How Can I Tell if Someone is Using Fentanyl?

how to know if they are using fentanyl

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Fentanyl is a Huge and Growing Problem

One of the most important things to be aware of is the nature of the drug your loved one may be using. So, what exactly is fentanyl? Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug derived from the poppy plant. If you suspect your loved one is using fentanyl, you should know it is highly addictive. Fentanyl comes in many different forms, including pressed pills and powder. Fentanyl also exists in pure and highly impure forms.

Because fentanyl is highly addictive, consistent fentanyl use changes the brain physically and physiologically. The hormonal imbalances it creates in the brain can be hard to reverse. Sadly, research has also found that fentanyl can deteriorate parts of the brain central to decision making, behavior, and stress response. Plus, it is powerfully addictive. When someone misuses fentanyl, they quickly develop a tolerance, making their brain dependent on taking more of the drug to achieve the same effect. The saddest fact of all? Fentanyl abuse is a growing problem.

How Common is Fentanyl Addiction?

Next, understanding how to tell if someone is using it helps to understand the severity of fentanyl misuse.

Fentanyl abuse happens to people young and old; it does not discriminate on who it will affect. Fentanyl use is rising, and the facts are alarming.

According to Drug Abuse Statistics:

  • Over 52% of Overdose victims have fentanyl in their system at the time of death.
  • Fentanyl OD rates have increased by 1,105 percent from 2012 to 2018.
  • Fentanyl came into play in 42,867 overdose deaths (OD) from May 2019 to May 2020.
  • Fentanyl overdoses are doubling compared to heroin overdoses. This alarming fact attributes to the rise in use, the higher potency, and the widespread availability of fentanyl.
  • In pain management clinics that test for drugs, an average of 5% of urine specimens tested positive for fentanyl.
  • Prescription fentanyl use is decreasing rapidly as doctors realize the high potential for abuse. However, illegal fentanyl created in clandestine labs is overtaking the black market.

Fentanyl use is a national problem hurting hundreds of thousands of Americans. As part of the larger community, it helps you to stay informed and know the signs. What affects one affects the whole. Fentanyl is a powerful drug with painful symptoms; the sooner you can help act against it, the better.

Spotting Fentanyl Addiction Symptoms

Now, let’s explore the common fentanyl addiction symptoms so you can know what to look out for. Unfortunately, if it has reached the point of suspicion, that may mean your loved one is using fentanyl, and these symptoms make it harder to hide.

The major signs of fentanyl addiction may include:

  • agitation or drowsiness
  • depression
  • constricted (smaller) pupils
  • needle marks (if injecting the drug)
  • memory problems
  • constipation
  • runny nose or nose sores (if snorting the drug)
  • increased pain tolerance

What else does a fentanyl addict face?

Another tell-tale sign is a major behavior change.
You may notice that this person is no longer performing well at school or work.
They may have stopped taking care of themselves and started mishandling money.
There are a variety of risky behaviors that may be the fault of fentanyl abuse.
Fentanyl addiction may even make your loved one exhibit physical changes.

So, what does a fentanyl addict look like? How fentanyl physically affects an individual can vary depending on many factors.
Usually, fentanyl users may have a dry mouth, flushed skin, and constricted pupils.

Did you know there are even symptoms associated with someone attempting to quit?

What are fentanyl withdrawal symptoms like?

Say your loved one has been secretly using, and they stop cold turkey, and these are some of the withdrawal symptoms they may face:

  • Restlessness
  • Pain in their muscles and bones
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • cold flashes with goosebumps
  • Unusual leg movements

Ultimately, fentanyl is a drug that carries many burdens for the user. Even quitting can be uncomfortable and should be done in a controlled manner. You may feel in over your head but remember that just because it is difficult does not mean it is impossible. People take drugs for various reasons that are ultimately out of their control. Your loved ones can overcome this battle, and you can help encourage them to do so.

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I Know They Are Using Fentanyl, Now What?

Now, a range of environmental, genetic, and psychological factors influence why your loved one may have started to use. Addiction might run in the family, or they may be dealing with an invisible mental health issue.

Whether you are potentially dating a fentanyl addict or raising one, it is important to know the next steps to take. An intervention may be your first thought, but studies have found that they are ineffective and can have an adverse effect. Rather than risk potentially isolating your loved one instead, you should provide incentives for them to seek treatment. Treatment is your and your family’s number one defense against fentanyl abuse.

Remember not to internalize any behaviors your loved one might exhibit. It is equally important that you take proper care of yourself. You do not want to enable the addiction by reacting emotionally and caving into this person’s negative needs. Enabling can often draw out the addiction journey, so it is best to avoid those behaviors. Instead, remain strong, open, and communicative. Reward the positive behaviors and remember that treatment is the priority.

How Do I Get A Loved One Help for Fentanyl Addiction?

Fortunately, if you suspect your loved one is using, there are a variety of treatments that work to combat fentanyl addiction. The two main categories for treatment are behavioral therapies and medication-based (pharmacological). These therapies help reverse the damage done to the individual’s brain and regulate their behavior.

Behavioral Therapy

Therapies under this umbrella are great for shifting the negative behaviors associated with fentanyl abuse. They work by retraining the same reward system that formed a dependence on the drug to instead find value in stopping it. Specific behavioral therapies like contingency management provide rewards for clean drug tests. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps manage expectations related to drug use and provides tools to help manage life’s stressors. Both are highly effective, and the approach is based on the specific needs of your loved one.

Pharmacological Therapy

Medication-based therapy is the other effective option users have at their disposal. Research has shown that medication can help people get and stay in treatment. Remember those horrible withdrawal symptoms? Medications can be a great way to help your loved one safely wean off of fentanyl and avoid a relapse. Taking a drug to quit a drug may seem counterintuitive. Still, as Drug Abuse notes, “Medications developed to treat opioid use disorders work through the same opioid receptors as the addictive drug but are safer and less likely to produce the harmful behaviors that characterize a substance use disorder.

Behavioral and pharmacological are both highly effective but provide the most impact when combined. Put, your loved one has access to options that work. You can rest assured that professional treatment will give them the tools they need to overcome the ups and downs. Ultimately, treatment benefits the entire family.

Do Not Hesitate to Seek help.

Finally, now that you can spot the fentanyl addiction symptoms, it can be a great time to use your resources. Take advantage of local support groups, communicate with doctors, and continue to do research. There may be some uncomfortable conversations, but ultimately, they are part of what creates real change. Once your loved one makes it to therapy, they will embark on an entirely new journey, and your family can let go of the burdens of the past. The recovery process may have its challenges, as quitting a drug as powerful as fentanyl does not happen easily, but in the long run, it is the most positive decision your loved one could make on this journey.

Your loved one can break out of the cycle of addiction, but they will need some help. While there are many effective therapies to choose from, far too often, addiction can make the individual feel ashamed or embarrassed. They may even still hide the fact that they are using and reject your help initially. You may have to be their advocate and help them find help. Fortunately, you do not have to figure it all out yourself. Contact us today for assistance helping your loved one beat fentanyl addiction. 


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