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What Are 5 Signs Somebody Is Addicted to Fentanyl?

What Are 5 Signs Somebody Is Addicted to Fentanyl?
Raul Haro
December 24, 2023
For those with loved ones addicted to fentanyl, life can be terrifying and confusing. Every day, newspaper articles and TV talk-show hosts talk about the increasing amount of overdose deaths. It's currently a national crisis, and it's understandable why someone would be fearful about the well-being of their loved one. Regardless of whether they are […]
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What Are 5 Signs Somebody Is Addicted to Fentanyl?

For those with loved ones addicted to fentanyl, life can be terrifying and confusing. Every day, newspaper articles and TV talk-show hosts talk about the increasing amount of overdose deaths. It's currently a national crisis, and it's understandable why someone would be fearful about the well-being of their loved one. Regardless of whether they are addicted to fentanyl or not, a loved one is still loved, and it can be frustrating and painful to watch their life spiral out of control. 

That's why there are dedicated addiction treatment facilities working to save as many lives as possible. One such facility is Pathways Wellness Center, which works hard to spread awareness about the substance abuse crisis. Pathways Wellness Center is dedicated to not just quality addiction treatment but addiction education and the de-stigmatization of mental health care. This addiction education is vital, as it helps the public recognize the signs of addiction so they can get help right away. 

Getting help right away can help someone addicted to fentanyl recover safely and smoothly. All addictions are challenging to overcome because they change how the brain functions. However, the longer someone has an addiction, the more challenging it is. This is especially true with potent substances, including those addicted to fentanyl. Fentanyl itself is dangerous. The longer someone abuses fentanyl, the greater the chance of becoming another overdose statistic. 

However, help is possible, especially for those who want to change and overcome their addiction. Those with loved ones addicted to fentanyl can receive professional help at any time at Pathways Wellness Center. As a society, everyone is in it together, and it takes great social change to overcome the substance abuse crisis. Education is vital, especially when it comes to a complicated and potent drug like fentanyl. 

Unpacking Fentanyl: A Potent Opioid

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid pain reliever that is used to treat severe pain. It is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. When properly prescribed and monitored, it can help many people find relief from pain related to advanced cancer and surgery. Legitimate fentanyl is prescribed in several different forms depending on its purpose. It can be found in nasal/oral spray, tablet, or lozenge (for cancer pain), and as a patch or injectable liquid for post-surgery pain management. However, fentanyl is highly addictive. Despite being a strictly controlled substance, some people illegally make fentanyl to sell and abuse.

Illegally made fentanyl (IMF) is typically smuggled into the country where it is sold on the street. It's also known as "designer" fentanyl and can have several analogs. These can be highly dangerous as IMFs are not held to the same standard as typically manufactured fentanyl for medical use. IMFs typically take the form of a liquid or powder and are often combined with other opioids, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. This mixing of drugs contributes to the increasing rate of fatal overdoses, as many people have no idea that their drugs are laced with fentanyl. IMFs are typically consumed by injection, snorting, smoking, and taken orally by pill/tablet or spiked onto blotter paper.

Regardless if it's legitimate or illegally made, fentanyl is still an opioid. This means it works by binding to the receptors of the brain that control pain and emotion. This can cause feelings of euphoria and relaxation, which is what those addicted to fentanyl are looking for. Most start out looking for a way to numb and relieve pain, but quickly become dependent and addicted to fentanyl over time. For short-term effects, fentanyl can cause the following:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Hallucinations
  • Low blood pressure
  • Delirium 
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Overdose 

The longer someone is addicted to fentanyl the deadlier the effects become. Each time someone abuses fentanyl in any form, they run the risk of an overdose. It's significantly safer to take fentanyl as prescribed because patients are monitored by medical professionals. Abusing fentanyl offers no such protection and gets increasingly risky, especially when mixed with other drugs. The most common long-term effects a person might experience when abusing fentanyl include:

  • Dependence, which often becomes an addiction
  • Increased risk for infectious blood-borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis if they share or use “dirty” needles
  • New or worsened mental health disorders, especially depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation
  • Permanent brain damage due to hypoxia, which can occur after an overdose
  • Overdose 

Recognizing a Fentanyl Overdose

The longer someone remains addicted to fentanyl, the more likely they are to experience an overdose. Remember, fentanyl is incredibly potent. People have overdosed using it only once. It's important to recognize the signs of an overdose and take immediate action, as it can save a life. The common signs of a fentanyl overdose include: 

  • Falling asleep, losing consciousness, or severe sleepiness
  • Slow, weak, or no breathing
  • Cold and/or clammy skin
  • Small, constricted "pinpoint pupils"
  • Acting dizzy or confused
  • Feeling faint
  • Unresponsiveness and/or limp body
  • Trouble walking or talking
  • Choking or gurgling sounds
  • Discolored skin (especially on lips and nails)
  • Slow heartbeat

If someone has admitted to taking fentanyl and experiences any of the above symptoms, they should be taken to the hospital right away. The faster someone receives treatment, the more likely they will survive the overdose. 

5 Signs That Someone Is Addicted to Fentanyl

There are many noticeable signs and symptoms of fentanyl addiction. By noticing these signs, it's easier to tell when someone is addicted to fentanyl and thus can get treatment. Fentanyl can affect the body and behavior of those who use it. Those addicted to fentanyl also experience social, financial, psychological, and cognitive problems that can cause permanent damage. Again, it's important to recognize these signs quickly, as swift treatment can save lives. 

#1. Physical Signs That Someone Is Addicted to Fentanyl

Fentanyl affects the brain and how it functions. The biological and automatic functions that keep us alive can be affected greatly by fentanyl use. Even when using fentanyl as prescribed and under the supervision of a doctor, people still experience side effects that can range in severity. The five common physical signs displayed by those addicted to fentanyl include:

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Slowed or shallow breathing
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Gastrointestinal problems (nausea, vomiting, constipation)
  • Bluish lips or nails (due to oxygen deprivation)

#2. Behavioral Signs That Someone Is Addicted to Fentanyl

As mentioned above, fentanyl affects the brain. This can have a direct influence on someone's behavior that can gradually worsen over time. Those addicted to fentanyl are prone to risky behavior and obsession the further the addiction worsens. They may also withdraw from loved ones to hide their fentanyl use. The five common behavior signs associated with fentanyl addiction include:

  • Increasing dosage or frequent usage due to built tolerance
  • Withdrawing from social or recreational activities
  • A noticeable obsession with obtaining and using the drug
  • Risky behaviors, such as using unsanitary needles
  • Periods of hyperactivity followed by sudden nodding off

#3. Drug Paraphernalia Associated With Fentanyl

When people are addicted to fentanyl, they have to consume the drug to feel its effects. For some, it's as simple as swallowing pills or putting on a patch. However, some consumption methods require tools, such as needles or pipes. These tools and items associated with drug use are called paraphernalia. Sometimes, possession of this paraphernalia is enough to tip someone off that their loved one may be addicted to fentanyl. The five common types of drug paraphernalia associated with fentanyl include:

  • Empty prescription bottles or patches (either obtained illegally or misused prescriptions)
  • Small baggies filled with powder
  • Syringes or needles, especially in possession of those with no legitimate use (such as diabetics needing needles to administer insulin)
  • Pipes and makeshift smoking devices, if consumed by smoking
  • Small baggies of loose tablets or pills

#4. Social and Financial Indicators of Fentanyl Addiction

When someone is addicted to fentanyl, it causes a ripple effect throughout their lives. This can cause serious financial and social consequences, some of which can bring trouble with the law. It's important to examine someone's ability to maintain responsibilities, such as paying bills and going to work. When someone starts suddenly dropping responsibilities or completely isolating from loved ones, it can be a sign that they are addicted to fentanyl. The five common social and financial indicators of fentanyl addiction include:

  • Self-isolation from family and close friends
  • Unexplained financial hardships or frequent borrowing of money
  • Loss of job, or frequently missing school or work
  • New peer groups, especially those known for drug use
  • Experiencing legal troubles, such as charges of theft, possession, and public intoxication

#5. The Psychological and Cognitive Decline of Those Addicted to Fentanyl

Fentanyl can affect someone's psyche and cognitive ability. This is because fentanyl alters the brain, which can lead to long-lasting symptoms. Those addicted to fentanyl also experience high levels of stress due to their addiction, which can impact their overall mental health. The five most common psychological and cognitive impacts of fentanyl addiction include: 

  • Depression or mood swings
  • Increased irritability or agitation
  • Difficulty concentrating or memory issues
  • Paranoia or anxiety
  • Reduced motivation or drive in daily tasks

Constructive Responses to Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

Now that someone has noticed the signs, it's time to have a serious discussion with their loved one addicted to fentanyl. It may seem like a good idea to just go in right away for a confrontation, but this can have negative consequences. When directly confronted with blame and judgment, someone addicted to fentanyl will only deny that they have a problem. Humans do not want to feel shame or feel judged, so they will do anything to mitigate these feelings. Instead, time should be taken to create a loving but informative intervention. Confrontations come from a place of anger while interventions come from a place of love.

People don't have to plan interventions by themselves. There are specialized mental health care professionals whose job is to help plan and mediate these discussions. Pathways Wellness Center has professionals on staff who can help loved ones in several ways. The first is that they can help loved ones get their thoughts together before they speak with the person addicted to fentanyl. Secondly, they can offer a neutral space for the intervention to take place. Thirdly, they can be there to answer questions and provide information to the person addicted to fentanyl. People struggling with addiction are more likely to accept help if they know that a program is ready to help them.

When talking to someone addicted to fentanyl, remember to stay supportive. The goal is to get them to admit that they need help and seek addiction treatment. Berating or yelling at them will not encourage them to seek help. Instead, bring up that they are loved and cared for, but their behavior is worrisome and hurts the ones who love them. Be honest, but also be compassionate. Everyone should get a chance to speak and be listened to. Again, having a professional mediator can be helpful for this conversation. Sometimes, people can have a mock conversation with a mental health professional to prepare ahead of time.

Having proper support is vital to addiction recovery, especially for those addicted to fentanyl. That is why Pathways Wellness Center offers several programs and therapies to help foster healthy relationships. For those in treatment, there is a peer network program that can help those in recovery support each other. Families and loved ones can make use of family therapy, which can help foster healthy communication between the client and their family. Sometimes, it's prudent for those with loved ones addicted to fentanyl to receive therapy themselves to help them navigate this challenging time.

From Addiction to Recovery at Pathways Wellness Center

Those struggling with fentanyl addiction can find comprehensive and quality addiction treatment at Pathways Wellness Center. With an emphasis on scientifically backed holistic treatment, clients have many treatment options. Clients can find conventional treatments, such as psychotherapy and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) as part of a treatment plan. However, they can also experience other types of therapies. These range from being outdoors in adventure therapy to expressing oneself through art therapy. Each treatment plan is custom-tailored to each individual, making sure that each client has the greatest chance of success. 

Pathways Wellness Center is an outpatient treatment facility. That means clients come during the day to receive treatment and then go home to rest. There are two programs currently offered: the partial hospitalization program (PHP) and the intensive outpatient program (IOP). Both are different but include the same type of therapies. PHPs are best suited for those who have finished residential treatment and need help managing their cravings or are at risk for a relapse. IOPs are best suited for those who finished a PHP, or are ready to transition back to society but need some extra support. Both types of programs can help those addicted to fentanyl recover, as no addiction is too severe for treatment.

Pathways Wellness Center is not just a place for addiction treatment. It's a place where people can build a sober community, ask questions, and be educated about addiction. Pathways Wellness Center strives to foster a healthy community where every person knows that help is possible. People are always welcome to contact Pathways Wellness Center to ask questions, receive education, or even get encouragement. Fentanyl addiction is no joke, and the more people are educated about it, the less people are lost to it. 

Everyone everywhere needs to be aware of some truths. People who are addicted to fentanyl are still deserving of help and compassion. Addiction is not a punishment and can happen to anyone at any time. Anyone can recover from addiction, no matter how severe the addiction is. It takes everyone working together to be aware of the signs of fentanyl addiction and to reach out with a loving, compassionate hand to guide people into seeking help. 

When you or someone you love is struggling with fentanyl addiction, it can be an overwhelming and frightening experience. However, there are places one can turn to for help to overcome their addiction. Here at Pathways Wellness Center in Glendora, California, clients can expect comprehensive and individualized treatment designed to help them achieve long-lasting recovery. For those who are afraid of being judged or ridiculed, they have nothing to fear. At Pathways Wellness Center, those in need of help are met with compassion and understanding. With a focus on holistic treatments, clients not only recover from addiction they also become healthier people. If you or a loved one is struggling with a fentanyl addiction, call (888) 771-0966 today.

About the Author

Raul Haro
Raul Haro is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with sixteen years of experience working in both the inpatient and outpatient setting. As an LMFT, He has trained in trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR. Raul has furthered his training in the drug and alcohol field by obtaining a Masters in Drug and Alcohol Counseling through CCAPP. Raul has a background in nursing where he has been an LVN for over 25 years. Recently, he has returned to school to complete a degree in Registered Nursing. Future plans are for Raul are to eventually complete a degree as a Nurse Practitioner combining his therapy practice with his nursing skills.

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