The teenage years are often the most challenging in a persons life. The hormonal and physical changes teens experience coupled with the formation of personal identity can bring about feelings of fear and insecurity. The teenage years are also a time where interpersonal relationships develop and familial relationships are often strained. It is no secret that the modern American teen is under a significant amount of pressure. Many teens feel immense pressure to succeed and to feel accepted by their peers. Due to this, many teens are turning to opioid drugs for relief. There has been a nationwide surge in fentanyl use and abuse in the U.S. Teen fentanyl abuse is a growing issue in society today. Parents and teachers must work together to educate, identify and address this issue.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate pain reliever. It is typically prescribed to patients with an injury, who are experiencing severe pain, or after a patient has undergone surgery. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and over 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II drug due to its high potential for abuse and the possibility of leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. Fentanyl is highly addictive and users often develop a tolerance for the drug. Unfortunately, despite many health benefits it is often abused. Many teens abuse fentanyl due to the feeling of euphoria and a relaxed state of mind it produces.
How Are Teens Abusing Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is meant to only be prescribed by a doctor but teens often utilize various illicit channels to obtain the drug. One way teens obtain the drug is by frequenting emergency rooms, pretending to be experiencing severe pain, this is referred to as doctor shopping. There are hundreds of illegitimate websites that sell prescription drugs without requiring a prescription. Teens often utilize this method because many illegitimate sites do not require age verification. Other teens purchase fentanyl on the streets from local drug dealers.
Teens often use alternative routes of administration in order to get high. This is especially true for this particular drug. Fentanyl comes in several different forms: patches, lollipops, dissolvable tongue films, and pills that dissolve in the cheek. The drug is typically prescribed in these forms so the medicinal properties of the drugs release their effects over a period of time. The time-release properties ensure the safety of the patient. However, similar to other drugs, there are ways for users to manipulate fentanyl to release the effects more quickly, e.g. applying heat to the patch. Users that manipulate the drug to disrupt to slow-release mechanism are at a significantly higher risk for accidental overdose. Drug users often mix use fentanyl in combination with other drugs like cocaine and heroin. This increases the risk of physical and emotional health risks.
What Are the Dangers Associated with Fentanyl Abuse?
When used legitimately and as prescribed, fentanyl creates a very strong sense of euphoria and relaxation. When fentanyl is combined with other drugs, the risk of accidental overdose significantly increased. Here are some of the negative side effects of fentanyl use and abuse:
- Immune system depression
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Increasing feelings of sedation
- Lack of motivation
- Social withdrawal
- Personality changes
- Delusions or hallucinations
- Loss of relationships with family and close friends
- Increased risk of accidental overdose and death
Individuals who become dependent and then reduce their consumption of the drug will experience withdrawal effects. An individual who is physically and emotionally dependent upon fentanyl should seek help from a medical professional.
Withdrawal Symptoms Associated with Fentanyl Dependence
When a person becomes physically dependent upon a drug, they experience withdrawal symptoms when the effects of that drug wear off. This often drives the individual to continue using the drug, in order to ease their discomfort. Withdrawal symptoms can range in severity depending upon the duration of the abuse and amount of the drug that has been used. Withdrawal from fentanyl can be extremely uncomfortable It is imperative that someone who is physically dependent upon fentanyl seeks help from a medical professional. Some of the side effects of withdrawal:
- Muscle twitching
- Muscle pain and cramps
- Increased heart rate
Physical Warning Signs of Teen Fentanyl Abuse
Here are some of the commonly seen physical changes someone abusing fentanyl may exhibit:
- Hand and feet becoming swollen
- Depressed respiration
- Increased heart rate
- Unconsciousness, coma, death
Behavioral Warning Signs of Fentanyl Abuse
Here are some of the commonly seen behavioral changes someone abusing fentanyl may exhibit:
- “Doctor shopping”
- Stealing or borrowing fentanyl
- Forging prescriptions
- Engagement in risky behaviors
- Lowered inhibition
- Failing to tend to daily responsibilities
- Strained interpersonal and familial relationships
- Poor academic performance
- Taking higher doses than what was prescribed
- Manipulating slow-release mechanism of the drug
- Taking more of the drug and more frequently than prescribed
- Drug taken in larger amounts over a larger period of time than intended
- Unsuccessfully able to cut down or stop use
- Time spend trying to obtain the drug
- Continued use despite negative consequences
- Inability to fulfill major life responsibilities
- Gives up activities that were once important
- Continued use when in dangerous conditions
- Continued use despite worsening physical or psychological problems
Don’t Wait to Intervene – Seek Help Immediately
If you are concerned that a teen is abusing fentanyl or any other drug, it is imperative that you take action. You can never be to safe or intervene too early. Even if you believe the teen may just be “experimenting” with fentanyl or any other substance, confronting the problem is the first step. Experimentation and casual drug or alcohol use can rapidly turn into abuse, dependence or addiction. If you know someone that needs help please do not hesitate to give us a call and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Please call (888)357-7577 or simply click the link below.