Fentanyl abuse continues to run rampant nationally and locally. On Aug. 24, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office announced that from Jan. 2020 to July 2021 there had been 140 deaths related to fentanyl in Sacramento County. Those deaths included young children to the elderly.
Typically, fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is distributed by doctors to treat severe pain, including pain caused by advanced cancer. It is usually prescribed as an injection, patch or lozenge. However, fentanyl is often sold illegally in the form of pills and powders, infused on blotter paper and put into eye drops or nasal spray.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is “50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.” Because of its strength, fentanyl is extremely addictive, “fast-acting and can be lethal in as little as one dose,” the American Addiction Center (AAC) states on its website.
Fentanyl misuse, along with the emerging trend in opioid abuse, which includes morphine and heroin, affected more than 10 million people ages 12 and older in 2019, as reported by the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. And overdose deaths related to opioids increased over 500% from 1999 to 2019.
If you’re worried your loved one is suffering from fentanyl or opioid abuse, here are common red flags of addiction you can look out for and what you can do.
Changes in behavior
A person may be on fentanyl if they showcase behavioral changes, according to the Recovery Village, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. This includes withdrawal from social settings, lack of motivation and engagement with dangerous behavior.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that adolescents and young adults may often be depressed or hostile when using drugs. They may also change their friend groups, neglect hygiene and wellness, get into frequent trouble with authority and have “deteriorating relationships” with their friends and family.
Shifts in psychological state
A common sign that someone is using fentanyl or is abusing it is when they experience intense happiness and excitement, followed by depression or confusion. Vertava Health, a drug and alcohol treatment center, wrote that opioid addiction can worsen concentration and memory. They may also suffer from paranoia, mood swings, impaired judgment and anxiety.
Demonstrate signs of fentanyl side effects
Some of the symptoms associated with fentanyl abuse, as described by the AAC, include the following.
Difficulty walking and balancing oneself
Muscle jerking or twitching
Swollen hands, calves, feet and legs
Lack of response to stimuli
White spots or ulcers in the mouth
Show fentanyl withdrawal symptoms
A person who is addicted to fentanyl can begin feeling withdrawal symptoms in a few hours after they take the drug, NIDA states. These side effects include muscle and bone pain, difficulty sleeping, cold flashes, goosebumps, vomiting and uncontrolled movement of the leg.
How can you help?
If someone you know is suffering from fentanyl or opioid addiction, you can reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357. Representatives will be able to provide you with referrals to nearby treatment, support groups and community organizations.
The AAC advises people to approach their loved ones with care, compassion and empathy, rather than confrontation. NIDA also recommends parents who know their teens or young adults are abusing drugs to create incentives to see a doctor.
“Young people will listen to professionals rather than family members, as the latter encounters can sometimes be driven by fear, accusations and emotions,” the group wrote on their website.
If you notice that you are experiencing drug abuse symptoms, you can also call the National Helpline or reach out to a local treatment center.