Getting Help for Fentanyl Addiction: Vista Taos Drug & Alcohol Treatment
Learn more about the dangers of fentanyl addiction and how to get the help you need at Vista Taos in this comprehensive article.
There’s been an alarming surge in illicit fentanyl use and associated fatalities in recent years.
The potency of fentanyl is estimated to be up to 100 times stronger than morphine and about 50 times more potent than heroin. This has made it a focal point in the opioid epidemic sweeping across many parts of the world.1
Fentanyl has become one of the leading causes of opioid-related overdoses and deaths. The presence of this substance in the illicit drug market, often mixed unknowingly with other drugs, amplifies its danger. This makes understanding its prevalence and impact on public health more critical than ever.2
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid analgesic. It’s a man-made painkiller similar in chemical structure to natural opioids derived from the opium poppy, such as morphine and codeine.
Fentanyl differs from other opioids in several ways. These will be detailed below.
Fentanyl is more potent than many other opioids. For instance, it’s estimated to be about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and about 50 times more potent than heroin.
A very small amount of fentanyl can cause a powerful effect. This includes respiratory depression, which is the leading cause of opioid overdose deaths.
Fentanyl is used medically for pain management, particularly in settings of chronic pain. It’s also used for breakthrough pain in patients who already have a tolerance to opioids. Because of its potency, it’s often used for severe pain situations such as after surgery or for cancer-related pain.
In medical settings, fentanyl can be administered through various methods, including:
Duration of Action
Fentanyl often has a rapid onset of action and a relatively short duration compared to some other opioids. This makes it useful for situations where rapid pain relief is needed. But, it also necessitates more frequent dosing to maintain pain relief over time.
Illicit Use and Overdose Risk
Given its potency, there’s been significant concern about the illicit use of fentanyl. It’s often mixed with other drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, sometimes without the user’s knowledge.
Because of its strength and the small amount needed for a lethal dose, the risk of overdose is significantly higher with fentanyl compared to many other opioids.3
Illicitly-manufactured fentanyl is often found as a white powdery substance. It’s similar in appearance to other drugs like cocaine or heroin. This makes it hard to distinguish by sight alone, raising the risk for people who might consume it unknowingly.
How Fentanyl Addiction Impacts Physical and Mental Health
Fentanyl, like other opioids, has a profound effect on both the physical and mental health. Because of its heightened potency, the risks associated with fentanyl are often more pronounced compared to other opioids.
Here’s a breakdown of how fentanyl addiction impacts health in comparison to other opioids:
All opioids can lead to respiratory depression, which is a slowing or stopping of breathing. Given fentanyl’s potency, a small amount can cause profound respiratory depression, leading to hypoxia (a lack of oxygen reaching the brain and other vital organs).
This can result in:
- Brain damage
Risk of Overdose
Due to its potency, the risk of overdose with fentanyl is significantly higher than with other opioids. A very small amount can lead to fatal consequences, especially if the person is not opioid-tolerant.
Regular use can lead to physical dependence and fentanyl addiction. When the drug isn’t taken, withdrawal symptoms can emerge, which include:
- Muscle and bone pain
- Cold flashes
- Severe cravings
Opioid Side Effects
Like other opioids, fentanyl can cause:
- Dry mouth
Opioid use can cause or worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety. This can be even more pronounced with fentanyl due to its potency and the potential for life-threatening events like overdose.
Impaired Cognitive Function
Prolonged use of opioids, including fentanyl, can impact cognitive functions. This can lead to:
- Memory issues
- Decreased attention span
- Reduced decision-making abilities
Some people may also experience increased feelings of paranoia or distrust of others.
Regular use can lead to mood swings, which might be more pronounced with the highs and lows associated with the rapid onset and short duration of action of fentanyl.
Fentanyl Risks Compared to Other Opioids
While the effects listed above are common to most opioids, the primary difference with fentanyl lies in its potency and the rapidity with which adverse effects can occur. Small dosing errors that might be survivable with drugs like heroin can be fatal when it comes to fentanyl.
Given that illicitly manufactured fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs, users may be unknowingly consuming multiple substances, each with its own set of risks. This can further complicate potential health outcomes.
Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of fentanyl addiction can be crucial for timely intervention. Some of the signs are common to opioid addictions more broadly, while others might be more specific due to the potency of fentanyl.
Physical Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction
Below are some of the physical symptoms of fentanyl addiction.
Like other opioids, fentanyl can cause the pupils to constrict. This makes them appear very small.
Slow or shallow breathing is a hallmark sign of opioid use. It’s particularly concerning with fentanyl due to the risk of overdose.
Drowsiness or Sedation
Excessive sleepiness or an inability to stay awake can be signs of fentanyl use.
Nausea or Vomiting
Opioids often lead to feelings of nausea or actual vomiting.
Chronic opioid use can lead to constipation, which can be severe.
Flushed or Itchy Skin
Some users may have flushed skin or complain of itchiness.
Frequent Flu-Like Symptoms
People going through withdrawal from fentanyl might present symptoms similar to the flu, such as:
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
Behavioral Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction
Some behavioral symptoms of fentanyl addiction include:
Pulling away from friends, family, or normal activities can be a sign of addiction.
Sudden Mood Changes
This includes rapid and seemingly unexplained mood swings.
Reduced interest in activities they once enjoyed or a lack of motivation can be signs of fentanyl addiction.
These behaviors occur especially when trying to get the drug, which can include illegal activities.
This includes ignoring or failing to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home.
This may look like spending significant amounts of money on the drug. This can lead to financial strain or unusual requests for money.
Lying or Secretive Behavior
This includes being deceptive about their:
Other Signs of Fentanyl Addiction
Below are some other possible signs of fentanyl addiction.
This includes finding tools or items associated with drug use, such as:
- Small baggies
Frequent Visits to Different Doctors
Also known as “doctor shopping,” this is an attempt to get multiple prescriptions for fentanyl or other opioids.
This means needing more of the drug to achieve the desired effect or experiencing less effect with the usual amount.
If unable to get or use fentanyl, people may exhibit withdrawal symptoms including:
- Muscle aches
- Increased tearing
- Runny nose
- Sleep disturbances
Recognizing these signs and symptoms is the first step in getting help for someone struggling with fentanyl addiction. Due to the potent nature of fentanyl and the high risk of overdose, it’s essential to seek professional help if someone is suspected of misusing this substance.
Illicitly-Produced Fentanyl’s Contribution to the Addiction Crisis
The illicit production and distribution of fentanyl have played a significant role in intensifying the opioid addiction crisis in several ways.
Illicit fentanyl is much more potent than most other opioids. Even small amounts can cause a fatal overdose.
Given the potency difference, users accustomed to a certain volume of another opioid can easily overdose if that drug is mixed with fentanyl.
Mixing with Other Drugs
One of the most significant issues with illicit fentanyl is its introduction into the supply of other drugs.
Fentanyl has been found mixed with:
- Counterfeit prescription pills
Often, users are unaware of the presence of fentanyl, leading to unintentional overdoses.
No Quality Control
The secretive nature of illicit drug production means there’s no quality control. Two batches of illicitly manufactured drugs might have vastly different concentrations of fentanyl. This makes it easy for users to misjudge doses and accidentally overdose.
Cheaper and Easier to Produce
Fentanyl is cheaper and easier to produce than many other opioids. Given its potency, small amounts can be used to produce a large number of doses. This makes it financially attractive to drug traffickers and dealers, further incentivizing its presence in the illicit drug market.4
Smaller Trafficking Quantities
Fentanyl’s high potency-to-volume ratio means that it can get shipped and trafficked in much smaller quantities than other drugs. This makes it easier to conceal and distribute.
This has increased its rapid spread across the globe, especially through online markets.
Strong Physical Dependence
Due to its potency, the physical dependence associated with fentanyl can be particularly strong. This can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms that can drive continued use and deter people from seeking help.
Complicating the Opioid Crisis
The introduction of fentanyl into the drug market has complicated efforts to address the opioid crisis.
Traditional harm-reduction strategies, like providing access to naloxone (an opioid overdose reversal agent), may need to be adjusted. This is because fentanyl overdoses might take multiple doses of naloxone for revival.
Much of the illicit fentanyl found in countries like the U.S. has been linked to labs in China, from where it’s either directly shipped to users or trafficked through countries like Mexico.
This international component makes addressing the supply side of the crisis more complex, requiring international cooperation and coordination.
Proven Fentanyl Addiction Treatment Approaches
Addressing fentanyl addiction, like other opioid use disorders, often takes a combination of medical, psychological, and social interventions.
Below are several approaches that have shown promise in treating fentanyl addiction.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
MAT is the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies. The following are commonly used in MAT for opioid use disorders, including fentanyl addiction:
- Methadone: This is a long-acting opioid agonist. When administered under supervision in appropriate doses, it can suppress opioid withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings without producing euphoria.
- Buprenorphine: A partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine can also help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It’s often combined with naloxone (as in Suboxone) to prevent misuse.
- Naltrexone (Vivitrol): Unlike methadone and buprenorphine, naltrexone is an opioid antagonist. This means it blocks the effects of opioids. It’s available in oral form or as a monthly injection. It’s useful in preventing relapse.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management have been effective in treating opioid use disorders. These therapies help people identify and change negative patterns of thinking and behavior related to drug use.
Individual, group, and family counseling can offer:
- A platform for people to share their experiences and coping strategies
Harm Reduction Strategies
Due to the high risk of overdose with fentanyl, widespread distribution and training on the use of naloxone (an opioid overdose reversal agent) is crucial. Programs that equip opioid users, their families, and first responders with naloxone can save lives.
Supervised consumption sites are also part of harm reduction strategies. These are controlled settings where people can use drugs under the supervision of trained staff, who can intervene in the event of an overdose. They also offer access to social and health services.
Peer Support and Recovery Programs
Programs like Narcotics Anonymous or other peer-led recovery groups can provide ongoing community support for people in recovery.
Educational and Outreach Programs
Given the risks associated with fentanyl, especially its presence in other drug supplies, educating the public and drug-using populations about its dangers can save lives.
These programs often emphasize:
- Drug checking
- Safe use practices
- The importance of not using alone
Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment Centers
Depending on the severity of the addiction and the person’s circumstances, inpatient (residential) or outpatient treatment might be necessary.
These centers provide structured environments for:
- Other essential services
Aftercare and Relapse Prevention
Continuing care following initial treatment is vital. This can include:
- Ongoing therapy
- Regular check-ins with healthcare providers
- Sober-living arrangements
- Job training
Addressing potential co-occurring mental health disorders or other underlying issues in tandem with addiction treatment can be vital for long-term recovery.
Drug Testing and Monitoring
Regular drug tests can ensure that people remain abstinent and can catch potential relapses early.
Curbing the Rise of Fentanyl Addiction
Preventing the rise and devastating consequences of fentanyl addiction takes a multi-pronged approach, targeting various aspects of the problem.
Education and Awareness
One way to do this is to launch public awareness campaigns about the dangers of fentanyl, particularly its potency and the risks of overdose.
It’s also important to educate healthcare professionals about the risks associated with prescribing opioids. They need to be aware of the importance of monitoring patients for signs of misuse.
Prescription Monitoring Programs (PMPs)
These are electronic databases that track controlled substance prescriptions. They can help detect “doctor shopping” or over-prescribing of opioids.
Regulation and Enforcement
- Strengthening regulations around the prescription of opioids
- Improving international cooperation to target the production and trafficking of illicit fentanyl
- Increasing penalties for producers and traffickers of illicit fentanyl
Expand Access to Treatment
- Making medication-assisted treatment (MAT) more widely available
- Ensuring that insurance plans, including public ones, cover addiction treatment
Increase Availability of Naloxone
- Equipping first responders with naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal agent
- Making naloxone available over-the-counter or in community locations
- Providing training for community members on how to administer naloxone
Harm Reduction Programs
Establish supervised consumption sites where people can use drugs under medical supervision. Provide free drug-checking services so users can test substances for the presence of fentanyl.
Establish community-based programs that engage those at risk of fentanyl addiction, offering:
It is extremely beneficial for the cause when individuals fund and promote research into non-addictive pain management alternatives. Also, it’s important to study the effectiveness of different treatment modalities for fentanyl addiction to refine best practices.
Address Root Causes
Implement strategies to address underlying drivers of substance misuse, such as:
- Socioeconomic disparities
- Mental health issues
Safe Disposal of Unused Medications
It’s helpful when support systems establish and promote drug take-back programs, allowing people to dispose of unused or unwanted medications safely.
How Can Vista Taos Help?
Vista Taos is a New Mexico rehabilitation center that specializes in the treatment of addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.
Here’s how we can help with the fentanyl addiction crisis:
Individualized Treatment Plans
We offer individualized treatment plans that consider the unique needs, strengths, and challenges of each patient. This approach ensures that treatment is more effective and tailored to the individual.
Fentanyl, due to its potency, can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. A supervised medical detox can ensure that patients safely and comfortably navigate the withdrawal process, reducing the risk of immediate relapse.
Various Therapy Options
Vista Taos offers various therapies, including:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Family therapy
- Group sessions
These modalities aim to address the underlying causes of fentanyl addiction and teach coping skills.
In addition to traditional therapeutic modalities, we also offer holistic treatments, such as:
- Recreational therapy
These methods can help patients develop a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment
Many people struggling with addiction also have co-occurring mental health disorders. Integrated treatment that addresses both the addiction and any underlying mental health concerns can be crucial for long-term recovery.
Rehabilitation centers often provide educational sessions on:
- The nature of addiction
- The risks associated with drug use
- Strategies for maintaining sobriety
This education can empower people to make informed decisions about their recovery.
We know that recovery doesn’t end when a patient leaves the facility. Aftercare programs, alumni groups, and relapse prevention training ensure that patients have the tools and support they need to maintain sobriety in the long term.
Our Treatment Environment
At Vista Taos, we maintain a safe environment for all patients and their loved ones. Rehabilitation centers offer a drug-free environment, away from triggers and stressors, allowing people to focus on their recovery.
Peer support is also important to us. Being surrounded by others who are on the same journey can offer:
Our peer support program can be a powerful component of the recovery process.
Addiction affects not just the individual but also their family and loved ones. Family therapy sessions and family educational programs help repair strained relationships and ensure that the patient has a supportive environment when they return home.
Vista Taos stands as a beacon of hope for those grappling with the chains of fentanyl addiction. Recognized for our holistic and patient-centered approach to substance abuse recovery, we offer a sanctuary where people can get medical and psychological support tailored to their unique needs.
Choosing Vista Taos
Fentanyl addiction, given its intense potency, takes meticulous care during the detoxification phase, which Vista Taos provides through its medically supervised detox programs. This ensures the safety and well-being of clients as they navigate the challenges of withdrawal.
Beyond detox, the facility’s dedicated team of professionals crafts individualized treatment plans that combine:
- Evidence-based therapies
- Holistic practices
- Education about the nature of fentanyl addiction
Building a Foundation for Recovery
Our multi-pronged approach not only addresses the immediate challenges of fentanyl addiction but also builds a strong foundation for sustained recovery, empowering people to reclaim their lives from the grip of this potent drug.
Contact Vista Taos Today
You don’t have to struggle with fentanyl addiction alone. Reach out to us today to get started on the path to an opioid-free life.
Ready to Renew Your Life and Well-Being?
Family recovery programs aim to help addicted individuals and their families in many ways. Here are some key goals: