As you or a loved one consider stopping fentanyl use, you may be wondering about the detox process. Could it be difficult, or dangerous?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, often used to treat severe pain or chronic pain brought on by physical injuries, cancer, or major surgeries. As part of the opioid class of prescription medications in patch form, it is also used to treat pain in patients who have developed tolerance to other opioids. When used in a hospital setting, this drug can bring vital comfort when other strong opioids have failed.
As it is a highly potent prescription drug, it has a high potential for abuse and addiction, especially when not taken as prescribed. Some synthetic fentanyl derivatives are made illegally and combined with heroin or other illicit substances for users to achieve a more intense high. Drug dealers also mix the potent substance or its synthetic derivative with other drugs to make more profits.
These versions of the drugs are very dangerous as their production is unregulated, meaning that a person can not know exactly what they are consuming. Both synthetic and prescription fentanyl can cause chemical dependency and require a supervised detox program at a treatment center for recovery to occur.
Addiction to fentanyl or a fentanyl derivative can result in a decline in emotional and physical health, but can also lead to overdose and death.
Fentanyl causes excess amounts of dopamine to flood and change the brain over time. By affecting the central nervous system and neurochemical balances of the brain, even prescribed fentanyl can cause someone to become dependent. They may turn to illegal ways of obtaining the drug after exhausting their prescription.
Once a person has developed tolerance to fentanyl, they may need it to feel normal, and require more and more of the drug to reach the same 'high' effect. As the use of the drug increases, a person could suffer from opioid addiction for many years, risking their health.
Similar to most substance abuse, Fentanyl addiction requires addiction treatment. Not only will people try to overcome tolerance and end up increasing their dose, but they may also abuse alcohol or take other prescription drugs that could interfere with fentanyl. These factors place a person at an increased risk for overdose.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that deaths involving synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, continue rising, with 56,516 overdose deaths in the United States reported in 2020. In 2022, a shocking 67 % of drug overdose deaths involved opioids like fentanyl.
Symptoms of fentanyl abuse vary from person to person and depend on how much of the drug they consume and how often.
A person who abuses fentanyl may have constricted pupils, and experience a slowing down of mental or physical activity. They may experience insomnia and drowsiness or may experience a state of restlessness and anxiety that can result in repetitive or unintentional movements.
Attention or concentration difficulties are common. Someone could have memory issues, while also having impaired judgment.
Fentanyl abuse can increase depression, and cause a person to feel euphoria followed by apathy. Cravings for fentanyl can be immense, and this could come with suicidal ideation, both of which require the help of healthcare professionals.
One characteristic of someone struggling with fentanyl addiction is continuing the use of a substance despite the negative consequences that are associated with its use.
A person may lose or show less interest in hobbies or activities they once found engaging, and withdraw socially, increasing the amount of time they spend on obtaining, using, or recovering from the use of fentanyl. School, work, or family life may be put aside or responsibilities may be replaced by drug use. A person may do 'doctor shopping', where they go to multiple doctors to get many prescriptions for fentanyl. They could also be secretive about their drug use or forge prescriptions to obtain it.
Luckily, detox services can help if a person becomes dependent on fentanyl.
Detoxification, or detox, is the process by which a substance and its toxins are removed from the body. Detoxification services that are available at a treatment center offer many benefits to anyone attempting to stop drug use.
Attempting to quit abruptly or all in one go is not advised and is unsafe, even if it is from a prescription drug. Without help, the side effects that come about during fentanyl withdrawal could be painful and potentially dangerous, while a person is at a much higher risk for relapse and self-harm.
A medical detox center has the advantage of assessing a person for both mental and physical health issues, including other substances that may have been combined with fentanyl. Since all these factors can influence and worsen the detox process, medical supervision is always advised.
Not only will someone go through the withdrawal process more comfortably and safely, and they will also be able to move on to the next stage of care without interruption. A fentanyl detox center can also create a treatment plan that addresses a person's drug use, as additional therapeutic interventions provide more support to achieve long-term recovery.
There are many benefits of fentanyl detox, but the most important is that discontinuation of prescription drugs can prevent a fatal outcome.
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can vary according to the amount and duration of drug use, as well as co-occurring mental health issues or other substance use problems.
During the withdrawal process, a person may vomit and have diarrhea. This often causes severe dehydration and is usually linked to fentanyl-related fatalities. It can cause dangerously high sodium levels in the blood, which may cause a person's heart to fail.
Other withdrawal symptoms include:
A drug abuse withdrawal timeline presents differently for different people. Apart from the drug use itself, a person's weight, metabolic rate, and age play a role in the timeline.
However, there are general guidelines for the process. Usually, as little as twelve hours to one day after the last dose, fentanyl withdrawal symptoms may begin to show.
The first two to four hours involve discomforts, such as aches and chills or yawning. Intense cravings and anxiety already start to kick in, as well as restlessness. Peak withdrawal symptoms usually occur within the first two days, but can last for up to a week. These include the first set of symptoms, but with additional fever and vomiting. Here, physical and emotional support is especially required.
While most physical symptoms usually subside after one week, emotional symptoms like depression, anxiety, and cravings can remain. These post-acute withdrawal symptoms are common and could appear weeks after medical detox, while they could remain for months or even years after stopping fentanyl use.
They could easily cause a person to relapse, and this is why ongoing support provided by a treatment center in the form of aftercare is valuable.
As a detox program at a treatment center is a drug-free space, and one that is different from the place where a person used drugs, the risk of relapse is greatly decreased.
Healthcare professionals can provide the crucial emotional support that is required to go through detox and prevent a person from further using the drug, while the risk of an overdose is also eliminated.
The administration of medicines to aid fentanyl detox is another reason why supervised detox is advisable.
Several medications are approved for treating opioid withdrawal symptoms during a fentanyl detox. Medical staff may administer methadone, which acts as an opioid replacement while decreasing cravings for fentanyl and withdrawal symptoms. Naltrexone is also used to block opioid effects, by blocking opioid receptors in the brain, while buprenorphine helps to decrease withdrawal symptoms and cravings too.
After detox, a person can transition into the therapeutic aspects of the recovery process. With clarity of mind, a variety of treatment options are available to address the reasons behind developing a drug addiction, identify triggers for falling back to drug use, and respond to these triggers healthily.
Often cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, support groups, and family therapy form part of the treatment as additional support.
Any co-occurring disorders that involve mental health or substance use are also addressed during therapy, which ensures that a person has a true chance for sobriety and returning to the pressures of the world outside of a treatment center.
A person will also have access to aftercare resources, whereby they can return to the facility for specific therapies and support groups or follow a designed aftercare plan. This greatly prevents relapse and ensures a successful recovery.
Seeking treatment for addiction is the first bold step in the right direction to recovery.
If you or a loved one is struggling with fentanyl abuse, NP Addiction is here to help. We understand that addiction is personal and individual. That is why we can design a treatment program according to your needs.
Our caring and experienced staff can provide you with 24/7 help and support, cutting-edge therapeutic techniques, and a holistic approach to your mental and physical health. NP Addiction can help you build a truly strong foundation for long-term recovery, starting today.
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