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Signs & Symptoms of Fentanyl and Opioid Addiction – How to Recognize and Respond

Physical signs and symptoms of opioid use are often hard to distinguish from other problems like mental health issues and are often overlooked due to the complexity of today’s society.

Your loved one may appear drowsy, their moods are up and down and they are distancing themselves from family and friends.

They lack awareness of the people and things around them and are no longer interested in their usual routines.  Generally, you sense something is off. This article looks at the signs and symptoms of opioid use. 

What are Fentanyl and Opioids?

Opioids come in many different forms, such as illegally produced drugs and prescribed medications. To relieve pain, doctors can prescribe opioids, which is typically how someone develops an addiction.

When tolerance sets in, more of the drug is required to produce the same effect, which brings us to the problem: many doctors, especially in this day and age, are reluctant to up the dose or refill the prescription, which leads to people looking for the drug—or illicit versions of it—on the black market.

There is a substantial danger of addiction, overdose and death even when opioid medication is used as directed. One experiences an intense want to use the substance when the effects of the drug start to wear off. This urge is a sign that one is rapidly developing an addiction.

Various forms of opioids include opium, heroin, morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, meperidine, methadone and fentanyl – available by prescription and produced illegally.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid with potency up to 100 times that of morphine and heroin. In the US, fentanyl is the leading cause of overdoses and drug related deaths. Illegally produced fentanyl is made in labs and sold as powder, blotter paper, eye drops, nasal sprays and pills.

Overview of Opioid Addiction Symptoms

Does someone you care about abuse opioids or you suspect they may be? Particularly in the early phases of addiction, it can be challenging to tell. Maybe you’ve seen uncharacteristic changes in your loved one’s behavior or mood.

You may have a gut feeling that something is wrong. Even if you’re unable to pinpoint what is wrong, it’s important to speak up – your instincts may be what saves their life

Relationships and other parts of the person’s life may become negatively impacted by the person’s drug use. From changes in appearance to showing confusion. They may take time to react to questions and start having issues at work or school. 

Because they prioritize opiate usage over relationships with friends and family, relationships start to deteriorate. They stop paying attention to loved ones, remembering meetings and often miss them with little to no notice given.

Things like routine tasks, family calls and personal hygiene are all affected.

Signs of Fentanyl and Opioid Use & Addiction 

  • Taking medications in a way not prescribed by the doctor 
  • Mood changes from elation to hostility
  • Changes in sleep patterns and energy levels
  • Seeking prescriptions from multiple doctors 
  • Poor decision making, changes to overall behavior

Behavioral 

Behavioral changes are often the first sign of someone’s addiction issues.

  • Avoiding eye contact, generally acting differently
  • Seeing multiple doctors, having various prescriptions, empty pill bottles
  • Mood swings, irritability, hostility, unusually excited
  • Change in routine, job loss, no longer engaging in activities, new friend group
  • Isolation, avoidance, antisocial behavior
  • Secretive behavior, lying, stealing
  • Financial or legal problems that did not exist previously

Physical 

Opioid use takes a major toll on the body. You will notice changes in physical appearance, hygiene, weight loss or weight gain. You may notice them slurring their words or with a raspy voice. Breathing is slower, they seem clumsy and have problems with basic coordination.

1) Track marks 

Track marks are marks or scars that result from iv drug use (needles) which is common among opioid users. These marks are typically found on the arms, hands, legs and toes and are a huge indicator of drug use.

Users will typically wear long sleeves and have a story to tell about some incident that happened to explain what the marks are from.  

2) Nodding off

It’s common for opioid users to experience nodding off, which is the street term for drifting in and out of consciousness. It can be difficult to determine if these people are high or overdosing.

Nodding off often happens mid-sentence and when they come to, they can continue talking as if nothing happened. Its effects are similar to narcolepsy, a condition that causes individuals to fall asleep suddenly. 

3) Lack of coordination

Due to how powerful opioids are, the effects are usually quite obvious. Both mental and physical capacities are affected and include stumbling, losing balance, falling down and not giving much care to it and seem to be enjoying what appears to be something quite concerning. 

4) Sweating and constricted pupils 

Sweating and flushed skin is an indication that something is going on. Pupil constriction (known as miosis) is an obvious sign of drug use or that there is something physically wrong. Pinpoint pupils also do not respond to changes in light.   

5) Appearance / Hygiene

One of the most obvious ways to tell that someone is addicted to opiates is a change in their appearance. People often become pale, gain or lose weight and not care about their appearance.

Users tend to eventually stop caring about how they look and often stop eating to afford to buy more drugs.

Poor hygiene can be dangerous for people who use needles as it increases the risk of infection and spreading diseases.

Drug Paraphernalia

Opioids can be used in many different ways – smoked, snorted, injected and taken orally. You may start seeing things in rooms, drawers or garbage cans, such as burned tinfoil, pill bottles with labels torn off, fragments of balloons, baggies or bloodied cotton swabs.

Items to look for:

  • needles, syringes
  • hose clamps, tubing, belts
  • spoons
  • rolled up bills 

Effect on Loved Ones

If someone you love is addicted to opioids, you may find yourself:

  • Worrying about their drug use, from having anxiety to panic and fear that they are going to die
  • Lying or making up excuses for their behavior – enabling is an extremely destructive behavior
  • Withdrawing or avoiding them to avoid their unpredictable moods and behaviors
  • Not addressing your concerns as you fear your relationship or family will fall apart  

Many addiction professionals recommend family involvement as they have been affected by the problem and will be part of the solution. When family is involved, success rates for recovery are much higher.

If you suspect your loved one may be addicted to opioids, please reach out to Luxe Recovery – together we can find a solution.

Responding to Fentanyl and Opioid Addiction 

Seek Professional Help Immediately 

It’s critical to understand that withdrawal from opioids and receiving a prescription for a drug to treat opioid use disorder may only be the beginning of the road to recovery.

Detoxification alone usually isn’t sufficient to establish long-lasting recovery, even though for many people, medically managed detox might result in it.

Counseling is encouraged, and there are several options available to meet different requirements.

Depending on their needs, each person who requires opioid detox and treatment for an opioid use disorder will have a unique treatment plan.

Educate Yourself on Treatment Options

Admitting that there is a problem and having the desire to stop using drugs are the first steps in addressing addiction. 

Detox – to treat the withdrawal symptoms, some patients need to be hospitalized to a detox clinic. Both outpatient and inpatient options are available for this. 

Residential / Inpatient Treatment – provide medical and emotional support within a safe environment away from one’s regular environment. This is the best option for people to detox safely and get the most out of treatment.

It sets you up on the road to recovery. Inpatient treatment has a greater success rate than other types of care and provides the necessary medical and emotional support.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) – detox drugs work well because they lessen withdrawal symptoms and cravings by blocking the effects of opioids in the brain.

They are effective at supporting drug abstinence and lowering the danger of overdose. Talk therapy, individual counselling and group therapies should always be combined with MAT as it offers a holistic approach to the patient and improves the success rates of healing.

  1. Methadone lowers cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and discomfort. Prior to 2000, this was the preferred detox medication but it has significant potential for addiction, abuse, and overuse. 
  2. Buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex) lessen pain and cravings, help people avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and generally make people feel better. It is preferred as it has a lower risk of abuse.
  3. Naltrexone prevents the effects of other drugs without producing a high or other positive feelings.

Aftercare / Continuing Care – after detox or inpatient treatment, it is crucial to engage in an aftercare or continuing care plan. This provides structure and help with abstinence and recovery.

People who detox and do not engage in aftercare will struggle and usually end up relapsing and so the cycle continues. There is no set period of time that one must participate in aftercare programs, however it has been demonstrated that the longer one remains involved, the greater the results.

Get Help for Substance Use Today

Reach out to Luxe Recovery if you or a loved one are struggling with fentanyl or opioid addiction. Our knowledgeable and friendly staff can discuss your situation and what treatment options are available. 

You can fill out this form or call us directly

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