As our nation continues to fight an epidemic of opiate and opioid addiction, it's more important than ever to understand the dangers of fentanyl. You may be wondering, ‘What is fentanyl? Isn't it legal? What are the risks of using it? What are the signs of addiction? What should I do if I'm addicted to fentanyl?'

Read on to have your pressing questions answered as we reveal the truth about this prescription drug.

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What is fentanyl?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fentanyl is a powerful prescription pain medicine-so strong, in fact, that it is 50-100x more potent than morphine.

Fentanyl is an opioid, which means it works by binding to pain receptors in your body. This dulls painful sensations and increases feelings of relaxation or euphoria.

It's why doctors prescribe fentanyl and other legal opioids to patients struggling with severe or chronic pain or recovering from surgery. In its prescribed form, fentanyl can be taken by injection, patches, or lozenges.

Over time, patients can develop an increased tolerance for the drug and may begin seeking out larger and more frequent doses. As an addiction develops, an individual may try "doctor shopping" to gather more fentanyl. If that doesn't work, he or she may turn to illegal sources for the drug.

In its non-prescription form, fentanyl is often swallowed, snorted, injected, or applied directly to the mouth for faster absorption.

What are the risks of fentanyl?

Fentanyl initially sparks a rush of euphoria, which can quickly become an addictive high. Despite those feelings of pleasure, this drug comes with a host of painful side effects, which may include nausea, confusion, constipation, and more. Because fentanyl suppresses respiratory functions, it can also cause users to stop breathing completely, which may result in a coma or death.

Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is unregulated and is often combined with other drugs or sold in unpredictable doses. This makes the risk of fatal overdose even stronger.

An addiction to fentanyl or other opiate painkillers also makes the user 40x more likely to use or become dependent upon heroin according to the CDC.

How do I know if I'm addicted to fentanyl?

For some fentanyl addicts, the dependency begins innocently enough when they're prescribed a pharmaceutical dose for pain management. Other users get hooked without a prescription-and while some first discover this drugs on the streets, that isn't always the case.

For example, nurses and anesthesiologists who have easy access to fentanyl through their jobs display a higher probability of abusing fentanyl than the general population.

If you're wondering whether or not you have an addiction to fentanyl, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I unable to experience happiness and pleasure without fentanyl?
  • Do I continue using fentanyl despite it causing problems in my relationships, career, and life?
  • Have I been taking increasingly large doses of fentanyl over an extended period of time?
  • Do I shop around to different doctors in an effort to get more prescription fentanyl than my doctor recommends?
  • Have I sold any belongings in order to afford more fentanyl?
  • Do I have to take more fentanyl (either in dosage size or frequency) in order to experience the same effects I saw in the beginning?
  • When I try to quit fentanyl, do I experience any withdrawal symptoms, such as fatigue, fever, insomnia, sweating, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle twitching, muscle cramps, or increased heart rate?

If you answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, you may be addicted to fentanyl.

What should I do if I'm addicted to fentanyl?

First, it's important to recognize that you should never try to detox from fentanyl on your own, as the withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable.

Hawaiian Island Recovery provides medically supervised detox to monitor your withdrawal symptoms and provide support. Our physicians are also authorized to prescribe suboxone for pain management. Detoxing at HIR allows you to gradually and more safely wean yourself off of fentanyl than you ever could on your own.

After detoxing, you'll need to spend more time in residential rehab to learn how to overcome your addiction and live a life of sobriety.

It's important to recognize the potency of this drug. Without professional support in addressing the mental and emotional components of your addiction, relapse is extremely likely.

At HIR, professional therapists incorporate the highly effective 12 Step Program while providing a wide range of therapy options. You'll have access to dual diagnosis therapy, wild dolphin assisted therapy, art and music therapy, and more.

Freedom from fentanyl is possible at HIR.

Please know that there is hope for a life free of your fentanyl addiction. At HIR, you'll join other residents and staff who understand where you are and can help you beat this addiction once and for all.

One HIR resident who was addicted to pain pills and cocaine recently shared, "I have never been to rehab in my life, and I was so afraid of detox and being miserable without pills and drugs. I wish I [had come] to HIR sooner, because they made it so easy for me.

If you or a family member is considering treatment, I will highly suggest HIR. They have the best staff to accommodate your needs and are very compassionate and accommodating."

If you or a loved one is addicted to fentanyl, please call us now at (866) 390-5070.