How is Fentanyl different from oxycodone and other opioids?
Although fentanyl is part of the opioid family, it is a synthetic pain reliever. It is considered to be more powerful and potent than other opioids, which can also make it dangerous if misused. Typically, it is used for treating severe pain, such as advanced cancer pain. While it is similar to morphine, it is actually about 50 to 100 times more potent. However, it is not only used for approved reasons, it has been on the rise as an illegally made drug in many states.
In the United States, the number of overdose deaths involving fentanyl has become more and more common. In 2017, fentanyl contributed to about 59.8 percent of deaths involving opioids. In 2013, the number was only 14.4 percent. Fentanyl has grown into a huge issue for being cheaper than other drugs and more powerful with a small amount. Drug distributors have used it by mixing it in with other drugs and only using a small amount of the more expensive one to make a profit from it. This is extremely dangerous because people may buy a drug thinking it is one thing but end up consuming something that can harm them even more.
Can I OD on fentanyl?
Yes, it is possible for a person to overdose on fentanyl. An overdose is usually caused when a drug overwhelms the body. It can occur with any amount of drugs, small or large, depending on the person. Fentanyl is a strong and powerful drug, so even a small amount of it can have an effect on someone. When a person overdoses on fentanyl, they can experience issues with breathing which can lead to not enough oxygen reaching the brain. The condition is called hypoxia and can lead the person into a coma, permanent brain damage or death.
As mentioned before, drug dealers have taken to mixing fentanyl with drugs like cocaine, heroin, meth, and MDMA. Fentanyl can produce a high with just a small amount, which makes it cheaper for distributors to make a profit. Doing this is very dangerous, especially when the buyer is not aware of it being in the drug they buy. Fentanyl can come with many risks, and it is also extremely addictive.
Those who use fentanyl, with or without knowing, can overdose on it. If someone overdoses, they can use naloxone as soon as they notice the symptoms. Naloxone can bind to opioid receptors quickly and block the effect of the drug. With fentanyl, since it is so potent, you might require a larger dosage of naloxone.
How do I know if I am addicted to fentanyl?
When a person has a substance use disorder, they can not control seeking out or using addictive substances. Addiction is the severest form of this disorder. Even if you know the risks and effects of the substance, the addiction can continue to lead you towards using it. Being addicted to drugs or alcohol can range from mild to severe. Sometimes it can be difficult for the person with the addiction to know they have an issue. Addictive substances can often alter the brain, making the user need and depend on the substance. Fentanyl is more powerful than other drugs.
You may have an addiction if:
- You think about fentanyl or other drugs a lot.
- You may try to stop using the drug but cannot.
- You feel that you cannot have a good time without using the drug.
- You make mistakes at work, school, or other places because of your drug use.
- You get worried or scared of the thought of running out of drugs.
- You have stolen drugs or money to get drugs.
- You have been arrested or injured because of drug use.
- You have or have been close to overdosing on drugs.
- Drugs have interfered and hurt your relationships.
What is fentanyl withdrawal like?
Withdrawal happens when a person quits their drug use. It can vary with its strength, depending on the severity of the addiction. Those who have used drugs for many years can expect to feel stronger symptoms than someone who has used short-term.
Fentanyl symptoms include:
- Sleep issues
- Muscle and bone pain
- Cold flashes (can include goosebumps)
- Uncontrollable leg movements
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Strong cravings for the drug
What is a SAMHSA-certified Opioid Treatment Program?
A SAMHSA-certified Opioid Treatment Program is a program that is certified to treat opioid addiction. The program is available in many facilities that also meet the requirements. These facilities receive the certification by the Certification of Opioid Treatment Programs. It can allow the certified facilities to advertise their opioid-specialized services and medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which is FDA-approved. The facility is able to dispense and administrate to help patients who have an opioid substance use disorder.
The FDA-approved medicine used in the treatment program helps relieve withdrawal symptoms as well as psychological cravings. These cravings can cause chemical imbalances in the patient’s body which can make it harder to recover. The MAT medication is an evidence-based treatment option and does more than substitute one drug for the other. Methadone is one of the medications that can be used for patients who are diagnosed with opioid use disorder. Since some of the MAT medication used can potentially be misused, it is considered a controlled substance.
For Loved Ones
What are the signs of fentanyl abuse?
Unlike other drugs, many people who abuse opioids may still maintain their responsibilities and appear stable. Although, after heavy use of the drug it can lead people to have serious health issues. Many people continue using drugs even when their health worsens. The effects of fentanyl can depend on the individual. Some factors that can contribute include the person’s size, weight, state of health, the amount taken, if fentanyl is mixed with another drug, and the person’s tolerance to opioids.
Fentanyl side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Constricted pupils
- Slowed breathing
- Low heart rate
- Sweating or flushing
- Rigid or stiff muscles
- Throat tightness
- Issues concentrating
Should I have Narcan on hand if my loved one is taking fentanyl?
If you know that your loved one is using fentanyl, it can be helpful to have Narcan around in case of an emergency. Narcan or Naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose when taken as soon as possible. It can bind to opioid receptors to reverse and block the effects caused by other opioids. For these reasons, Narcan is called an opioid antagonist. During an opioid overdose, people have problems with breathing, so the Narcan can normalize their breath as well.
Paramedics and other medical professionals use the liquid form of Narcan to quickly inject the patient with the medication. However, the medication can also come in the form of a nasal spray, an injectable, and auto-injector to get for your home. You can buy the medication at various pharmacies, sometimes even without a prescription. Pharmacies like CVS and Walgreen also have naloxone without requiring a prescription. This is significant because in an emergency it can take too long to get a medical provider to prescribe the medicine. If the person who overdosed does not get help, it can lead to death. If they can get the medicine quickly, it can save their life.
If you give someone naloxone, you will still need to take the person to the emergency room or call 911. While you wait, make sure to observe them and check to see if they continue to breathe. You should be watching them for at least 2 hours after the last dose of the medicine.
How can I prevent my loved one from becoming addicted to fentanyl?
If you believe your loved one is misusing fentanyl or any other drug, it is important to speak up before it is too late. Often, people who use drugs may not realize they have an issue, so by having a conversation with them it might open up their eyes. The person may not have control of stopping their drug use, and it may require treatment. Long-term use of drugs can affect and alter the brain function. This can include parts involving learning, memory, reward, motivation, and control of their behavior.
If after you talk to your loved one, they seem to not be able to quit on their own, there are many treatment options that can help. Some options include medication treatment and behavioral therapy. With medication treatment, the patient will receive medication that can help with opioid addiction. The medication can help ease withdrawal symptoms and reverse the effects of opioid abuse. During behavioral therapy, patients will focus on the behaviors surrounding their drug use and learn how to use them to avoid going back to the drug later. Both treatments can be effective alone, but they can work even better together.
Is it safe to buy prescriptions from somewhere other than a pharmacy?
No, it is not safe to buy prescriptions of any kind from anywhere that is not a certified pharmacy. If you think about buying prescriptions from a drug dealer, you can not be sure you are getting exactly what you want. You might get something that gives you a bad effect or that can cause an overdose. For example, fentanyl is oftentimes used along with other drugs for its quick effects and for being a cheaper drug to produce. This way, drug dealers can make a profit by selling less of the more expensive drugs and just adding something more powerful.
A study showed that fentanyl has been sold on the streets as other opioids drugs like Oxycodone and other prescription drugs. The pills looked identical to acetaminophen or hydrocodone tablets and weigh about the same. Using too much fentanyl or taking it without knowing can lead people to overdose, which is what happened to many people in the study.
What treatment options exist for fentanyl addiction?
Treatment options for fentanyl addiction:
- Medication treatment includes opioid dependency medications such as buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. These medications treat opioid addictions to heroin, morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, along with other short-acting and semi-synthetic opioids. The medicine is MAT medication, which means it is safe to use and not addictive. It is so safe that people can use it for anywhere from a few months to a lifetime. Before using any drug, even safe ones, be sure to speak with a doctor first.
- Buprenorphine is used to reduce and suppress opioid cravings.
- Methadone also reduces opioid cravings, as well as the withdrawal symptoms. It can also block the effects of opioids.
- Naltrexone can prevent or block euphoric and sedatives effects caused by opioids.
- Behavioral therapies or counseling are used alongside treatment medication. These therapies require patients to participate in medical, vocational, educational, and additional assessment and services. Behavioral therapies can help the patient change their attitudes and behaviors related to their addiction. It can help increase the use of healthy life skills.
- Behavioral therapy includes the following:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on the patient recognizing what behaviors lead them to their addiction while learning how to cope and avoid situations that would make them use the addictive substance.
- Multidimensional family therapy can help adolescents with addictions and their families. It can help the person find patterns to their substance abuse and help their family function better.
- Motivational interviewing helps people become ready to get treated and change their behaviors.
- Contingency management or motivational incentives uses rewards or other positive reinforcements to promote and encourage sobriety.
A variety of treatments exist to help treat fentanyl and other addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse and need help finding a treatment or other information, you are in the right place. We are here to help with any questions you have. Please call us at 405-583-4309.