Fentanyl abuse and addiction has become a major health crisis in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2018 is the last year the CDC has a full set of data available regarding fentanyl use and the use of other opioid drugs. In that year, over 31,000 people died in the United States as the result of fatal synthetic opioid overdoses. That represented a 10 percent increase over the prior year. Law enforcement officials and addiction treatment specialists attribute the lion’s share of this increase to the ever-growing abuse of fentanyl. Because of the truly dire consequences that can be associated with fentanyl abuse and addiction, it is important to understand how treatment for fentanyl addiction works. In the final analysis, seeking and obtaining treatment for fentanyl addiction can be the difference between life and death.

Overview of Fentanyl

Fentanyl exists in one of two common forms. First, there is fentanyl that is formulated and manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. Second, there is fentanyl that is illegally manufactured in makeshift labs. 

Chemically, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever. Pharmaceutical fentanyl typically is used to aid people with advanced cancer to address their pain. Fentanyl is between 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. 

Fentanyl typically is prescribed to patients in one of two forms. These are patches and lozenges. 

On the illegal market, illicitly manufactured fentanyl is sold on its own for its heroin-like effect on a user. Fentanyl is cut with some other substance because pure fentanyl would be deadly. In addition to being sold on the illegal market on its own, fentanyl is also mixed with heroin and cocaine. In some cases, heroin and cocaine users are aware of the addition. In other cases, heroin and cocaine users are not aware that fentanyl is added to their drug of choice. Either way, the addition of fentanyl to heroin or cocaine can prove to be a deadly combination. 

At the present time, fentanyl overdoses – including fatal ones – have been more prevalent in the eastern half of the United States. This does not mean that fentanyl misuse, addiction, overdose, and death isn’t a problem in the western half of the nation, including in California.

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment and Medically Managed Detox

The first step in a fentanyl addiction treatment program is medically managed detox. The reality is that withdrawal from fentanyl likely is to be a harrowing process on a physical, psychological, and emotional level. The withdrawal process can result in physical symptoms that are so profound that death is a possibility.

Because of the challenging nature of stopping the use of fentanyl, the recommended course is for a person who abused or is addicted to fentanyl be placed in a medically managed detox setting. Medically managed fentanyl detox ensures a person a safe environment in which to get through the withdrawal and detoxification process.

Inpatient Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

Drug addiction is treated on both an inpatient and outpatient basis. The reality of fentanyl, in nearly all cases, the advised course is for a person who abused this drug or is addicted to it to embark on a course of inpatient treatment. 

Inpatient treatment for fentanyl addiction includes a medical component. Because fentanyl can have a significantly negative impact on a user’s body, ideally an inpatient treatment program includes providers with backgrounds in medical care and treatment. This part of the team may also include psychiatrists as well as physicians. 

The typical patient treatment center develops an individualized course of recovery for each participant. The fact is that each individual arrived at laboring under a fentanyl addiction through a unique pathway. As a consequence, a treatment program needs to recognize the unique needs, goals, and objectives of each individual seeking to beat a fentanyl addiction.

A fentanyl addiction recovery program typically involves individual therapy as well as group therapy. Many addiction recovery programs also incorporate an array of other elements into their processes. These can include everything from family therapy to job skills enhancement to health eating and fitness.

Many people who seek treatment for fentanyl abuse or addiction suffer from what is known as another comorbidity. This means that in addition to an addiction issue, a person also has a mental health condition or emotional issue. Many recovery programs offer specialized courses of treatment designed to meet the needs of a dual diagnosis of fentanyl abuse or addiction and a mental health or addiction issue. 

Addiction Treatment Aftercare and Relapse Prevention Program

Recovery from fentanyl addiction is an ongoing process and not a destination. As a result, when an inpatient phase of treatment concludes, a person in treatment for fentanyl addiction embarks on aftercare and relapse prevention. This phase typically includes the same types of elements included in the inpatient component of treatment: individual therapy, group therapy, and involvement in a support group like narcotics anonymous.