Table of Contents
Written by Amethyst Recovery
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Fentanyl is a highly dangerous and addictive opioid. Fentanyl is intended to be prescribed to patients only in certain circumstances. Primarily, it’s used for breakthrough cancer pain in patients already on an around-the-clock opioid medication. When someone uses fentanyl, it’s very likely they will become addicted and require professional treatment to stop using it.
A fentanyl partial hospitalization program or PHP is one treatment option available. Despite the tight prescribing guidelines for fentanyl, which is a schedule II controlled substance, it’s one of the prime culprits in the opioid epidemic in the U.S.
Fentanyl analogs can be made relatively easily in illegal laboratories and then sold on the black market. Some people will know they’re buying fentanyl, while others may not.
Why Is Fentanyl So Addictive?
Opioids, in general, are highly addictive substances. Even when people begin using opioids as prescribed, they can become addicted. Fentanyl is much more powerful than morphine or even heroin, making it more addictive than these drugs.
When someone uses fentanyl, it activates opioid receptors found throughout the body and in particular the central nervous system. As these opioid receptors are activated, it can relieve pain and change the emotional response to pain.
It can also trigger dopamine to flood into the brain, creating a sense of euphoria or a pleasurable sense of well-being. Those pleasurable feelings trigger a reward cycle in the brain. The brain is conditioned and wired to want to keep seeking out the stimuli that provide these pleasurable feelings. In this case, that stimulus is fentanyl.
The Road To Addiction
Addiction is born when someone’s brain compulsively leads them to continue seeking out fentanyl and other opioids. Over time, with addiction to fentanyl, the structure and function of the brain changes, and effective addiction treatment needs to account for these changes.
Along with psychological addiction, fentanyl also leads to physical dependence. If a person is dependent on fentanyl and they attempt to stop using it, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. Fentanyl withdrawal can be severe and highly uncomfortable.
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Treatment Options for Fentanyl Addiction
There are different treatment options available when someone is struggling with addiction. These include a medical detox (which isn’t in and of itself a treatment but is rather a prerequisite for treatment) as well as inpatient and outpatient rehab. There are also what are called fentanyl partial hospitalization programs or PHP.
When choosing from the treatment options for fentanyl addiction, some considerations to keep in mind include:
- How severe is the addiction? Someone with a milder, shorter-term addiction might not require the comprehensive type of treatment program someone would require if they have been addicted to opioids for years.
- Has the person previously tried other treatment options and relapsed?
- Would the person seeking treatment be able to leave their home and their responsibilities for a period of time to receive treatment
- Are there complicating factors that could affect treatment such as co-occurring mental health disorders or multiple simultaneous addictions?
The Process to Treat Fentanyl Addiction
What a lot of people don’t realize is that addiction treatment is a process. That process is ongoing and can change and evolve with the needs of the patient. Some patients may begin with a partial hospitalization program, but more commonly it’s a step-down treatment after the patient has participated in inpatient detox and rehab.
The process to treat an addiction to fentanyl might look like the following:
- A person can’t begin addiction treatment until they have detoxed from fentanyl and any other substances they are abusing or are addicted to. However, a detox program isn’t an addiction treatment on its own. It’s important for people to realize that going to detox only isn’t going to deal with the root causes of their addiction
- Following a complete detox, most people addicted to fentanyl will then start a residential treatment program. There are short and long-term residential treatment programs available. The time someone spends in residential treatment may vary from 28 days up to several months or more.
- Once someone is ready, they can move into partial hospitalization for fentanyl addiction.
- Following inpatient rehab and partial hospitalization, most patients then transition into a less formal outpatient rehab program.
An Overview of a Fentanyl PHP
A partial hospitalization program for fentanyl or any other drug is one that is similar to residential rehab, except patients don’t have to stay the night. Partial hospitalization is also called day treatment. There is an intensive, high level of care in these programs, but at the end of treatment, each day participants return home or to a sober living home.
Most partial hospitalization programs have services and therapy approaches that are very similar to residential rehab. They can include dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders, as well as medication management when necessary.
A partial hospitalization program will usually require participation in all-day treatment five to six days a week.
A fentanyl PHP might include:
- Individual counseling and therapy
- Group and family therapy
- Medical services and treatments
- Dual diagnosis treatment
- Drug screening
- Access to educational, social and employment services
Who Should Attend a Fentanyl PHP?
Someone might be a good fit for a fentanyl PHP if they have already learned some skills and coping mechanisms in inpatient rehab, but are not ready for the freedom and flexibility of outpatient rehab.
Once someone has moved beyond an immediate and imminent threat of relapse, they may do well in a PHP. If someone relapses during an outpatient rehab program, or they’re not progressing well, they might also be recommended for a fentanyl PHP.
Before someone participates in a fentanyl PHP, it’s important that they feel they’re adequately prepared to avoid relapse, and they should feel comfortable taking on a greater level of freedom and autonomy. If someone is going to return home each night rather than a sober living home, that environment should be safe and supportive.
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How Is a Fentanyl PHP Different From Outpatient Treatment?
People often wonder how a partial hospitalization program might vary from outpatient rehab and particularly an intensive outpatient program.
The primary difference is the required time commitment. A fentanyl PHP is going to require participants go to treatment all day, almost every day of the week. Even in an intensive outpatient treatment program, there is usually only a commitment of a few hours a day, three or four days a week required.
While a partial hospitalization program has treatment similar to residential rehab, in an outpatient rehab most of the therapy is done in a group setting.
Finding a Fentanyl PHP
If you would like to learn more about fentanyl PHPs or day treatment, as well as other addiction treatment options, please contact Amethyst Recovery.
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