What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl belongs to a class of drugs called opioids. Like other opioids, it has a legitimate medical use: easing pain. Opioids work by changing how the body responds to and deals with, pain. Fentanyl’s original purpose was to abate pain in cancer patients (1). Doctors will prescribe fentanyl to patients recovering from surgery, or to those experiencing chronic pain. Prescription fentanyl may appear under brand names such as Duragesic, Subsys, Ionsys, Actiq, and Sublimaze. These prescriptions may take the form of a dermal patch on the skin, an injection, or even lozenges.
Without A Prescription
On the street, fentanyl might be known as Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, Tango and Cash, or TNT (3). Since fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine (2), a little goes a long way. For this reason, dealers will mix fentanyl with other drugs. It’s not unusual to see it combined with ecstasy (MDMA), cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin. Buyers have no way to determine how much fentanyl is in their supply. Therefore, overdoses can be very common.
Where Is The Danger?
As with other opioids, fentanyl alters how our brains respond to pain. A person under the influence of fentanyl might feel relaxed and mellow. They could experience some drowsiness and be sluggish. Fainting, nausea, and seizures are frequent side effects. Users often experience shortness of breath and can stop breathing altogether. Subsequently, the blood is deprived of an adequate supply of oxygen, a condition known as “hypoxia” (3). If a person remains in this state for too long, they could become comatose. During the COVID-19 pandemic, opioids like fentanyl have caused a tremendous spike in overdose deaths (4).
Is Treatment Available?
Absolutely. No two recovery journeys are exactly the same. Different treatments provide different results for different people. But recovery is always possible.
One option, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), is a two-pronged approach to recovery. MAT combines the use of medication with counseling. In conjunction with medication, therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can provide a person with a holistic path to recovery (5). Another alternative might be partial hospitalization (PHP), a semi-structured method of recovery that allows for plenty of outside activities. However, a recovering person might require less regimented options. Intensive Outpatient (IOP) programs could involve extended group meetings, taking place either in the morning or evening. Recovering persons might opt for family therapy, or nonverbal therapies like art, music, or yoga. For a person interested in learning more about aftercare, resources on future relapse prevention are readily available.
Recovery Is A Lifestyle
Outpatient (OP) treatment might involve a once-a-week commitment to group meetings, individual meetings with a therapist, or life-skills training. Continuing support is available from aftercare options like Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous. Other alternatives include Rational Recovery and faith-based programs like Celebrate Recovery. Recovery doesn’t end with the completion of a program. Or even several programs. Recovery never ends; it’s a lifestyle.