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Fentanyl is one of the most powerful synthetic opioids available, and has been associated with tens of thousands of overdose deaths in recent years. Many of these deaths occur because an addict may purchase illicit drugs on the street or the Internet, unaware that what they are ingesting or injecting contains the potentially lethal drug, fentanyl, which is 50-100 times more potent than heroin.
But there are other ways to get into trouble with this drug. In addition to illicit or counterfeit drugs, fentanyl comes in various forms, including a lozenge, nasal spray, dissolvable film strips, a lollipop, or a dermal patch. This article will focus on the fentanyl patch, which contains a premeasured dosing that is absorbed through the skin. Fentanyl patches can be abused, leading to dependency and/or addiction eventually. When this occurs, professional fentanyl patch addiction treatment is in order.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a Schedule II controlled substance that is distributed under the brand names Duragesic, Actiq, and Sublimaze. Fentanyl was first created in the 1970s and has been used to treat chronic pain or as a supplement to other opioids as a measure against breakthrough pain in cancer patients. Fentanyl is very potent and can induce respiratory failure and death if abused.
In the past few years, illicit analogs of fentanyl have been manufactured in other countries and distributed on the street or online, usually as a cutting agent with heroin or as a counterfeit opioid pill. When the person ingests this deadly drug they are not aware that it is fentanyl they have taken, and can quickly become a statistic.
How Does Someone Become Addicted to a Fentanyl Patch?
The fentanyl patch was introduced in the 1990s, designed to dispense a constant controlled, measured dosing through the skin. The patch is coated with a gel that contains the drug, and as the skin absorbs it the pain relief effects are experienced. People can develop a dependency on these patches, using them for longer than is really needed because, when attempting to stop using the patch they experience withdrawal symptoms. Or, they may be psychologically addicted, believing they will be in terrible pain without the drug, even if their condition has healed or improved substantially.
The fentanyl dermal patch also provides opportunity for outright abuse. The gel, which contains a three-day supply of the drug, can be scraped off and then heated and injected intravenously, smoked, or vaped for a powerful high. Others may wear multiple patches simultaneously to increase the effects of the high. Any of these abuses can quickly lead to overdose death.
Signs of Fentanyl Patch Addiction
Someone who has been abusing fentanyl or any of its analogs will begin to display certain physical and behavioral symptoms. These symptoms might include:
- Labored breathing
- Chronic constipation
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Slowed heart rate
- Mood swings
- Trouble urinating
- Chest pain
- Withdrawing socially
- Reckless behavior
- Impaired judgment
- Concentration issues
These signs and symptoms of fentanyl patch abuse warrant professional help, such as a stepped-down, or tapering schedule in a medical detox environment, followed by addiction treatment.
Fentanyl Detox and Withdrawal Timeline
Breaking free of a fentanyl addiction or dependency begins initially with the detoxification process, through which the drug will slowly be tapered off. As the brain attempts to adjust to the absence of the opioid, withdrawal symptoms ensure. Detox and withdrawal from opioids is highly unpleasant, causing many who attempt it to give up and return to drug use. A medical detox setting can guide and support the individual through the process by managing the symptoms through various interventions.
Withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Muscle and joint pain
- Excessive sweating
- Runny nose
- Excessive yawning
- Psychomotor retardation or agitation
Generally, fentanyl detox progresses through three phases:
Phase I: Withdrawal symptoms commence between 12-30 hours after the last dose of fentanyl. This early phase lasts 48-72 hours and features muscle aches, runny nose, insomnia, perspiring, and agitation
Phase II: At this phase the withdrawal symptoms will peak. The symptoms include flu-like symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, runny nose, chills, fever, bone pain, agitation, anxiety, and depression. This phases lasts 3-5 days.
Phase III: The symptoms begin to subside at about one week, with cravings, anxiety, and depression lingering longer.
Medication-Assisted Fentanyl Patch Addiction Treatment
There are three drugs that are FDA approved for assisting in recovery from fentanyl patch abuse. These drugs can block the effects of the opioid, which in turn reduces drug cravings and can help sustain recovery. The drugs used in medication-assisted treatment include Suboxone, naltrexone, and methadone.
The medication is administered as part of a three-pronged approach for treatment of fentanyl addiction. In addition to the medication, a recovery program generally includes intensive psychotherapy to help the client shift the disordered addiction behaviors through cognitive behavioral therapy or a similar behavior-based therapy. The therapy sessions include individual psychotherapy sessions as well as small group sessions.
Addiction education classes and relapse prevention planning round out the core program elements, helping clients understand how addiction develops and also how to anticipate triggers and plan strategies for managing them. Rehab classes teach clients how to access coping tools and stress-reducing techniques that can give them some control over triggers. Other program elements might include holistic activities, such as yoga and meditation exercises.
Solutions 4 Recovery Provides Expert Fentanyl Patch Addiction Treatment
Solutions 4 Recovery is an Orange County, California-based rehab that specializes in individualized treatment plans. At Solutions 4 Recovery, we know that each client’s recovery needs are unique, so a cookie cutter approach to treatment is simply ineffective. We take much care in carefully designing a plan for each client, tailoring it to specifically address the features of their addiction or drug dependency, making it relevant and highly effective. If you are in need of fentanyl patch addiction treatment, contact Solutions 4 Recovery and allow our expert clinical team to design a recovery plan just for you. Call us today at (888) 417-1874.