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The Downward Slope from Prescription Painkillers to Fentanyl Addiction

Close-up of a man pouring painkillers into his hand.
Many people struggling with painkiller addiction transition to heroin because it’s cheaper and easier to get. But oftentimes fentanyl has been added to heroin, leading to greater risk of overdose.

It wasn’t long ago that your loved one was prescribed a painkiller like oxycodone to help relieve chronic pain caused by an injury or surgery. And for a while, the painkiller did exactly what it was supposed to do: relieve pain.

But maybe you’ve noticed unexpected changes in your loved one, like restlessness and anxiety, impaired judgement and even work and financial troubles.

All the signs (and let’s not forget your instincts) point towards the opioid epidemic that you’ve heard about in the media. But what you may not have considered is if your loved one has moved beyond painkillers to fentanyl. Let’s dive into some background of the opioid epidemic to understand how we got here, what role fentanyl plays and how to get your loved one the help they need.

The Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic began with the over-prescription of painkillers like oxycodone in the early 1990s. Doctors and pharmacists were assured of the safety of painkillers, but by the late 1990s and early 2000s, opioid addiction had set in across the nation.

From 1999 through 2017, nearly 220,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses. In 2017 alone, an estimated 1.7 million people in the U.S. suffered from prescription painkiller addiction.

Despite federal and state attempts to curb the prescription of painkillers, the country has continued to see an increase in opioid-related deaths – thanks in large part to synthetic fentanyl.

Fentanyl’s Role in the Opioid Epidemic

Synthetic fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than heroin, meaning it only takes a very small amount to feel its effects. Unlike the version that is prescribed by doctors, synthetic fentanyl is illegally produced in labs and added to other drugs like heroin and cocaine. Today, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are now the most common drugs involved in overdoses in the U.S.

Why People Transition from Painkillers to Fentanyl

Given the dangers associated with synthetic fentanyl, you may be wondering why your loved one would use the drug at all.

In many cases, people don’t always know they’re even taking fentanyl. After the crackdown of “pill mills” that offered a source for people to purchase painkillers and with doctors writing less prescriptions, many turned to heroin.

Heroin is cheaper, easier to get and much more powerful, especially when laced with synthetic fentanyl. Taking too much without realizing fentanyl is mixed in has led to the increased death rates we’re seeing today.

How to Help Your Loved One with Fentanyl Addiction

If you suspect your loved one is suffering from opioid addiction or fentanyl addiction, it’s imperative that you get them help right away.

Fentanyl’s effects often lead to extreme happiness, drowsiness, nausea, breathing problems and unconsciousness. If your loved one exhibits any of these signs or you believe they’ve overdosed, the first thing you should do is call 911 for immediate medical attention. The response team will be able to give naloxone to help treat the overdose.

Our hope is that your situation won’t have to escalate that far, but it’s still important to help your loved one seek treatment. Whether they’re struggling with prescription painkillers or have already moved on to stronger drugs like heroin or fentanyl, it’s absolutely necessary for them to go through addiction treatment to help them stop abusing drugs and get back to a fulfilling life drug-free.

Opioid Addiction Treatment at The Raleigh House

At The Raleigh House, we’ve seen firsthand how the opioid epidemic has affected families. We offer personalized, confidential and judgment-free opioid addiction treatment in a cozy, ranch-setting that gets your loved one away from their everyday life. This helps them focus on recovery and regain a life without drugs.

Your loved one’s treatment can’t wait any longer. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs.

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