How to Help Someone Addicted to Fentanyl
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid with a high potential for misuse, addiction, and overdose.1 Far more powerful than other opioids like heroin or morphine, fentanyl can cause an overdose can be life-threatening, in addition to the high potential for developing dependence and addiction.1 It can be scary to see a loved one dealing with fentanyl addiction, and it can be difficult to know how to help. However, it is possible to help them seek treatment and provide logistical and moral support.
How to Help Someone with a Fentanyl Addiction
There is no one right way to broach fentanyl addiction with a loved one. Everyone is different, and how people respond to different types of communication can vary.2 Knowing a loved one’s personality and circumstances and approaching them in a manner that is consistent with those is more likely to motivate them to seek treatment.2 In addition, understanding the complexities of addiction and recovery is crucial before having the conversation.2
At the end of the day, whether or not the person seeks treatment is their choice. They are also more likely to be successful in treatment if they have interpersonal support.3 Therefore, the key is to be helpful in some way no matter what their readiness level for treatment is. However, maintaining healthy boundaries is essential—you are more helpful to your loved one if your own needs are met.
Signs Someone May Be Addicted to Fentanyl
The first step in helping a loved one is knowing what the signs of fentanyl addiction are. Fentanyl addiction—or opioid use disorder (OUD)—is the continued use of fentanyl even though it causes problems in the person’s life.4
Signs someone may be addicted to fentanyl are:4
- Continued use of fentanyl despite it causing or worsening physical or mental health conditions.
- Repeated unsuccessful attempts to stop or reduce fentanyl use.
- Spending significant time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of fentanyl.
- Inability to fulfill work or home obligations due to fentanyl use.
- Giving up activities in order to use fentanyl.
- Using fentanyl even though it causes problems in relationships.
- Taking fentanyl in larger amounts or over longer periods of time than was originally intended.
- Repeated use of fentanyl in physically hazardous situations, such as while driving.
- A craving or strong desire to use fentanyl.
- Increased tolerance to fentanyl.
- Experiencing withdrawal from fentanyl.
How to Get Someone into Fentanyl Rehab
There are various ways to help someone get treatment for fentanyl addiction. The one most likely to be useful depends on where the person is on their path to recovery.
Talking to Someone About Fentanyl Addiction
Approaching someone about their fentanyl misuse can be anxiety-provoking. The good news is that there are strategies that have been shown to be effective. The pivotal elements of such a conversation include:
- Timing – speaking with the person soon after an incident occurs.2
- Lack of judgment.2
- Empathy and statements like “I am worried about you,” “I was scared we were going to lose you,” and “I love you. How can I help?”5
The type of help most useful to the person depends on their unique needs and personality.2 If they are ready and willing to enter treatment, for instance, they may appreciate assistance in locating treatment programs. Or they may not be ready for rehab, and empathy and moral support are what they need until they are ready. Either way, it is important for the person to know that a loved one is always in their corner.
All the while, it is important to attend to your own needs and not enable the person’s addiction. For instance, you might help the person with logistics, such as grocery shopping, but only after they have given you the funds to do so.
Getting Someone into Fentanyl Detox
If a person is physically dependent on fentanyl, they may need medical detox before entering treatment.6 Physical dependence means that the body has gotten so used to the presence of fentanyl that it needs it to function.7 As a result, the person craves fentanyl or lacks control of their use.7 In this case, if the person were to abruptly quit using or significantly reduce how much they use, they can experience withdrawal, which consists of uncomfortable symptoms like:8
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- Muscle aches.
If a loved one wants to quit fentanyl cold turkey, it might be helpful to express your concerns about what can happen if they do and to encourage medical detox instead. This is a process supervised by medical providers in which they administer a medication similar to fentanyl in tapering doses, effectively weaning the body off the substance.9 They can also administer medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms.9
Supporting Someone During Fentanyl Addiction Treatment
There are a few different ways you can support a loved one while they are in fentanyl addiction rehab. In inpatient treatment—a fit for someone with more severe OUD—the program may not allow visitors so that people can focus on their recovery.10 In this case, giving them a keepsake that symbolizes and reminds them of your support can be powerful. Some inpatient programs, however, may offer family therapy. Attending these sessions can help the person as well as your relationship with them.11
Intensive outpatient treatment programs (IOPs) are available for those who would benefit from intensive treatment but need to live at home to attend to work, school, or home responsibilities.10 IOPs involve commuting to the treatment facility 3 to 5 times per week for a few hours each time.10 There are a few ways in which you can help your friend or family member while they attend an IOP, such as helping with transportation or attending family or group therapy sessions. Whether they are in an IOP or inpatient treatment, telling your loved one you are proud of them for doing difficult work can be encouraging.
Supporting Someone After Fentanyl Rehab
Your loved one still needs your support after they complete rehab and are in aftercare services. The goal of aftercare, or continuing care, is to maintain progress made in rehab and can include, for example, attending Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings or outpatient therapy.10 At this stage, commending your loved one for completing treatment and continuing to work to maintain sobriety can go a long way.
Finding Fentanyl Rehabs
If your loved one is ready to seek treatment, there are a few ways to go about locating rehab programs. First, speaking with the primary care provider can be important because they know the person’s medical history and can help diagnose and identify the type of care needed. Further, after treatment, they can manage treatment medications on an outpatient basis.12 Calling the health insurance provider is a good way to learn what programs are covered by their medical plan.
Once the person identifies what type of program they need, they can start to find specific rehab centers based on location and cost. American Addiction Centers (AAC) can help locate suitable rehab centers, verify their insurance, and answer questions about fentanyl addiction.
It is never too late to seek treatment or help a loved one. Our helpline at is available 24/7 to assist.
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