What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful opioid used mostly to treat severe pain associated with advanced forms of cancer. It’s also used to prevent pain after surgery or some other type of invasive medical procedure. Although the drug does have some legitimate uses, its high addictive potential makes it extremely dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine; as a result, it can cause serious harm if it’s used without the supervision of a trained medical professional.
Forms of Fentanyl
Fentanyl comes in four main forms: oral tablets, lozenges, patches and injections. The lozenges are designed to be sucked on like hard candies, while the patches are applied to the skin to slowly release the drug over time. These forms of fentanyl are made by legitimate pharmaceutical companies.
Due to the high demand for fentanyl, some unethical manufacturers have been producing a synthetic version of the drug. This is especially dangerous because synthetic fentanyl is often mixed with cocaine, heroin and other substances, increasing the risk of overdose. Synthetic fentanyl is produced in powder form, but the powder can be added to nasal sprays, formed into pills or added to blotter paper.
Characteristics of Fentanyl
One of the reasons synthetic fentanyl is so dangerous is that it doesn’t have a distinctive taste or smell, making it difficult to determine if it’s been mixed in with other drugs. The powder is also white, so it can easily be combined with other substances without anyone noticing its presence. Legitimate fentanyl lozenges look somewhat like cotton swabs, and each one has an identifying imprint. Fentanyl patches look similar to adhesive bandages, except they’re usually clear or white. Each patch comes with a backing that peels off so the patch can be applied to the skin.
It’s possible to abuse oral fentanyl by taking it without a prescription, taking larger doses than prescribed or taking the drug more often than prescribed. Fentanyl patches are especially dangerous because a large amount of the drug remains inside the patch after it’s removed from the skin; if someone touches the drug with their fingers, the excess fentanyl is absorbed, which can quickly lead to a fatal overdose. Some people abuse fentanyl unintentionally when they use cocaine, methamphetamine and other illicit drugs that have been cut with fentanyl without their knowledge.
Fentanyl has several slang names, also known as “street names,” including China White, China Town, China Girl, Poison, He-Man, Tango & Cash, Apace, Goodfellas, Dance Fever and Great Bear.
Effects of Fentanyl
Fentanyl is extremely potent, making it one of the most dangerous opioids. Because it’s up to 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine, as little as 0.25 mg of the drug can quickly cause an overdose. Additionally, it produces effects similar to those of heroin and morphine, making it difficult for people to determine if they have unintentionally taken fentanyl while using other illicit substances.
Fentanyl has a wide variety of physical effects, some of which are highly undesirable. Initially, the drug produces a sense of euphoria and relieves severe pain. Once it takes effect, it also causes drowsiness, confusion and constriction of the pupils. Some users even experience nausea and vomiting.
One of the most dangerous physical effects of fentanyl is respiratory depression, which results in a slower breathing rate and less air moving in and out of the lungs when a person inhales and exhales. The risk of respiratory depression increases when fentanyl is combined with anti-anxiety medications, opioids and other drugs that slow down the respiratory system.
Used long term, fentanyl can cause urinary retention — urine remaining in the bladder even after voiding — nausea, vomiting and constipation. People who use fentanyl patches may also experience skin reactions after wearing the patches for several weeks.
How Fentanyl Affects the Brain
Fentanyl binds to opioid receptors in the brain, increasing dopamine levels; this is what produces the sense of euphoria associated with its use. When dopamine levels increase, the user feels satisfied and motivated to repeat the behavior that produced such a pleasant feeling. This connection between fentanyl use and an overall sense of well-being causes some users to become dependent on the drug.
How Fentanyl Abuse Affects Relationships
Fentanyl abuse can affect a user’s relationships with family members, friends, romantic partners and colleagues. When it comes to family relationships, fentanyl abuse can make it difficult for the user to keep a steady job and contribute financially to a household. Arguments over the user’s behavior may also lead to strained relationships with parents, siblings, children and spouses. People who abuse fentanyl and other substances may also engage in reckless behavior, lose control of their finances, miss scheduled events and engage in other behavior that makes it difficult to maintain friendships.
In romantic relationships, one partner’s fentanyl abuse has many potential consequences. One of the most common is frequent arguments about the fentanyl use or the partner’s inability to hold down a job or care for children. The non-using partner may feel stressed out about covering for the user’s behavior or doing more around the house to complete chores the other partner isn’t doing. Because addiction can cause people to show up late to work, miss more days of work than usual or perform at a lower level than expected, fentanyl abuse may also result in job loss or strain relationships between the user and their work associates.
When people stop using fentanyl, they go through a withdrawal period that can cause significant discomfort, which is why it’s so important to seek fentanyl addiction treatment overseen by trained professionals. Minor withdrawal symptoms include runny nose, yawning, chills, watery eyes and trouble sleeping. Some users also experience nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. In rare cases, the vomiting and diarrhea are so severe they lead to dehydration. Fentanyl withdrawal can also cause rapid heart rate, suicidal thoughts, mood disturbances, tremors, muscle twitching and dangerous changes in blood pressure.
Once fentanyl has been completely eliminated from the body, the user’s tolerance is much lower than it used to be, making the weeks following the withdrawal period some of the most dangerous. If a user relapses after detox, even a small dose of fentanyl can lead to an overdose.
Getting Help for Fentanyl Addiction
The discomfort of the detox period and the increased risk of overdose after withdrawal make it extremely important for fentanyl users to be monitored closely when they stop taking the drug. Once you know you have a problem, the first step is to contact a fentanyl addiction treatment provider. At Changing Tides, our knowledgeable staff members can explain the treatment options and tell you more about the amenities available at our fentanyl rehab in North Carolina.
The next step is to provide information to help the rehab facility determine which program would best suit your needs. You’ll typically be asked to describe your history of substance use, such as what drugs you’ve been using and how long you’ve been using them. It’s also important to be honest about your family history, medical history and mental health history to ensure treatment professionals can match you with the right program.
Once you have a fentanyl addiction treatment program in mind, you’ll need to determine the best way to pay for it. If you have private health insurance, your insurer may cover inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation. Many major insurance companies, including Aetna and UnitedHealthcare, provide at least some coverage for addiction treatment. If you don’t have insurance or your insurance company doesn’t cover this type of service, you’ll want to discuss payment plans and determine if you need to pay by check, debit card or credit card.
You’ll also have an opportunity to ask questions about what the total cost is expected to be, whether any financial assistance is available and how much your insurance deductible or coinsurance requirement will be.
Preparing for Rehabilitation
Once you select a facility and work out the financial details, you’ll have some time to plan for your absence. If you’re employed, you may want to take a leave of absence from work, arrange to use your vacation time or apply for unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This is also a good time to wrap up any long-term work projects or pass unfinished projects to your colleagues to ensure they’re covered.
You’ll also want to make arrangements to ensure your home life runs smoothly while you’re concentrating on your recovery. Ask a loved one to collect your mail and check on your house, pre-pay your most important bills or ask a trusted friend or family member to pay them while you’re away and make sure your pets will be taken care of until you return. If you have children, you may also need to enroll them in after-school programs or ask a family member to care for them when they’re not in school.
If you’re traveling from out of state, you should also use this time to purchase a plane or train ticket, determine if you need to reserve a rental car and make a list of the items you plan to pack when it’s time to start your treatment.
How Changing Tides Can Help
Changing Tides is a beachside fentanyl addiction treatment center in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Located just steps from the ocean, Changing Tides offers a tranquil environment free from the distractions of everyday life, giving you the space you need to address your addiction. Our fentanyl rehab in North Carolina has live-in staff, a large seasonal pool and other amenities to help you relax as you improve your coping skills and learn how to handle stress without turning to substance use.
Changing Tides is the best choice for fentanyl rehab because we offer partial hospitalization as well as intensive outpatient rehabilitation to ensure you feel supported at every step of your journey. Our partial hospitalization program is especially beneficial because you’ll get to live with other people who understand what it’s like to struggle with an addiction, helping you create a support system that can keep you on track during your recovery. Changing Tides also has highly qualified staff members available to ensure your physical and emotional needs are addressed in a healthy, supportive way.
If you’re ready to stop using fentanyl or a loved one needs help overcoming a fentanyl addiction, call Changing Tides at 252-715-3905 or fill out the admissions form on our website. One of our friendly staff members can tell you more about our fentanyl rehab in North Carolina and help you take the first step to freedom from addiction.