What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is an opioid – technically, a narcotic which acts on opioid receptors in the brain to produce morphine-like effects – commonly used by itself as a pain medication, and in combination with other substances as an anaesthetic. It is an extremely strong drug – around 100 times stronger than morphine – and as a result, over the last couple of decades fentanyl has become a common addition to, or substitute for, recreational opiates such as heroin.
However, not only is fentanyl incredibly addictive both physically and psychologically, but it is also extremely dangerous: around half of all deaths associated with opioids in the United States – which is experiencing an opioid epidemic – are caused by fentanyl or even stronger analogues such as carfentanyl. In the United Kingdom fentanyl is a class A controlled substance with serious penalties for possession, and potential life sentences for supply. While fentanyl is not as commonly available in this country as in the USA and elsewhere, it is increasingly being found in street heroin and other recreational opiates, prompting concerns that it may wreak similar carnage here.
Effects Of Fentanyl Addiction
Alongside its extremely analgesic qualities, fentanyl is sought after for its extremely pleasurable euphoric and dreamlike “high” which creates a sensation of warmth, relaxation and well-being. However, it is also associated with a great many less desirable side-effects including drowsiness; nausea; vomiting; headaches; fatigue; itchiness; mood swings; seizures; decreased libido; anorgasmia; confusion; stomach cramps; hypotension; diarrhoea; hallucinations; sweating; breathing difficulties; insomnia; missed periods; cardiac arrhythmia; difficulty urinating or defecating; dry mouth; anxiety; blurred vision; skin complaints; and sleep apnoea.
Notoriously, fentanyl is also extremely addictive; physical dependency can develop only a few days after beginning regular consumption of fentanyl, and the drug can quickly come to dominate an addict’s life. Cravings for fentanyl can be so intense, and withdrawal symptoms so unpleasant, that an addict’s daily routine is typically structured around obtaining and consuming the drug. Understandably this renders many aspects of normal life effectively impossible with obvious consequences for work and family relationships.
Fentanyl addiction is associated with significant stigma and as a result, addicts are usually extremely secretive and deceitful about their drug habits, which often causes intolerable strain for relationships with loved ones, employers, and other people play important roles in the addict’s life. Addiction can also lead to serious financial problems and even destitution, while many addicts resort to criminal activity – including theft and/or prostitution – to fund their habits. All the above, unsurprisingly, can have catastrophic consequences for the addict’s mental and emotional well-being, and major depressive disorder is a common consequence of fentanyl addiction.
Signs And Symptoms Of Fentanyl Addiction
Alongside any visible manifestation of the aforementioned side effects, fentanyl addicts may bear the physical marks of their addiction if they are injecting the drug intravenously: puncture wounds and “track marks”, damaged veins, scarring, scabs and skin infections may be visible, while it is not uncommon for fentanyl addicts to lose substantial amount of weight and/or suffer from malnutrition and related disorders. Fentanyl intoxication can also be quite evident if the addict has consumed the drug recently, as they are likely to be extremely drowsy and may even fall asleep or unconscious – the latter being a worrying sign of potential overdose which can be fatal without prompt medical attention.
Long-term fentanyl abuse can cause respiratory or cardiovascular damage, impotence, anorgasmia, and a broad range of mental health issues including anxiety disorder and the aforementioned major depressive disorder. It is also associated, as a result of intravenous administration, with diseases such as HIV and hepatitis which can be contracted through sharing needles and which can prove fatal.
As mentioned above, fentanyl addiction can have very significant financial ramifications, as users typically need to take the drug at least once, and often several times, a day; again, it can also have catastrophic consequences for important relationships, professional prospects, and self-esteem. A tragic proportion of fentanyl addicts self-harm or even commit suicide as a result of the traumatic effects wrought by addiction.
Withdrawal And Detoxification Process
Because fentanyl is physically as well as psychologically addictive, withdrawal – which occurs when an addict stops taking fentanyl and their body readjusts to their absence within their system – can be especially uncomfortable and unpleasant. Any addiction treatment must nevertheless begin with a period of detoxification (“detox”), during which the addict’s body is cleansed of all substances of abuse. Withdrawal can be hazardous for the addict’s physical and mental health – many fentanyl addicts have become so depressed during withdrawal that they have committed suicide, while others who have relapsed in order to escape the worst symptoms of withdrawal have overdosed fatally because of taking larger doses than their systems could then tolerate – and as a result it is strongly advised that, if you are a fentanyl addict, you do not attempt to go through detox at home and/or by yourself.
Having the assistance of qualified medical professionals are considered absolutely indispensable. Partly because of this – alongside a host of other reasons – residential rehabilitation (“rehab”) is considered the safest and most effective environment in which to go through Fentanyl detox. The presence of highly qualified medical team providing 24/7 therapeutic support can make withdrawal immeasurably more comfortable and infinitely safer.
Fentanyl Detox Timeline
Every case of addiction is different, and the process of withdrawal will vary from one addict to another depending on a range of factors including the length and severity of addiction, the dosages being consumed, and the physiology of the addict. Therefore it is impossible to provide a “one size fits all” withdrawal timeline that describes all cases. Nevertheless, the following may be considered a rough guide to what you may expect from fentanyl withdrawal.
- 1-2 days: Cravings for more fentanyl may begin a few hours after the last dose. After a day or so you will start feeling extremely irritable, even aggressive, and increasingly anxious as you crave more drugs. You will start feeling a sore throat and flu-like symptoms; fatigue will set in.
- 2-5 days: The peak of withdrawal will see pronounced flu-like symptoms – nausea and vomiting, sweating and shivering – and extreme restlessness and agitation. Insomnia and muscle spasms and pains will contribute to a very low mood and extreme fatigue and lethargy, and potentially suicidal ideation. Cravings will be intense.
- 5-14 days: The worst will have passed, and the above symptoms will decline in severity and frequency although fatigue insomnia and depression will likely persist. Cravings will re-occur although they will be less intense
Treating Fentanyl Addiction
Fentanyl addiction has been a problem for well over a century and a very large number of different treatment methods have been proposed over the years, many of which are still touted today. Some of these are not endorsed by the medical community, and may be extremely dangerous to the user; do not embark on a course of treatment – especially one which you have found online without a recommendation from a doctor or addiction specialist – without consulting your GP.
Your GP should always be your first port of call and you may wish to discuss with them options such as private addiction counselling, NHS services and support groups. However, the consensus amongst the medical community is that Fentanyl rehab is the most effective treatment option for long-term recovery as only rehab provides a holistic combination of medically assisted detox, a variety of therapy models, dietary and fitness plans, peer group support and reliable confidentiality.
Detox & Rehab Benefits
Rehab has proven extraordinarily successful in helping countless fentanyl addicts to achieve long-term recovery. Some of the advantages of rehab include:
- A medical detox, where highly qualified professionals will make the addict’s journey through withdrawal as comfortable and safe as possible.
- Pleasant, peaceful surroundings in which an addict can focus wholly on his or her recovery.
- A broad range of therapy options to ensure the most appropriate therapeutic care for each patient.
- Group therapy, providing patients with a peer group of those who have been through similar experiences and can share advice and support.
- Bespoke dietary and fitness plans, working on the principle of “healthy body, healthy mind”.
- Complete confidentiality to ensure that patients need not be concerned about details of their condition becoming public knowledge.
- One year’s free aftercare, providing supplementary support as the recovering addict readjusts to a drug-free life.
Opioid addiction has been a scourge of the Western world for many years and unfortunately, it seems likely that as long as fentanyl is available it will always be abused – and that those abusing it will be at risk of addiction. It can be easy to despair when you feel trapped by addiction, and when you feel your life prospects diminishing by the day – but do not give in to that despair, because help is only a phone call away. At Primrose Lodge we offer world-class addiction treatment provided by highly experienced professionals whose expertise could be at your disposal; if you are ready to take the crucial first step and reach out for help with your fentanyl addiction.
Call us today on 0203 553 9263 and start your journey to recovery!