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.
Why are lgbtq+ individuals at higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse?
LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and others) individuals are indeed at a higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse due to a variety of factors that often intersect and compound over time. These factors primarily relate to the stress and challenges associated with living as a marginalized group in many societies. Here are some of the main factors:
Minority Stress: This term refers to the chronic stress faced by individuals belonging to a stigmatized minority group. For LGBTQ+ individuals, this can stem from societal prejudice, discrimination, and violence related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Such stressors can contribute to increased substance use as a coping mechanism.
Stigma and Discrimination: Experiences of rejection, exclusion, and maltreatment can increase feelings of anxiety and depression, which are associated with higher substance use rates. This can occur in various settings, including workplaces, schools, and even within families and social networks.
Internalized Negative Self-Perceptions: LGBTQ+ individuals may internalize societal biases and develop negative self-perceptions about their identity, leading to feelings of guilt, shame, and low self-esteem. These feelings can contribute to the misuse of substances as a form of self-medication.
Lack of Inclusive Healthcare: Many healthcare systems lack the resources or training to provide culturally competent care to LGBTQ+ individuals. This can make it difficult for these individuals to seek help or access effective treatment for substance use disorders.
Social Isolation: Feelings of isolation, which can be the result of rejection or non-acceptance by family, friends, or society, can increase the risk of substance use and misuse.
Intersectional Identity Stressors: LGBTQ+ individuals who also belong to other marginalized groups (like racial or ethnic minorities) may face additional stressors that can increase the risk of substance abuse.
Why can't a person just simply stop abusing drugs?
Drug addiction, often referred to as Substance Use Disorder (SUD) in the mental health field, is a complex condition characterized by compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences. It's considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain's structure and how it works, leading to changes that can persist long after the cessation of drug use. Here are several reasons why it's not simply a matter of willpower to stop using drugs:
Physical Dependence: Repeated drug use can lead to physical dependence, where the body adapts to the drug and requires it to function normally. Abruptly stopping the drug can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which can be uncomfortable or even dangerous, creating a compelling reason to continue using the drug.
Changes in Brain Function: Drug use can disrupt critical brain areas involved in reward, motivation, learning, judgment, and memory. This can lead to intense cravings for the drug and impaired ability to resist drug use, even in the face of negative consequences.
Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders: Many individuals with substance use disorders also have other mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. These individuals may use drugs as a way to self-medicate, making it difficult to stop without treating the underlying condition.
Environmental Factors: Social and environmental cues can trigger cravings and make it difficult to avoid substance use. This can include things like spending time with friends who use drugs, living in a stressful or chaotic environment, or even visiting places where they used to use drugs.
Psychological Factors: Some individuals may use drugs to cope with stress, trauma, or other adverse experiences. Without healthier coping mechanisms and support, it can be very challenging to stop using drugs.
It's essential to understand that addiction is a chronic disease, similar to diabetes or heart disease, and not a moral failing or lack of discipline. Just as with other chronic diseases, treatment often isn't a matter of simply deciding to stop. It usually involves medical intervention, behavioral therapies, and long-term support. With the right treatment and support, recovery from addiction is entirely possible.