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Treating and Beating Fentanyl Addiction

Whether you’re a mental health practitioner, a nurse, another professional, or just someone who is concerned about your own fentanyl addiction or that of a loved one, please know that there is a great deal of help available. With a very serious addiction at hand, it is important to get professional help!  

As you may know, there is a fentanyl crisis in mental health. Fentanyl is an opioid, but it is stronger than other opioids like heroin and morphine. This makes it much more addictive than other opioids. This is disturbing because we know there is still a rampant and raging heroin epidemic happening globally.

Fentanyl Facts

A very important fact to note is that fentanyl has been responsible for a huge number of overdoses recently. More than 150 people die every day from synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Fentanyl is made in a lab, and is prescribed as a pain medication. In fact, this is how about 75% or so of our overdose cases start – from a prescription pad. Now I’m not a fan of pain, so of course we have to offer better options. When a doctor prescribes fentanyl, it’s usually as a shot, a patch placed on the skin, or a lozenge, like a cough drop. Dealers manufacture illegal fentanyl  as a powder and and then often sell it as a nasal spray, or in an eye dropper, or pill form. 

Many of us know that drug dealers mix fentanyl with illegal drugs like heroin, among others, because it’s cheaper and easier to manufacture. This can create a situation where it is more likely that a person will overdose. If that happens, people can slow or stop their breathing, reducing the amount of oxygen the brain gets (hypoxia), which can then lead to a coma, permanent brain damage, and death. Naloxone, if given quickly, may save a person’s life. (It binds to opioid receptors, blocking the effect of other drugs like fentanyl.) Naloxone can be given as a shot or a nasal spray. 

Overdose Symptoms

Some of the symptoms of fentanyl use include fatigue, dizziness, slurred speech, constricted pupils, insomnia,  nausea, sweating, etc. A person may also have trouble with concentration, and may have trouble remembering things. Suicidal ideation could also occur. Fentanyl users experience an incredible high, but that high is followed by a crash of equal magnitude. 

The Importance of Treatment

This is why it’s critically important for people to get fentanyl addiction treatment (or into the hospital) as quickly as possible, especially in cases of longer-term and severe fentanyl addiction. Medical professionals in a treatment facility are on hand to treat both the addiction and the accompanying withdrawal symptoms. When the recovering individual is stabilized, they may be able to enter an in-house, longer-term care situation, where they stay in the facility for a month or more. There is also a possibility of treatment as an outpatient; coming in for several hours per day for education and mental health treatment. Depending on the level of care needs assessed at the beginning of treatment, outpatient treatment, or virtual treatment may also be an option.

If you are interested in learning more about treating another opioid, heroin, naturally, we offer Treating Heroin Addiction Naturally for mental health professionals and nurses seeking continuing education (3 hours), and in pdf format for those only seeking education.

Self Care for Caregivers

Perhaps you are working professionally with this population of drug users. Or maybe you are simply around them a great deal of time. It’s extremely important to exercise self-care, in general for everyone, and especially for treating professionals. Burnout is common for those who are around people who deal with addiction. Practicing effective self-care is a way to avoid burnout; it definitely is a “must” if you’ve dropped into burnout. As professionals, it’s important that you care for your clients and patients at a high level of expertise. As an individual, it’s important that you do not pay the price of burnout when trying to deal with loved ones and their addictions. 

Self-care is a very personal endeavor. Doing mindfulness exercises, even 5 minutes a day, is important to taking care of yourself. Find the time to be still, calm your racing mind, and focus on yourself and your needs.

 

You know yourself best! Whether it’s changing jobs, or managing your time better, or just getting more rest so you can have a higher quality of sleep, it’s probably overdue to making those changes. Or perhaps you’ve let the quality of your own nutrition slip because you’re so busy and preoccupied. Don’ you can’t give your all to friends, family, and clients/patients if you’re not taking care of yourself!

Additional Information

Here is a video from Operation Parent; in addition to providing training for teens and parents on the topic of fentanyl use, hear from two mothers who lost their sons to fentanyl use and have decided to fight back through educating others. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukh723Pdda0

So, stay informed about the latest trends with fentanyl use and how to prevent overdoses, which are too often deadly. Advocate for better prevention and treatment. 

 

Remember – knowledge is power:

take charge of your health!