Understanding Fentanyl Abuse
Learn about fentanyl addiction & abuse
Fentanyl is a legal prescription painkiller in the opioid category that is useful in instances when an individual is experiencing severe pain resulting from bodily traumas such as cancer, injury, surgery, and more. When prescribed by a medical professional, fentanyl can provide relief to patients when other strong opioids like morphine cannot subdue the pain. While fentanyl’s benefits in the proper situations cannot be understated, as is the case with all opioids, there is also the risk of addiction to this drug. Because fentanyl produces a euphoric state, it is often sought out and abused by individuals seeking a high.
Recently, a dangerous type of synthetic fentanyl derivative has become popular among illicit drug users. Some synthetic fentanyl hybrids are often mixed with heroin, and because they are illegal and unregulated, users cannot have any assurance as to their content. Carfentanil is but one example of a fentanyl derivative that has become widely abused because of its potency.
Regardless of whether someone is abusing legal fentanyl, or one of its synthetic derivative counterparts, professional help will be needed to overcome an addiction to these potentially fatal substances.
Fentanyl abuse statistics
A cursory search of the latest news related to fentanyl-related deaths will yield pages of stories describing the heartbreaking loss that many families and communities are facing in the wake of the current opioid epidemic. For example, in August 2016, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that, in a span of two weeks, 20 people in the community lost their lives to heroin. Furthermore, 39 individuals had lost their lives to fentanyl by that time, that year. In 2015, the total number of lives lost to fentanyl totaled 30 for the entire year, a statistic that signals the growing problem of fentanyl and fentanyl derivative abuse across the nation.
But fortunately, as awareness is raised to this critical issue, there are also more opportunities to receive care for substance abuse than ever before. To combat the growing problem of opioid addiction, and the accompanying tragic loss of life, fentanyl addiction treatment centers provide necessary resources to interrupt the downward spiral of fentanyl and fentanyl derivative addiction.
Causes and Risks
Causes and risk factors for fentanyl abuse
Although researchers continue to study substance abuse to better understand its etiology, there are still many unknowns when it comes to identifying one’s level of risk for developing a substance use disorder. And while each individual possesses his or her own unique set of strengths and challenges, some critical experiences or factors have been identified as contributing to the likelihood that one will struggle with a substance use disorder. Men and women who develop an addiction to fentanyl or a fentanyl derivative may possess the following risk factors:
Genetics: Having a family member, or multiple family members, who have suffered from substance abuse makes one more prone to developing a substance use order.
Environment: Chronic and/or early exposure to drug or alcohol abuse might contribute to one being more likely to engage in substance abuse because this exposure may serve to normalize addictive behavior.
Personality Traits: It has been shown that individuals who are more likely to exhibit thrill-seeking and risky behavior may be more prone to issues of chemical dependence.
Mental Illness: Often, substance abuse is the result of an individual attempting to subdue the negative psychological symptoms of an untreated mental health condition.
- Being raised in an environment in which substance use was present
- Family history of substance abuse and/or addiction
- Personal history of experiencing pain due to a medical condition or injury
- Personal history of mental illness
- Possessing certain personality traits
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of fentanyl abuse
Merely possessing a prescription for fentanyl does not indicate that an individual will develop a dependence on the drug. However, there are some physiological and behavioral signs and symptoms that indicate that one has developed a substance use disorder because of his or her fentanyl or fentanyl derivative addiction, some of which are described in the following:
- Social isolation
- Continuing to abuse fentanyl and/or fentanyl derivatives despite problems caused by this type of substance abuse
- Being unable to control the frequency and amount of one’s substance abuse
- Using fentanyl and/or fentanyl derivatives in situations that are hazardous
- No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed in favor of substance abuse
- Go to great lengths, and even deceptive measures, in order to acquire more of one’s substance of choice
- Displaying unusual or erratic behavior that is uncharacteristic
- Swollen feet and hands
- Racing heart
- Slowed breathing
- Fixation on finding more of the drug
- Intense cravings for the drug
- Trouble concentrating
- Loss of interest in formerly enjoyed activities
Effects of fentanyl abuse
When a person develops a dependence on fentanyl or a fentanyl derivative, he or she risks significant damages to his or her physical health, emotional wellbeing, and overall ability to function in daily life. At best a hindrance to living life to potential, and at worst fatal, some of these consequences are described below:
- Contracting other diseases such as hepatitis or HIV
- Abuse of other harmful substances
- Damage to internal organs
- Sexual dysfunction
- Loss of important relationships
- Legal trouble
- Loss of child custody
Fentanyl abuse & co-occurring disorders
It has been well documented that chemical dependence and mental illness often occur simultaneously, and it is necessary to address both during treatment in order to achieve a sustained recovery. There are some mental health concerns that seem to often accompany a fentanyl or fentanyl derivative addiction, some of which are noted below:
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Posttraumatic stress disorder
- Other substance abuse disorders