Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
Facts about fentanyl
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that has garnered significant attention in recent years due to its role in the opioid crisis. Here are some essential facts about fentanyl:
Potency: Fentanyl is estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin. Due to its high potency, it is prescribed in micrograms (mcg) rather than the milligrams (mg) typically used for other opioids.
Medical use: Fentanyl is primarily used in medical settings to manage severe pain, such as chronic pain or breakthrough pain in cancer patients. It is also used as an anesthetic during surgical procedures. Fentanyl is available in various forms, including transdermal patches, lozenges, tablets, and injections.
Illicit use: Fentanyl has become a significant concern in the illicit drug market due to its potency and relatively low production cost. Illegal fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, or counterfeit prescription pills, increasing the risk of overdose for unsuspecting users.
Overdose risk: Fentanyl's potency makes it particularly dangerous, as even a small amount can cause an overdose. Signs of fentanyl overdose include slow or shallow breathing, unresponsiveness, pinpoint pupils, cold and clammy skin, and loss of consciousness. Fentanyl overdoses can be fatal if not promptly treated.
Naloxone: Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is an opioid antagonist that can rapidly reverse the effects of a fentanyl overdose by displacing the drug from the opioid receptors in the brain. Due to fentanyl's potency, multiple doses of naloxone may be necessary to reverse an overdose effectively.
Fentanyl analogs: There are numerous fentanyl analogs or derivatives, such as carfentanil, acetylfentanyl, and furanylfentanyl. These analogs can have varying potencies, often significantly stronger than fentanyl itself, which can further increase the risk of overdose and fatalities.
Legal classification: Fentanyl is a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States, indicating that it has a high potential for abuse and dependence but also has accepted medical uses. Illicit fentanyl and its analogs are often classified as Schedule I substances, indicating that they have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
Addiction and dependence: Fentanyl, like other opioids, carries a risk of addiction and physical dependence. Chronic use can lead to tolerance, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effect, and withdrawal symptoms if usage is reduced or stopped abruptly.
What is the most common substance abuse disorder?
The most common substance use disorder globally is alcohol use disorder (AUD). This disorder, often referred to as alcoholism, is characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.
Alcohol use disorder is defined by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two of eleven criteria, within a 12-month period.
The criteria include issues like spending a lot of time drinking, or recovering from drinking, giving up important social or recreational activities in favor of drinking, developing a tolerance (needing to drink more to achieve the desired effect), experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, and continuing to drink even when it's causing physical or psychological problems.
It's important to note that substance use disorders can develop with the use of many different substances, including illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin, and legal substances like alcohol or prescription medications. The prevalence of these disorders can vary by region and demographic group.
Regardless of the substance involved, these disorders can have serious impacts on individuals' physical and mental health, relationships, and ability to work or study. Treatment can often help people with substance use disorders to recover and lead healthy lives. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, don't hesitate to seek professional help.
Is substance abuse recovery a life long process?
Substance abuse recovery is often described as a lifelong process. This is due to the chronic nature of addiction, which is a brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. Like other chronic illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease, addiction often requires long-term or repeated care to manage symptoms and prevent relapse.
Here are key reasons why recovery is often a lifelong process:
- Changes in Brain Function: Substance use can cause long-lasting changes in the brain that persist even after the substance is no longer used. These changes can lead to cravings or triggers for drug use, which can potentially lead to relapse.
- Behavioral Changes: Substance use often involves habits and behaviors that become deeply ingrained over time. Changing these behaviors and developing new, healthier habits can take time and ongoing effort.
- Coping Mechanisms: Many individuals use substances as a way to cope with stress, trauma, or other underlying issues. Recovery often involves learning new coping mechanisms and addressing these underlying issues, which can be a long-term process.
- Support Systems: Recovery often involves building or rebuilding supportive relationships and social networks, which can take time.
- Maintenance of Physical and Mental Health: Substance use can lead to a variety of physical and mental health issues. Managing these conditions and maintaining overall health can be an ongoing part of recovery.
- Relapse Prevention: Relapse rates for substance use disorders are similar to those of other chronic illnesses. Ongoing care, support, and strategies for managing cravings and triggers can help prevent relapse over the long term.