Footprints to Recovery

Fentanyl is a dangerous synthetic opioid drug that is currently the leading cause of U.S. overdose deaths, according to data from the CDC and the National Institute of Drug Abuse. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies fentanyl as a schedule ll drug, which means it has a high potential for abuse and dependence and is approved only for specific medical uses.

Why Is Fentanyl Dangerous?

Fentanyl is an extremely potent prescription opioid. To put it into perspective, it’s 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl is an opioid prescribed for:

  • Post-surgery pain
  • Severe pain in patients who don’t respond to other opioids
  • Pain in cancer patients

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is a major contributor to the opioid epidemic and fentanyl overdose deaths. Clandestine drug labs frequently cut heroin, meth, ecstasy, and cocaine with street fentanyl because it’s cheap and very addictive. This increases their profit and keeps customers coming back for more. Street names for fentanyl include:

  • China Girl
  • Dance Fever
  • Great Bear
  • Apace
  • China White
  • Poison
  • Goodfellas
  • Tango and Cash
  • China Town

Fentanyl acts on opioid receptors in the same way as heroin and other drugs. It attaches to the receptors and causes them to release large amounts of dopamine, which is what produces the high. Fentanyl goes through this process much quicker than other drugs and binds to opioid receptors more tightly. This means the effects of fentanyl are faster and stronger than those of a substance not cut with them.

Drug users often overdose on fentanyl because they don’t know their drugs have been cut with it. For example, they may take their normal amount of heroin, but if there’s fentanyl in it, the normal amount is much more potent and dangerous. This overloads the system. The body can’t process it quick enough, so it sets in motion reactions that can cause overdose like respiratory depression and extreme imbalances in the central nervous system.

Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

Because of its potency, it’s easy to get addicted to fentanyl. You can develop a physical dependence quicker than other drugs, and pretty soon you’ll find yourself using it less for the high, and more so to keep withdrawal symptoms away.

Symptoms of fentanyl abuse include:

  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Euphoria
  • Slowed breathing
  • Constipation
  • Unconsciousness

There are common signs that you’re addicted to fentanyl, but the truth is, if you’re taking fentanyl recreationally, you need help for substance abuse regardless. Some signs of addiction to fentanyl and other substances include:

  • Needing to take fentanyl to feel “normal” or prevent withdrawal symptoms.
  • Loss of job and relationships due to drug use.
  • Requiring increasing amounts of fentanyl to get the desired effect.
  • Getting into legal trouble because of substance abuse.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut back or quit substance use.
  • Continuing to abuse fentanyl despite negative consequences.

Self-Assessment: Am I Addicted?

How Do You Treat Fentanyl Addiction?

Fentanyl addiction treatment includes medical detox, inpatient and outpatient treatment, and a thorough aftercare plan. Medications are often used in fentanyl treatment as well. Components of treatment for fentanyl abuse include:

Medical Detox for Fentanyl

Withdrawal and detox from fentanyl should never be attempted without medical help. Opioid withdrawal can be uncomfortable and dangerous in some situations. You’re also at an increased risk of relapse and overdosing if you attempt to detox from opioids on your own. Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms vary by individual and severity of addiction, but may include:

  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Extreme feelings of hot or cold
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Cravings

Going through fentanyl detox in a treatment center keeps you safe and as comfortable as possible during withdrawal. A medical team monitors your vitals and comfort level. They can provide medications that ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

Opioid use disorders are some of the toughest addictions to overcome. An inpatient treatment program is usually necessary to offer the most intensive treatment as well as distance from triggers. Residential treatment programs give you round-the-clock access to addiction professionals. They can manage lingering withdrawal symptoms as you go through the treatment process. In a drug rehab center, you’ll also address the underlying issues that fuel your drug use and learn healthy coping skills to stay sober.

Types of treatments for fentanyl addiction may include:

Individual Therapy

You’ll develop a trusting relationship with a counselor. One-on-one therapy gives you a safe space to explore challenges that fuel drug abuse like:

  • Trauma
  • Negative thinking patterns
  • Relationship issues
  • Family roles
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Symptoms of co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety

Individual therapy is a good opportunity to more deeply explore issues that come up during group therapy. You can also discuss challenges you’re not yet ready to bring up in a group setting.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is an important part of substance abuse treatment. Connecting with peers who understand what you’re going through helps you feel less isolated in your addiction. You’ll cover topics relevant to recovery and practice coping skills. Hearing from others about their struggles may give you new insight into yours. You’ll practice healthy ways of communicating and relating to others.

Family Therapy

Drug addiction impacts both the substance user and their loved ones. In family therapy, you and your loved ones will learn how to communicate better. You’ll discuss difficult topics with the help of behavioral health professional. Loved ones will learn signs of relapse and how to help you if that should occur.

Traditional and Alternative Approaches

A blend of traditional and alternative treatment approaches helps you heal wholly. Approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) are proven treatments for substance abuse and mental health disorders. Alternative approaches like yoga, mindfulness and art therapy complement traditional therapies and help you begin reconnecting your mind and body.

Medication Management

Trauma and mental illnesses often contribute to substance abuse. This is called co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis. Psychiatric symptoms can be managed with antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. You may also require medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MATs are medications that attach to opioid receptors in the same way as fentanyl. They “trick” your brain into thinking you’re taking opioids without giving you the high. This can help ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings so you can focus on treatment.

Relapse Prevention

Drug relapse is related to physical, psychological, and social factors. Your relapse risk is tied to factors like:

  • Duration of drug use
  • Physical and psychological dependence
  • Deeply ingrained behavioral patterns
  • Presence of mental health disorders
  • Peer drug use
  • Resilience in the face of triggers

After detox, medications, therapy, and professional and peer support are crucial to long-term recovery. You’ll also need to learn relapse-prevention skills and new ways to cope with triggers.

Continuing Care Planning

It’s important that you’re connected with addiction recovery resources that support long-term sobriety. Aftercare may include:

  • Therapists
  • Physicians
  • Psychiatrists
  • 12-step groups
  • Sober living residences

These resources help you continue building coping skills and are a source of support when you’re struggling.

Does Insurance Cover Fentanyl Addiction Treatment?

Your insurance plan may cover all or a large portion of behavioral health treatment. There are laws in place that require most insurances to treat substance abuse and addiction like other medical conditions. The best way to find out if your insurance provides benefits for time in addiction and mental health treatment centers is to call us for a free insurance benefits check. We’ll work directly with your provider to determine your benefits and out-of-pocket costs.

Looking for Help?

If you or a loved one is struggling with drug abuse, we can help. An addiction to opioids is tough to kick, but not impossible. We’ve seen our clients take their lives back and transform their futures. Footprints to Recovery offers evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. We help you stop using opioids and teach you the skills you need to prevent relapse. You’ll discover that life without drugs can be rewarding, fun, and fulfilling. Call us today to begin your recovery.

Questions about treatment options?

Our admissions team is available 24/7 to listen to your story and help you get started with the next steps.

Jenna Richer
Medically Reviewed by Jenna Richer, MSW, LCSW