Fentanyl addiction is a growing problem in the United States, with an increase of nearly 20,000 opioid overdoses from 2020 to 2021. Another fact to consider…synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths. In 2017, 59% of opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl, compared with 14% in 2010. As more people become addicted to the drug, the need for fentanyl addiction treatment is even greater to prevent more people from becoming part of those alarming statistics.
We’ll take a closer look at fentanyl, how it becomes addictive, the symptoms of addiction to fentanyl, and its side effects. We’ll also examine how opioid rehab in Arizona at Desert Cove Recovery can help to treat this addiction.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more powerful. While it can be prescribed to treat severe pain, especially after surgery, it is also used illegally.
Fentanyl can be given intravenously, intranasally, transdermally, or through the skin as a tablet or lozenge. Intravenous fentanyl is often used to treat pain after surgery, while patches can be used to manage chronic pain, especially in cancer patients.
When it is used illegally, fentanyl is often mixed with benzodiazepine, methamphetamine, cocaine, or heroin.
Continued after video:
How Does Fentanyl Become Addictive?
As a synthetic opioid, fentanyl blocks pain receptors in the brain and boosts dopamine levels. It attaches to opioid receptors in the central nervous system and other parts of the body. These receptors relieve pain by blocking pain signals that are sent from different body parts through the spinal cord to the brain.
Fentanyl is often taken for its euphoric effects, such as:
- Pain Relief
- Extreme Happiness
When people take fentanyl too frequently, they build a tolerance. This leads them to need more of the drug more often to get the same effects. This is what ultimately leads to addiction.
Signs of Fentanyl Addiction
While those dealing with a fentanyl addiction may try to hide their drug use, some signs can be red flags for fentanyl addiction. These include:
- Becoming secretive about actions and activities
- Changes in appearance such as losing weight or looking unkempt
- Appearing very lethargic suddenly (appearing to have heavy limbs)
- Not speaking clearly
- Engaging in risky behaviors
If you notice any of these behaviors in a loved one, it may be a sign of a substance abuse problem. Noticing these signs and helping people to get treatment can help them battle addiction and get on the path to a sober life.
Fentanyl Side Effects
Fentanyl can be extremely addictive, leading to rapid physical dependence and addiction. Physical side effects include:
While these short-term side effects can be damaging, the long-term effects of an opioid use disorder are even more concerning. These include:
Breathing can become very shallow or stop altogether due to fentanyl abuse. This can lead to dizziness, decreased oxygen flow to the brain, and loss of consciousness.
Fentanyl can lead to decreased mental function, making it harder to think clearly.
Long-term fentanyl use can cause heart damage and other cardiovascular problems. High blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and stroke are also common.
People are at high risk for a seizure when they inject opioids like fentanyl into their veins. Seizures can occur in people who have been using fentanyl for a long time or in those who are trying to quit.
Kidney Damage or Failure
Decreased blood flow to the kidneys can lead to permanent kidney damage.
Long-term opioid use can lead to severe liver damage, especially by injection. This includes scarring that makes it difficult for the liver to metabolize toxins.
Lowered Immune System
When someone has a fentanyl addiction, the body’s immune system becomes weak and can’t fight off infections. A weakened immune system increases the risk of someone getting sick. This is especially the case with people dealing with chronic conditions.
Overdose Effects of Fentanyl
While short-term and long-term effects are damaging, an overdose can occur when there is too much fentanyl in the body. The overdose effects of fentanyl abuse include: 
- Change in pupil size
- Cold and clammy skin
- Respiratory failure
Emergency response teams can give a medication called naloxone (Narcan) to treat fentanyl overdose. This medication works to knock fentanyl off opioid receptors to reverse the drug’s effects.
When there is a triad of symptoms such as coma, pinpoint pupils, and respiratory depression, opioid poisoning or overdose may be at play. This requires immediate medical attention.
Fentanyl Addiction and Withdrawal Symptoms
When people with an opioid use disorder stop using fentanyl, withdrawal symptoms can occur as early as a few hours after the drug was last taken. These symptoms include:
- Sleep problems
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Cold flashes and goosebumps
- Muscle pain
- Severe cravings
Because these symptoms can be uncomfortable, some people are given medications to help reduce cravings and cope with opioid withdrawal. Despite the withdrawal symptoms, the benefits of ridding the body of the drug far outweigh the risks of continuing to abuse fentanyl.
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment at Desert Cove Recovery
At Desert Cove Recovery, we help people with their fentanyl addiction by providing effective opioid rehab. Our services include:
- Individual and group counseling
- Referral to a detox program to safely wean off opioids under medical supervision
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Customized holistic treatments
Our team recognizes that each person’s addiction is different, so each treatment program needs to be customized to be effective. We work with each client to establish a fentanyl addiction treatment plan that works for them.
Call us today or contact us online to learn more about our services and how opioid rehab at Desert Cove Recovery can help you overcome your fentanyl addiction. We help people get sober and stay on that path.
Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2021/20211117.htm  https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl  https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Fentanyl-2020_0.pdf