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Fentanyl Addiction in Young Adults

One of the top emerging addictive substances trending with young adults is fentanyl. In recent years, fentanyl addiction in young adults has increased. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rates of accidental overdose deaths have also increased more than 16% from 2018 to 2019. Additionally, the latest surge of accidental overdose deaths began around May 2020 and has continued, suggesting a link to increase substance abuse from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a man-made opioid typically used to help chronic pain and other medical conditions. It has a similar chemical makeup as morphine. However, since fentanyl is a synthetic drug, its potency is 100 times greater than morphine. 

Due to its potency, it is one of the reasons fentanyl addiction in young adults has increased when obtained illegally. Common fentanyl street names most young people are familiar with include China white and China girl. 

History of Fentanyl

While most people might think fentanyl is a newer synthetic drug, they are surprised when they learn fentanyl was first created in 1959 in a laboratory. After several clinical trials, the drug was approved for use in the 1960s as an anesthetic. 

It was not discovered until the 1990s that fentanyl also had pain-relieving properties similar to morphine. However, once that discovery was made, it was only a matter of time before fentanyl was available in pills, patches, and lollipops. 

Why is Fentanyl Dangerous for Young Adults?

It is Easy to Get Addicted

One reason why fentanyl addiction in young adults is a growing concern is how easy it is to get hooked on this synthetic opioid. All it takes is abusing fentanyl once to develop a craving for it. The drug’s potency alters the brain’s chemistry and chemical structure by binding with neuroreceptors that decipher and transmit pain signals from different body areas to the brain. 

Young Adults Enjoy the Effects

Furthermore, fentanyl causes an increase in the “feel good” chemicals in the brain as another way to reduce pain. These elevated levels can cause a euphoric state in young adults abusing the drug. 

Unfortunately, the brain remembers fentanyl substance abuse as a positive behavior. So, using the drug to achieve similar effects later is strongly reinforced as a positive behavior. Additionally, as the drug’s effects begin to wane, the brain releases signals that create a craving for it because the endorphin levels are depleted. 

Cravings are Hard to Ignore

If the craving is ignored, the body responds with negative withdrawal symptoms to encourage drug use. As you can imagine, to avoid nausea, vomiting, uncontrolled shaking, and muscle pain caused by withdrawal, it is easier for young adults to give in and use fentanyl repeatedly. 

Tolerance and Risks of Overdose Grows Quickly

Another reason fentanyl is dangerous for young adults is that as their bodies develop a tolerance to the drugs, the risks of accidental overdose increase significantly. It only takes 2 milligrams of fentanyl for a lethal dose. In addition, it only takes 0.01 milligrams of fentanyl for a moderate risk of accidental overdose.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), street dealers usually mix fentanyl with other illegal substances to increase their potency and risk of overdose. The DEA has analyzed illegal pills they seized and discovered fentanyl levels ranging from 0.02 milligrams to 5.1 milligrams. Furthermore, approximately 42% of the pills analyzed contained 2 milligrams of fentanyl or more.

No Concern for Potential Drug Abuse Consequences 

Most young adults who abuse substances will not consider or worry about potential dangerous consequences they could face. Instead, they are all too eager to take a pill or snort a powder without considering whether it contains fentanyl, let alone how much. Even when they know it contains fentanyl, they rarely question the amount because they simply want to enjoy the effects of the drug.

Warning Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

The warning signs of fentanyl addiction in young adults has many similarities to other substance abuse disorders, such as: 

  • Problems concentrating
  • Hallucinations
  • Euphoria
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Unexpected mood swings
  • Rash decision making
  • Exhibiting drug-seeking behaviors
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Reduced appetite
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Poor judgment
  • Participating in risky behaviors

As drug abuse of fentanyl continues, the signs of addiction become more predominant and evident. They could also include:

  • Pale skin tone
  • Problem breathing
  • Cold, clammy, pale skin
  • Stomach cramping and pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Lethargy
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures 
  • Depression
  • Sunken eyes
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Financial problems
  • Getting in trouble with the law

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment for Young Adults in Atlanta, GA

Even though fentanyl is highly addictive, it is possible to get help for overcoming an addiction to this synthetic opioid at Buckhead Behavioral Health in Atlanta, GA. We offer clinically supervised detox and medication-assisted detox to help carefully and safely wean you off of fentanyl.

After detox, we offer customizable rehab programs and treatment options to better help you take the first steps to live a drug-free life. For further information about our fentanyl addiction treatment programs for young adults, please feel free to call or visit our admissions page today.

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