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Opioid-related overdoses accounted for almost 70,000 American deaths in 2020. To give some perspective, in 2019, approximately 50,000 people died from opioid-related causes.

Scientists and physicians suspect a couple of factors caused the near twenty-thousand death toll increase during the past year. One of those reasons is the recent COVID-19 pandemic that has strained American households across the entire nation. What is the other reason?

Fentanyl. 

While opioids have primarily been around since the 1990s, synthetic drugs like fentanyl have only just recently come into the market. This deadly medication is almost 50 times stronger than heroin. 

If you are interested in learning more about how fentanyl has skyrocketed opioids into an epidemic status across the nation, then keep reading.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is in the same class of drugs as heroin and morphine. These drugs all fall under the classification of opioids, which essentially means that they attach to specific receptors in the brain that respond to pain or pleasure.

Many people use these drugs for pain relief, but this can soon turn deadly if addictive behaviors ensue. Heroin is a semi-synthetic drug, whereas fentanyl is fully synthetic. These slight differences in their chemical makeup are what make fentanyl much deadlier and powerful than its counterparts.

The potency of this drug leads providers to prescribe it for severe pain management. You can often see this drug used during post-surgery. 

Fentanyl administration is through a patch, injection, or lozenge. A fentanyl patch is likely seen in a home setting. A patch distributes fentanyl in a controlled manner through the bloodstream over the course of one to three days.

The illegal distribution of fentanyl on the black market is through powders, nasal sprays, or pills. There have been many occurrences where people do not know that they are taking fentanyl because the medication is laced with traces of it. 

It is becoming much more commonplace to mix fentanyl with other opioids. Some common opioid drugs that are mixed with fentanyl and sold by drug dealers are heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. 

As well as being powerful, the creation of fentanyl is cheaper than other drugs. This makes it a more likely choice for dealers to mix into other prescriptions. However, the potency of these recent concoctions is what has led to higher fentanyl-related overdoses.

In 2019 alone, the majority of opioid-related deaths were from fentanyl. A decade ago, fentanyl was only responsible for approximately 14% of deaths.

Your Brain On Fentanyl​

Fentanyl acts in a very similar way compared to morphine and heroin. With the increased use of opioid medications, your brain becomes more tolerant to the dosage. Essentially, this means that you are less likely to feel the effects of the drug. 

In return, this leads to increasing the amount you are taking or turning to alternative medications that give you the same physical effects of the drug. Some common effects of opioids, specifically fentanyl, include:

Many people take fentanyl for the first two effects. However, some people also use pain medication to help sleep at night.

Some of the physical effects fentanyl has on the body put people at a high risk of overdosing. Other negative side effects of fentanyl use are:

This poses the question: how long does fentanyl stay in your body? Fentanyl remains in a person’s system anywhere from 24 to 72 hours. Alcohol is strongly contraindicated if you are prescribed any sort of opioid. 

Alcohol can exacerbate the adverse side effects of opioids and lead to an even greater risk of overdosing.

Overdoses

Overdoses from opioids start from people obtaining access to them. Prescribed medications from physicians are one of the main avenues for the use of opioids. 

Since the 1990s, research has come out warning of the high risks for addiction with opioid prescriptions. However, they are still widely used across the nation. 

There are a couple of reasons why physicians continue to use opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone for pain relief. For starters – many patients continue to request the use of pain medication versus alternative treatments. Pain medication is an easier route than other forms of pain management, such as therapy or holistic remedies. However, prescription medications only have their uses for so long. 

This can lead to people turning to illegal drugs for either a stronger kick or because they no longer have access to their prescription—drugs such as heroin, morphine, and fentanyl are readily available on the streets. 

Most sources of fentanyl and heroin come from the Mexican border. While perfunctory efforts are being made to curb the sale and transfers of illegal opioids from the southern border, domestic affairs are focusing on eliminating unnecessary prescriptions of opioids. 

New legislation is limiting prescriptions for these addictive drugs. In return, this will hopefully encourage physicians and other health care providers to look towards different pain relief avenues for their patients.

Fentanyl Overdose Symptoms

Fentanyl overdoses are commonly seen by people who abuse heroin. As people become more tolerant of heroin, they turn to fentanyl to feel the euphoric high they are searching for. 

Heroin distribution comes in powder forms. Unfortunately, because of the production of fentanyl, it is more difficult to distribute as a powder. Often, drug dealers can’t dilute fentanyl as a powder which creates a higher likelihood of someone overdosing. 

This is one of the reasons many people accidentally overdose on fentanyl. Some common symptoms of a fentanyl overdose include:

If someone has overdosed on fentanyl, first responders are likely to use naloxone, or Narcan, as a means to reverse the effects. Narcan is also available through pharmacies and is recommended for anyone with a prescription for opioids.

Withdrawals

One of the main reasons it is so difficult for people to detox from opioids is the painful withdrawal symptoms. For those who have an addiction to heroin, or other opioids, the withdrawal process can last up to ten days

During this time, your body goes through a few different stages. During the first twelve hours, you will start seeing some of the physical effects of detoxing. These symptoms will peak around days two and three, on average. 

After a week or longer, the withdrawal symptoms should be subsiding. It is strongly advised that someone is monitored by trained and qualified staff members in a rehab center during this time. 

In fact, abruptly stopping heroin can lead to seizures, delusions, high blood pressure, and an elevated heart rate. Other withdrawal symptoms from opioids include:

Drug Rehab Centers

Drug rehab centers focus on individual treatment plans that work towards safely getting someone off of deadly drugs. This process varies from person to person but having trained clinicians on board helps this process go more smoothly. 

Medical professionals are critical in the beginning detoxing process for monitoring the symptoms mentioned in the withdrawal phase. Sometimes, patients require the assistance of other medications for detoxing. 

This is all provided in a safe environment with close supervision. 

In addition to detoxing from opioid medications, rehab centers focus on providing various counseling services. These programs and services are emphasized for long-term success. 

Some of the programs that are offered in a drug rehab center such as Inland Detox include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

CBT is a standard treatment implemented in a rehab center. It is used for treating drug addictions, alcohol abuse, and mental illnesses. 

CBT emphasizes the power that thoughts can have on someone’s behaviors. Through guided training, clinicians help teach clients how to restructure their thoughts for more positive thinking. 

Many times, distorted thinking and negative self-talk contribute to addictive behaviors and patterns. Working on coping strategies and problem-solving skills in a safe environment provides clients with long-term strategies to use in the outside world. 

Research has found that compared to different forms of treatment, such as medication and other therapies, CBT is just as effective or sometimes more effective in someone’s overall treatment.

Dual Diagnosis

Other ailments typically accompany addiction. These ailments take the form of mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Almost half of all people with mental health illnesses will also develop a substance abuse disorder. It is often too difficult to determine if a substance abuse problem causes a mental illness or vice versa. 

Many times, people turn towards self-medication for debilitating mental illnesses that lead to addictions down the road. Genetics, increased stress, and traumas place someone at a greater risk for addiction.

Additionally, research shows that there are higher risks of developing various mental health disorders when misusing opioids. For example, those who misuse opioids have a greater chance of developing depression. 

If you are already on prescription medications to treat mental illnesses such as anxiety, other drug use can interfere with its effectiveness. Treatment plans for dual diagnosis differ slightly from typical detoxes. 

Skilled providers are critical for the success of dual-diagnosis treatments since there are a variety of addictive substances and mental illnesses that people deal with.

Treatment

What do treatment plans look like for dual-diagnoses? In addition to depression and anxiety, treatment centers also look at other mental illnesses that impact addiction, such as:

Treatments like CBT are still helpful for a co-occurring illness. In conjunction with CBT, someone might encounter other forms of therapy like dialectical behavioral therapy, psychiatric evaluation, and family counseling.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is similar to CBT in that it acts as a type of cognitive therapy. There are four main goals with DBT. First, DBT focuses on training people to live in the here and now.

Many anxiety-ridden thoughts stem from thinking about uncontrollable aspects of the future. Second, trained clinicians use this approach for teaching coping mechanisms to stress. 

Third, DBT emphasizes the importance of managing and regulating one’s emotions through training tools. Lastly, DBT uses a client’s relationships to strengthen them in their recovery process. This is why other counseling tools such as family therapy are helpful in someone’s recovery process. 

Mindfulness is a significant component of DBT. Addiction rewires many parts of a person’s brain, including the reward center and dopamine release. As a person detoxes and develops strategies for healing, mindfulness helps someone stay calm and avoid negative thinking.

Mindfulness also teaches someone to live in the moment and avoid impulsive behaviors. If this sounds a lot like CBT, then you are right. Many of the same skills used in this setting are fluid between treatment plans. 

Research finds that this type of treatment is helpful for those dealing with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Since these are three common diagnoses seen with substance abuse, DBT is a valuable tool and program that is implemented in a drug and rehab center.

Treatments like CBT are still helpful for a co-occurring illness. In conjunction with CBT, someone might encounter other forms of therapy like dialectical behavioral therapy, psychiatric evaluation, and family counseling.

Inland Detox In Temecula Is Fighting The Fentanyl Epidemic

Fentanyl is a crisis that has spread across the nation and world. To combat this epidemic, steps are being taken at local and national levels to curb the distribution, sale, and use of opioids. 

The high risk that fentanyl poses for overdose-related deaths makes it one of the deadliest drugs on the market. If you or a loved one has an addiction to opioids or other prescription drugs, don’t wait to get help. 

Contact us today to learn more about how a drug and detox center can help turn someone’s life around.

Sources

  1. Felter, C. (2021, September 9). The U.S. Opioid Epidemic. Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/us-opioid-epidemic
  2. Fentanyl DrugFacts. (2021, June 30). National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl
  3. Fentanyl: What You Need to Know. (2021, September 7). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/fentanyl-what-to-know
  4. Davis, K. F. (2021b, September 16). Everything you need to know about fentanyl. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/308156#overdose
  5. Dual Diagnosis. (2021). Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/dualdiagnosis.html
  6. What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)? (2021, July 9). Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/dialectical-behavior-therapy-1067402