(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Fentanyl use is becoming more common and now recovery and treatment centers are saying it is more difficult to treat patients who are on fentanyl.
“With fentanyl, it has a long half-life, meaning it stays in people’s systems a very long time,” said Steve Carleton, chief clinical officer at Gallus Medical Detox.
Carleton said intense withdrawals make it difficult for users to seek treatment.
“You can understand that the withdrawals as having the worst flu of your life,” Carleton said. “So, if you’re addicted to a substance and you’re going in for treatment and a provider tells you you’re going to have to get sick before we medicate you, it’s a really difficult choice.”
Those who have gone through recovery said this choice is a crucial one.
“I stuck it out and I got through that mental hurdle,” said Sean Kavanagh, a former fentanyl recovery patient. “I can’t speak more highly of how beautiful my life is today.”
Kavanagh said he started marijuana and alcohol when he was around 13 to 14 years old, and then at around 17, he said he began experimenting with everything, including fentanyl.
“Fentanyl is about 50 times more potent than heroin, about 100 times more potent than morphine,” he said. “So, I would get higher much quicker. And for myself, fentanyl actually led me to go into psychosis.”
He said he was prescribed it at first, then he began getting it from people coming across the border into Arizona.
“I ended up OD’ing on fentanyl,” Kavanagh said. “And I’d never had an O.D. in my life. But the stuff that I got over the border…. yeah. If somebody didn’t find me, I would have died.”
This wake-up call combined with support from family and friends got him into a treatment program.
“But if you don’t do that now for that short, temporary period, you’re just going to continue the cyclical pattern,” he said.
When you fully commit to the treatment, Kavanagh said it’s worth it in the end.
“I just have the most beautiful life that I never thought I’d have,” he said. “I focused on: ‘How can I be of service to others, how can I love my fiancée better, love my daughter, provide for them’. I get outside myself and it’s almost like a supernatural high that you can’t really explain.”