Fentanyl is the deadliest drug our nation has ever encountered. It’s everywhere; no community is safe. That’s why it’s important to know the basics about this highly addictive synthetic opioid that continues to drive the overdose epidemic.
How is Fentanyl Addiction Treated? The medications Buprenorphine and methadone are used to treat opioid addiction. They work by binding to the same opioid receptors in the brain as fentanyl does, thereby reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Another medicine, naltrexone, blocks opioid receptors and prevents fentanyl from having an effect. New medications are continuously in development to help with the withdrawal process for fentanyl and other opioids. For one, the FDA has approved lofexidine, a non-opioid medicine designed to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms. The NSS-2 Bridge device is a small electrical nerve stimulator placed behind the person’s ear, that can also be used to try to ease symptoms for up to five days during the acute withdrawal phase. The FDA has additionally cleared a mobile medical application, reSET®, to help treat opioid use disorders. This application is a prescription cognitive behavioral therapy that should be used in conjunction with treatment that includes buprenorphine and contingency management (see below).
How is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Used to Treat Fentanyl Addiction? Like other opioid addictions, medication used in combination with behavioral therapies has been shown to be the most effective way to treat people with a fentanyl addiction. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of counseling that helps people modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use, increase healthy life skills, and stick with their medication. CBT also teaches us how to effectively manage triggers and stress that lead to relapse.
What Else Works for Fentanyl Addiction? Contingency Management is often used in drug treatment. It’s a voucher-based system that gives patients “points” based on negative drug tests. Points can then be used to earn items that further encourage healthy living, such as grocery gift cards.
Motivational interviewing also works to treat fentanyl dependency. This is a patient-centered counseling style that addresses a patient’s mixed feelings about wanting to change. The practice works people through the stages needed to achieve real lifestyle change.
If you know someone who needs help with treatment, call L.A. CADA at (562) 906-2676.