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.

Introduction

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

fentanyl addiction

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.

Potency

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.

Medical Use

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:

  • Injections
  • Patches
  • Lozenges

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

Physical Characteristics

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:

Physical Health

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:

  • Coma
  • Brain damage
  • Death

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.

Physical Dependence

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
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Severe cravings

Opioid Side Effects

Like other opioids, fentanyl can cause:

  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Sedation

Mental Health

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.

Mood Swings

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.

Pinpoint Pupils

Like other opioids, fentanyl can cause the pupils to constrict. This makes them appear very small.

Respiratory Depression

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.

Constipation

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
  • Chills

Behavioral Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction

Some behavioral symptoms of fentanyl addiction include:

Isolation

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.

Decreased Motivation

Reduced interest in activities they once enjoyed or a lack of motivation can be signs of fentanyl addiction.

Risk-Taking Behaviors

These behaviors occur especially when trying to get the drug, which can include illegal activities.

Neglected Responsibilities

This includes ignoring or failing to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home.

Financial Difficulties

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:

  • Whereabouts
  • Activities
  • Possessions

Other Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

Below are some other possible signs of fentanyl addiction.

Drug Paraphernalia

This includes finding tools or items associated with drug use, such as:

  • Syringes
  • Spoons
  • Foil
  • 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.

Increased Tolerance

This means needing more of the drug to achieve the desired effect or experiencing less effect with the usual amount.

Withdrawal Symptoms

If unable to get or use fentanyl, people may exhibit withdrawal symptoms including:

  • Anxiety
  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Agitation
  • 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.

Extremely Potent

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:

  • Heroin
  • Methamphetamine
  • Cocaine
  • 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.

International Trafficking

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.

Behavioral Therapies

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.

Counseling

Individual, group, and family counseling can offer:

  • Support
  • Education
  • 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:

  • Detoxification
  • Therapy
  • 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

Integrated Care

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

This includes:

  • 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

This includes:

  • Making medication-assisted treatment (MAT) more widely available
  • Ensuring that insurance plans, including public ones, cover addiction treatment

Increase Availability of Naloxone

This includes:

  • 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.

Community Outreach

Establish community-based programs that engage those at risk of fentanyl addiction, offering:

  • Education
  • Resources
  • Support

Support Research

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
  • Unemployment

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.

fentanyl addiction

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.

Supervised Detox

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:

These modalities aim to address the underlying causes of fentanyl addiction and teach coping skills.

Holistic Treatments

In addition to traditional therapeutic modalities, we also offer holistic treatments, such as:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • 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

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.

Aftercare

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

Peer support is also important to us. Being surrounded by others who are on the same journey can offer:

  • Support
  • Understanding
  • Camaraderie

Our peer support program can be a powerful component of the recovery process.

Family Therapy

Addiction affects not just the individual but also their family and loved ones. Family therapy sessions and family education 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
  • Counseling
  • 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.

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Ready to Renew Your Life and Well-Being?

Reach out to Vista Taos Renewal Center today and let us guide you toward sustainable recovery. We will help you heal from the addictions and substance use challenges that hinder you from leading your most fulfilled life through personalized, whole-person treatment.

Family recovery programs aim to help addicted individuals and their families in many ways. Here are some key goals: