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Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is known for its high potency and is 100 times more potent than morphine.1 Prescribed fentanyl is used medically for chronic pain management, including cancer pain, but has become a common drug of abuse.

Understanding the side effects of fentanyl is crucial because its potency increases the risk of adverse effects, dependence, and overdose. Lumina Recovery is here to shed light on the various side effects of fentanyl, both short-term and long-term, helping readers understand the risks associated with its use.

Short-Term Side Effects of Fentanyl

When fentanyl enters the body, it affects the brain quickly, leading to a range of short-term effects. These effects can vary based on the dose, the user’s tolerance, and the method of administration. Here are some common immediate side effects:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Sedation
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Respiratory depression
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Hypertension
  • Itching

Long-Term Side Effects of Fentanyl

Continued use of fentanyl can lead to a range of long-term health issues. These are particularly concerning as they can have lasting impacts even after stopping the drug. Long-term side effects can include:

  • Chronic constipation
  • Breathing problems
  • Immune system suppression
  • Hormonal Imbalances
  • Increased risk of heart problems
  • Mental health disorders
  • Dependence and addiction

Fentanyl Dependence and Addiction

Dependence on fentanyl can develop quickly, even after a short period of use, as the body becomes accustomed to the presence of the drug and starts relying on it to function normally. This dependence, primarily physical, often leads to tolerance, requiring increasing amounts of the drug to achieve the same effects.

Addiction, a more severe form of dependence, encompasses both physical and psychological aspects. It manifests as an overwhelming urge to use opioids including fentanyl, overpowering rational decision-making and leading to compulsive drug-seeking behavior.

The cycle of addiction is complex, often exacerbated by factors such as genetic predisposition, environmental influences, and underlying mental health issues. People addicted to fentanyl may find their relationships, work, and daily activities severely impacted. They may continue using the drug despite facing serious health, legal, or social consequences.

The psychological grip of addiction makes it challenging to quit without professional help, as it involves not only physical withdrawal but also psychological dependence. It’s important to recognize that addiction is a medical condition, not a moral failing, and compassionate, comprehensive care is essential for overcoming it.

The Risk of Fentanyl Overdose

Opioid overdose is a critical risk when using fentanyl. Its high potency means that even small amounts can cause an overdose, particularly in individuals with no opioid tolerance. An overdose of fentanyl can lead to fatal respiratory depression, where breathing becomes dangerously slow and shallow, potentially stopping altogether.

Other signs of an overdose include extreme sleepiness, an inability to wake up, a bluish tint to the skin, particularly on the lips and nails, a slow or irregular heartbeat, and loss of consciousness. Emergency medical attention is necessary if you or someone else experiences any of these symptoms.

The risk of overdose escalates when fentanyl is mixed with other substances like alcohol or illegal drugs such as heroin. The illicit production of fentanyl increases the danger, as the purity and concentration of street fentanyl can vary significantly, making it almost impossible for users to gauge a safe dosage.

These factors make fentanyl one of the most dangerous drugs in terms of overdose potential, highlighting the importance of awareness and caution.

Effects of Fentanyl Withdrawal

Withdrawal from fentanyl is often a challenging and uncomfortable process, with symptoms typically beginning within a few hours to a day after the last use and potentially lasting for a week or more.

One of the most common symptoms experienced when suddenly stopping is severe muscle and bone pain, which can be quite distressing. Alongside this, individuals often face sleep problems such as insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns. Gastrointestinal distress is also frequent, manifesting as diarrhea and vomiting, which can lead to dehydration if not properly managed.

Cold flashes, often accompanied by goosebumps, are another symptom that can cause discomfort. Additionally, many individuals experience restlessness and agitation, which can lead to involuntary leg movements. One of the most difficult symptoms to cope with is the intense and severe cravings for fentanyl, which can be a significant hurdle in the journey toward recovery.

These withdrawal symptoms not only pose physical challenges but also emotional and psychological ones, making it essential for those undergoing withdrawal to have access to healthcare professionals. Call your doctor if you start experiencing any of these symptoms.

Getting Help for Fentanyl Addiction

Women hugging in group therapy session

Seeking help for substance use disorders is a critical step on the road to recovery, and there are several effective treatment options tailored to individual needs.

  • Detox programs, often the first line of treatment, provide medically supervised care to safely manage withdrawal symptoms and help individuals clear fentanyl from their bodies in a controlled environment.
  • For those with severe addiction or co-occurring mental health conditions, inpatient rehab offers intensive care. This treatment option involves staying at a facility with access to round-the-clock support and therapy.
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) combines medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone with counseling and behavioral therapies to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making the recovery process more manageable.
  • Counseling and therapy, including approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and group therapy, play a crucial role in addressing the underlying causes of addiction and developing effective coping strategies.
  • Additionally, support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) offer community support and encouragement, providing a network of individuals who understand the struggles associated with overcoming addiction.

Each of these treatment options plays a vital role in the journey toward recovery, offering hope and support to individuals struggling with fentanyl addiction.

Find Out More About Fentanyl and Its Effects With Lumina Recovery

Understanding the side effects of fentanyl, the risks of dependence and overdose, and the challenges of withdrawal is essential for anyone affected by this potent opioid. Remember, fentanyl addiction is treatable, and recovery is possible.

Lumina Recovery offers opioid and fentanyl addiction services and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help those struggling with side effects and dependency.

Contact our team of professionals to learn more and get the help you or your loved one needs.

Sources:

  1. https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/fentanyl

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