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May 10 is Declared Fentanyl Awareness Day

May 10 is Declared Fentanyl Awareness Day Resurgence Behavioral Health

What is National Fentanyl Awareness Day?

The DEA recognizes the first-ever National Fentanyl Awareness Day as a day of action created to increase awareness and decrease the popularity of the highly addictive opioid drug fentanyl. There is an opioid epidemic in America that has become a national health crisis, and this day is an effort to amplify public education and funding initiatives throughout the country, preventing further unnecessary overdose-related coma, brain damage, and death.

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People, especially younger people, are using fentanyl without knowing it, because it is a cheap substance that is often added to other street drugs and pills like oxy, Percocet, and Xanax to increase drug dealer profits, leading to drug overdoses.

The best way to help prevent more people from being exposed to accidental (or purposeful) fentanyl use is to know the facts and share them, raise awareness, and test products before using them with test strips or going to testing facilities if available in your area, never use drugs alone, and carry naloxone to prevent deaths.

Because the practice of cutting other substances with fentanyl is relatively new, drug enforcement knows about it but overall public awareness is low. For this reason, the creators of National Fentanyl Awareness Day aim to get the word out by providing a toolkit and partnering with local organizations, while posting on social media and encouraging others to do the same.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug that is made for medical purposes, as it is a potent painkilling drug that is prescribed to people with intense chronic pain and illnesses, such as late-stage cancer. It has been synthesized and is now made illegally in unregulated labs for illicit purposes. The dangers of this drug are well-known by law enforcement and health professionals, but the general public is not as aware as it should be.

Fentanyl works by binding to the pain and emotion controlling sensors in your brain and can produce feelings of euphoria comparable to a heroin high that quickly leads to physical dependence and addiction. It also causes sedation, nausea, and confusion in its users. This is a drug that is about 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, and a very small amount, around the size of two grains of salt, can easily kill a person by opioid overdose.

Side effects of fentanyl substance abuse include:

  • Nausea, constipation, and other digestive issues
  • Long-term damage to cardiovascular and respiratory systems
  • Confusion, dizziness, and slurred speech
  • Drowsiness, sedation, and mellowness
  • Headaches
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Itching and scratching
  • Hallucinations
  • Sleep problems
  • Blurred vision

Fentanyl use can make mental illnesses worse, and it can cause impaired judgment leading to risky behaviors like needle sharing, unprotected sex, or taking other unnecessary risks. Overdose of fentanyl can happen easily, and can quickly lead to brain damage, cognitive defects, coma, and overdose death.

The Dangers of Fentanyl Use

Taking fentanyl is always risky. There is no such thing as a safe dose of fentanyl. The risk of overdosing is high, and there is a large probability that you will develop an addiction. Some of the dangers and risks associated with fentanyl use include:

  1. When you buy illicit fentanyl on the street you never actually know what you are getting
  2. Fentanyl production is not regulated, and the manufacturers are only making it to turn a profit, so they put additives that could harm your organs (household cleaners and chemicals) in to stretch the product and make more money
  3. Opioid drugs like fentanyl can cause breathing problems, vomiting, coma, and death
  4. Fentanyl can even be absorbed through the skin, and as it is lethal in such small doses, should never be handled with bare skin.
  5. Taking somebody else’s fentanyl medication is very dangerous, as every person’s body will handle the drug differently
  6. Even fentanyl test strips can miss potent fentanyl analog drugs like carfentanil
  7. The amount of fentanyl that can kill you is the size of a few grains of salt, and you cannot see, smell, or taste it so it could be in any powder, pill, or liquid drug you buy on the street
  8. “Prescription” pills that do not come directly from the pharmacy may have a lethal dose of fentanyl in them. They are often sold as oxy, Percocet, Xanax, Vicodin, and others. You cannot buy prescription pills off social media sites like Instagram or Snapchat
  9. There is no way for anybody to know the potency of a ‘fentapill’, so even if you take one and are fine, you could overdose the next time, even if it is from the same batch
  10. Drug traffickers do not always disclose fentanyl contents of their products and will pass it off as a more familiar, less potent substance to make money

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), there is an estimated 250 to 500 million fentanyl-laden pills in circulation in the USA at any time. 35% of youth in America have claimed they don’t know enough about fentanyl, and 73% had never heard of deaths involved with fentanyl being in counterfeit pills. If you are a parent or educator, it is better to talk with youth about fentanyl and the dangers of street drugs in a non-confrontational manner, using facts to let them know the truth about what could happen to them or their friends. Be honest and forthright about the topic, as it is better to have an awkward conversation now than having your child or be there when an opioid overdose occurs, or worse, is victim to overdose themselves.

Overdose is what happens when the drug causes your breathing and heart rate to slow down or stop, making your body unable to sustain life. This is called hypoxia, and if not treated immediately by Naloxone/Narcan can quickly cause brain damage and death. Some signs of overdose are:

  • Passing out, falling asleep, or losing consciousness
  • Sounding like they are snoring or choking
  • Developing pinpoint pupils
  • Slow or weak pulse and breathing
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • The skin on the inside of the lips will turn purple or blue, and in lighter-skinned people, the fingertips/nails will turn blue

If you suspect fentanyl overdose, administer Naloxone and call 911 immediately. Keep the person awake and breathing, and even if they seem to recover, ensure they receive medical attention as the fentanyl overdose may last longer than the Naloxone does in the body leading to an overdose death.

Fentanyl is involved in more deaths of people under the age of 50 than any other cause of death, including accidents, heart disease, and cancer, and among teens, synthetic opioid deaths have tripled over the past two years. For this reason, the more awareness is spread about this insidious drug, the better.

How is Fentanyl Addiction Treated?

Fentanyl is an opioid drug and will therefore be treated in a professional opioid detox and rehabilitation treatment center. The safest way to stop using opioid drugs is in a medically assisted treatment (MAT) program, where you will:

  • Stay in a detox center 24 hours a day for full medical care, oversight, and treatments
  • Begin therapy and counseling to begin to address the causes of your addiction and to help deal with the emotional and social aspects of addiction
  • Start dual diagnosis treatments if you have co-occurring mental health issues including bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, or attention deficit disorder.

You may also receive prescription medications to help you deal with the pain, discomfort, restlessness, and drug cravings that come along with detox. You might experience:

  • Sleep problems like insomnia or nightmares
  • Cold flashes with goosebumps
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Severe drug cravings

Medications to help these symptoms may include:

  • Buprenorphine to treat opiate withdrawal and dependence
  • Naloxone to reverse the effects of opioid drugs on the opioid receptors in the body
  • Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone
  • Methadone to help wean off opioid drugs
  • Clonidine is a blood pressure medication
  • Naltrexone to block the effects of opiates to prevent relapse

After medical detox is complete, it will be recommended that you move into an inpatient rehab program for a minimum of 30 days. As symptoms of opioid withdrawal tend to show back up unexpectedly for weeks or even months after detox, a longer-term 60- or 90-day rehab program will be best. In rehab you will have:

  • One-on-one individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy or couple’s therapy
  • Medical care
  • Mental health care
  • Physical wellness treatments

After residential rehab is over, you will transition into a partial hospitalization program, an intensive outpatient treatment program, or an outpatient rehabilitation plan that will help you reintegrate back into your life after rehab as a sober individual. These programs vary and are usually customized to best suit your schedule so you can return home to your family and friends, go back to work or school, and begin taking on your responsibilities, a little at a time, with full continued support and treatments that taper off as time goes on.

Resurgence Behavioral Health for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment

At Resurgence, in an effort to slow the opioid epidemic and help individuals in need of help with substance abuse issues, we offer the full continuum of care in our opioid treatment program that leads our clients from safe and effective medical detox through inpatient and outpatient rehab programs, and beyond, with our long-term aftercare programs and connections to sober living homes and support groups. Some of the treatments we offer in our drug and alcohol rehab treatment center include:

  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) detox
  • 30- to 90-day inpatient rehab programs
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Experiential therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Trauma therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Rational emotive behavioral therapy
  • Dual diagnosis programs to treat PTSD and co-occurring mental health issues
  • Nutrition and exercise treatment plans
  • Life skills coaching and vocational skills training
  • 12-step programs (Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous) and SMART recovery programs
  • Flexible outpatient options including partial hospitalization programs and intensive outpatient programs
  • Aftercare treatments
  • Alumni programs with community gatherings and meetups

If you believe you may have a fentanyl addiction and need somewhere to turn, contact the Resurgence Behavioral Health treatment center today. Our dedicated, caring, trauma-informed staff can help you choose the program that is right for you, verify insurance coverage, and get you on your own personal road to recovery.

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