Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
What does fentanyl do to a person?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It's typically used to treat severe pain, especially after surgery, or to manage pain in individuals with chronic illnesses who have developed a tolerance to other opioids.
When used under medical supervision, fentanyl can effectively relieve pain. However, when used illicitly or without a prescription, it can have severe, and even fatal, effects. Here's what fentanyl can do to a person:
Physical Effects: In the short term, fentanyl can induce feelings of relaxation, euphoria, and decreased perception of pain. However, it also slows breathing and can lead to unconsciousness or death from respiratory failure, particularly in high doses or when combined with other substances that depress the central nervous system.
Dependency and Addiction: Fentanyl is highly addictive. Regular use can lead to physical dependence, where the body requires the drug to function normally, and psychological addiction, where a person feels a compulsive need to use the drug despite its harmful consequences.
Overdose Risk: Due to its potency, the risk of overdose with fentanyl is high, especially if a person mistakenly believes they're taking a less potent opioid, as illicit fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs. Overdose can lead to severe respiratory depression, unconsciousness, and death.
Withdrawal: Once a person becomes dependent on fentanyl, stopping its use can result in withdrawal symptoms. These can include muscle and bone pain, sleep problems, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, and uncontrollable leg movements.
Long-Term Health Effects: Chronic fentanyl use can lead to an array of health problems, including severe constipation, increased sensitivity to pain, confusion, depression, and increased risk of infections due to needle sharing (if injected).
Due to its potency and high risk of overdose, non-medical use of fentanyl is extremely dangerous. If you or someone you know is struggling with fentanyl or other opioid use, it's crucial to seek professional help immediately.
What does drug withdrawal feel like?
Drug withdrawal is a complex process that can feel different for everyone, depending largely on the type of substance involved, the duration and intensity of use, and individual factors like overall health and genetic predisposition. However, some general experiences and symptoms are often associated with the withdrawal process:
Physical Symptoms: Many people experience physical discomfort or illness during withdrawal. Depending on the substance, this can range from flu-like symptoms (such as fever, chills, sweating, muscle aches, and fatigue) to more severe symptoms like seizures or hallucinations. Opioid withdrawal, for example, is often compared to a severe flu, while alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening in severe cases.
Psychological Symptoms: Withdrawal can also involve psychological symptoms like anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and cravings for the substance. These can be just as challenging, if not more so, than the physical symptoms.
Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia is a common symptom of withdrawal from many substances, while vivid or disturbing dreams may occur when withdrawing from others.
Discomfort and Distress: Generally, withdrawal can be a very uncomfortable and distressing process. The body has become used to the presence of the substance, and it can react strongly when the substance is no longer available.
Cravings: One of the most challenging aspects of withdrawal for many people is the intense cravings for the substance. These cravings can be both physical and psychological, and they can be triggered by various factors, including stress, people, places, or things associated with substance use.
How to help someone that is detoxing from opioids?
Helping someone detoxing from opioids is a delicate process that requires careful attention, support, and understanding. Here are some ways you can assist:
Encourage Professional Help: Detoxing from opioids should ideally be done under the supervision of healthcare professionals. Encourage them to seek professional help, as this ensures their safety throughout the process and provides them with the best chance for successful recovery.
Learn About Opioid Withdrawal: Understanding the process of opioid withdrawal can help you be more empathetic and supportive. Symptoms can include anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and flu-like symptoms such as sweating and diarrhea. Also, be aware of Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), which can present psychological symptoms like mood swings and depression for weeks or months after the initial detox period.
Provide Emotional Support: Be patient, understanding, and supportive. Listen to them, be there for them, and reassure them that they're not alone in this process. Avoid shaming or blaming, which can increase feelings of guilt and discourage recovery efforts.
Support Their Treatment Plan: Help them stick to their treatment plan. This could involve driving them to appointments, ensuring they take prescribed medications, or helping them manage their schedule to accommodate therapy or support group meetings.
Promote Healthy Habits: Encourage them to eat healthily, exercise, and get enough sleep. These habits can help strengthen their physical health and resilience during detox and recovery.
Limit Triggers: Help create an environment that minimizes triggers for drug use. This might involve clearing out substances and paraphernalia, or avoiding places or people associated with drug use.
Join a Support Group: Consider attending a support group for friends and family members of people with substance use disorders, such as Nar-Anon. These groups can offer valuable advice, resources, and support for you as you help your loved one.
Take Care of Yourself: Supporting someone through detox can be emotionally demanding. Make sure to take care of your own mental and physical health, too. Self-care isn't selfish�''it's crucial for you to be able to provide sustained support to your loved one.