the drug traces from the body and lead a sober life.

Multiple pharmacological agents are used to alleviate the withdrawal effects and break the addiction cycle. Methadone, Suboxone and naltrexone can be used to treat opioid dependence as they block the opioid receptors and help in reducing withdrawal pangs, managing cravings and lessening the risk of relapse. Most drug rehabilitation facilities offer at least one of these treatment options. Treating opioid addiction with medication-assisted treatment is a common practice being followed since many years.

A comprehensive fentanyl addiction treatment involves a combination of detoxification treatment and counseling or therapy sessions. Known as the first step toward addiction treatment, medically supervised detox at certified fentanyl detox centers helps eliminate the toxic substances from the body and prepare it for further treatment. Following a successful detox, patients undergo intense behavioral therapies to uncover any hidden mental illness or any other health condition that may be contributing to one’s drug addiction.

Why choose 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. Sovereign Health’s substance abuse treatment programs are tailor-made to suit the specific needs of patients, an approach that maximizes their likelihood of long-lasting recovery.

Depending on the duration of illness and the severity of symptoms, treatment for fentanyl abuse may involve medically supervised detox program followed by psychotherapies and other evidence-based treatment modalities, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), neurofeedback, equine therapy, art therapy and music therapy.

In addition to clinically proven options, family therapy is a vital component in Sovereign Health’s treatment plan. Parents and siblings are important figures in an adolescent’s life and play a big role in the teen’s treatment and recovery. To learn more about Sovereign Health’s adolescent treatment programs, call our admissions team at our 24/7 helpline. You can even chat online with a representative for further assistance.

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