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Fentanyl is Winning Over the Sober Living


We've been following along with Mothra as her adult child has navigated the challenges of sober living…She just sent in the following update, describing her son's overdose:

Dear Dominique and AIR family. We received a call late last night that our son had overdosed and was en route to the hospital, The hospital would not give us any confirmation if he was there or not, and being told by a third party that it was significant we decided to travel the 2 hours to get there, in a panic and so fearful of the worse. Upon arriving he, was in the lobby waiting for a cab. I'm so grateful to the friend who helped him and the EMTs.

I've read here various postings about the fears, and anxieties caused by a loved ones SUD, and this was so severe in me that all else went out the window. I forgot my list of treatment centers, we didn't have a plan, nor a talking point plan either. We were blind to everything except the horror, which in our case has become the norm. We pulled it together when we got there and got an bit more on track.

I'm glad to say he is in a detox tonight, due to his sponsor and house owner and manager. I saw how a really good sober house works for the first time ever. They helped get him placed and if he completes the detox he can return.

I hope he chooses to stay, but I'm finally resigned that there is nothing more we can do. We used CRAFT in the way that we talked with him, keeping our distance but being pleasant, but he was in no condition to be left alone. We almost took him back home, but decided we would stay in the area until he got placed. Home is our sanctuary and he is not welcomed at this time.

Our son however seems to see nothing but the lure of the drug: fentanyl. He has had many chances similar to this in the past and always the same result of constant relapse. Even after at least 7 narcan doses to revive him he apparently used again during the night, though we were with him. He would walk off to have a cigarette or spend a long time in the bathroom. It's so insidious…you think he's using but not sure. But he was…more horror…He just kept on using despite the fact that he almost died. Nodding off d u ring the ride to detox. I forgot that I could have been more insistent and could have had him held for 72 hours. We could have sectioned him. So many could haves after the fact.

We are in our 60s and 70s. We are exhausted and discouraged beyond belief. We will not be answering any calls, nor visiting for quite a while. We have neglected ourselves terribly and need a break. I'm grateful for this blog to be able to express my feelings.

Thanks for reading.



Fentanyl is truly deadly. People are overdosing in record numbers even when compared to prescription opiates and heroin. Your son is in the grips of a very addictive substance. It hijacks our ability to find pleasure elsewhere in life, and the withdrawals are so agonizing that we'll do absolutely anything to avoid them. There is no choice but to use again.

Yet your son is in sober housing and is attending some self-help. Part of him, part of the time, is turning towards recovery.

He doesn’t like medication assisted treatment. If memory serves he has tried Suboxone. At this point, he needs and you need to ensure he is protected from overdose. What about methadone? Can he be convinced to try it? What remains of your energy should be focused on this. Can the detox help? Can the house help?

Son, your mom and I (I’m assuming you usually do the talking so I suggest your husband do it) love you madly and are so grateful that you found another sober house and are attending some meetings. We see how you are trying but the fentanyl is winning. We are devastated and scared. We are old and exhausted. Here is the phone number and address of a methadone clinic near you. At this point, this is all we can do to save your life. Please let us take you there. Please hear them out. It’s a different drug than Suboxone. People are overdosing and dying all around us from fentanyl. Please consider this. We are having trouble sleeping, we feel sick all day long, we are having real difficulty in our own life knowing you could overdose and die.

You will need to call the clinic first and see what the steps are for admission. Is there a waitlist? How will it be paid for? How will he get to the clinic everyday?

I am so sorry for you and for your son. Please try this.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. Thank you, Dominique, for such a quick response. Our son has tried methadone before and has sworn he would never take it again, as the daily visits for medication and the way it makes him feel he says he can’t handle. He refused to stay on it. Dropping down on dosage was so bad he used other drugs like benzos to ease withdrawal. Many facilities use it for detox and it seems to make him very ill at times and the effects last for months. However that could be attributed to the heroin or fentanyl as well as other drugs he abuses. He does have a close friend who is doing well on perhaps we could bring that up.

    Sadly, he snuck fentanyl into the detox and again overdosed and was taken to the hospital last night. He has been transferred to another detox facility. We don’t know if he will stay. I’m going to call them tomorrow and just tell them that if anything goes wrong to call the police and we are going to section him. I know they won’t acknowledge that he’s there but it’s all we can think to do. As you said the power of this drug is overwhelming. 2 overdoses in a 24 hour period have us reeling from shock and fear.

    I am a person of faith, but this has shaken me to the core. I’m questioning everything. I kept busy today and went for a long walk in the woods. It helped to clear my head for a while.

    I appreciate the model talk you presented and we will definitely try it at our next opportunity to talk with him. We also need to be ready to section. The house has told us they have a plan watch him carefully and keep him busy when he returns..We will have to ask them if he can be there while on MAT.

    Thank you for all that you do.


    1. Your son overdosed again in quick succession by sneaking fentanyl into the detox. How could this not shake your faith to the core. I am so sorry.

      I got it wrong. It was the Methadone he dislikes. What does he think about Suboxone? I can understand the dislike of these drugs. I have been on them myself. It is hard to titrate off of methadone. It has a long life in the body and the symptoms from withdrawal can linger for a long time. I get it. Still, your son is in a different place with his addiction and tolerance. What’s been true in the past may not be true with Fentanyl.

      Has he tried Suboxone? I keep pushing medications because this is the safest way to get him stabilized right now. The potential for overdose is so great with Fentanyl. Once your tolerance is up to Fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times greater than heroin, there’s no backing down to the other drugs. The best way to free yourself is to substitute over to a medically supervised substitute. Perhaps this is what the detox is doing. For Suboxone to be given, the patient needs to be in withdrawals – for just a short time. Your son may be reacting to the discomfort of withdrawals. Legally prescribed comfort drugs for withdrawal often fall short of their mark.

      Your son has the detox and the sober house working with him. Can you talk to either? What are they doing and should a civil commitment be in the mix now?

      It is hard to imagine what you are going through as a family. What you need also matters here. If your son is refusing all MAT, if a civil commitment will protect him and provide you some relief, perhaps you do the leg work today to add this in. A forced/protected period of recovery from the lingering withdrawals of Fentanyl would help you sleep. Then back to the sober house.

      You are on my mind and in my heart.

      1. Thank you Dominique. He has tried suboxone but typically abuses it to sell for a better high, although will try to stay on it for a short time. It’s ironic but he says he doesn’t want to be “dependent” on it. Yes I think he will refuse any MAT, but wish he would consider suboxone with some monitoring, or vivitrol. We will push this as I agree it’s his best chance.

        I contacted the detox today and although they can’t confirm him as being there or not, I left a message for him to call me, which he did a few hours later. I was relieved that he was there. We will ask him for a release so that we can speak with his treatment team but I think this time he will refuse.

        His major concern was how was he going to get the money he had left in the care of the other detox. He wanted me to get it for him. I calmly refused, saying it’s not my place to do that. He asked about his sober house and his job, but very flat affect, which I understand.

        I told him how this episode has affected us, using some of your suggested phrases. Not much of a response..just a perfunctory apology.

        The sober house now wants him to do a post detox treatment program and I hope the detox will help him with that. He did not like hearing that.

        I believe we have to be ready to section him.

        Thank you again so much. Just knowing that others understand is so comforting.

        1. I wish there was more you or I could do. At the very least, your son could go to a Clinical Stabilization Service, which would give him a couple weeks of inpatient. He could still walk out of that unit, at which point you are ready with the section.

        2. Hello again, Dominique. Yesterday I took our son back to the sober house. As I waited for him I was encouraged to see posters promoting MAT at the facility. We had a talk about it and he still refuses MAT, based on the way it makes him feel.
          When I asked him how this relapse happened he couldn’t explain except to say there was no thinking about it; it just happened spontaneously. There was no plan to just “was.”
          So scary.

          He seems to be open to counseling, at least to trying a few sessions. I hope so. Since he has a job he will now be paying his own way and we lose that contingency.

          I tried to set up the sectioning paperwork to be ready, but the court wouldn’t allow it because he was in treatment and then going to sober housing. He told me he declined CSS, which the facility had suggested, because he had a place to go and his job waiting.

          I am cautiously hopeful, as his sponsor is going to work more closely with him and his boss uses only sober workers and is willing to take him back. They are both in long-term recovery and seem to be sincere and good people. That’s what I pray for now…that good people will be put in his path.

          And so, we begin again. Twenty plus years of beginning again have us worn out, so I can only imagine how our son feels. It is like a roller coaster that you can’t get off. It is such a part of our lives. Using CRAFT is slowly helping us carve time for ourselves… when we are mindful to use it.

          Thank you for being here and to the AIR family.