What Does ‘Feening’ (‘Fiending’) For Drugs Mean?

Drug and alcohol addiction are harmful conditions that can affect anyone under certain conditions, gradually changing the way a person acts and their personal priorities. This can lead to extreme and compulsive drug-seeking behaviors that are sometimes referred to as “feening drugs,” “fiending drugs,” or “feigning drugs.”

Drug and alcohol addiction (substance use disorder) is a common, dangerous, and sometimes deadly health condition. But while the effects of substance abuse and addiction on a person’s overall physical and mental health may be obvious, addiction can also have a dramatic influence on a person’s behavioral health, including their words, thoughts, and actions.

On the street, these changes are sometimes known by informal terms like “feening drugs.” But, whatever the terminology used, drug-seeking behaviors can be unexpected, extreme, and self-destructive, often damaging a person’s relationships, compromising their self-image and their health, and exposing them to serious legal consequences. 

Drug Feening, Fiending, And Feigning 

The words people use to describe drugs and drug use on the street are fluid and ever-changing. It’s important to note that some of these terms contribute to the stigma surrounding addiction, creating barriers to seeking care. We can address stigma by choosing not to use these terms with our loved ones.

“Feening drugs,” or “drug feening,” describes a state in which a person is preoccupied with physical or psychological drug cravings, often desperately seeking to find and use a drug or drugs by whatever means possible. For instance, the person might steal cash or property to pawn, steal drugs, offer sexual favors, lie, or make promises or threats to obtain their next dose. These behaviors may be driven by periods of stress, specific environmental triggers, or painful withdrawal symptoms due to dependence on the substance.

“Feening” comes from the related term “fiending drugs,” or “drug fiend,” where “fiend” means “devil” or “wicked.” This term is highly stigmatizing, demonizing people who experience substance use disorder and impeding empathy and understanding. 

“Drug feigning” more narrowly describes the behavior of someone who is routinely lying about being in pain, having a disease, or having other personal problems that can only be managed with pain medications or some other drug use. As with feening, the term implies that a person will say whatever it takes in order to persuade friends, family, doctors, or strangers to help them obtain drugs. 

How Substance Use Disorders Alter Behavior

Not everyone who uses addictive drugs like opioids, stimulants, or alcohol becomes addicted, even if using them frequently or in high doses. However, any substance use has the potential to trigger a series of mental and physical changes in the body that may lead to the development of a substance use disorder

This happens in different ways depending on the substance. Opioids like opium, heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, methadone, codeine, and others activate opioid receptors in the body, slowing down the central nervous system (CNS). Stimulants like cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription amphetamines do the opposite, accelerating CNS activity and providing a pleasurable surge of energy. Still other drugs like hallucinogens offer a temporary escape from the pressures, struggles, or boredom of day-to-day living. 

In each case, substance abuse, even if it is harmful to a person’s physical and mental health, relationships, and lifestyle, becomes associated with pleasure and positive experiences. This trains the mind to crave those same experiences, reprioritizing substance use and altering a person’s behavior accordingly. 

These changes are especially pronounced with drugs like opioids and stimulants, both of which release large amounts of dopamine. This pleasure chemical triggers the body’s reward circuit to produce intense cravings and compulsive behaviors with time, along with physical dependence. However, many other forms of drug use also have the potential to produce similar effects. 

Examples And Effects Of Drug-Seeking Behavior

Drug-seeking behaviors may develop in people who do not have continuous access to the drugs they crave. Access through medical or illicit channels may be lost, or the person may run out of money. 

Whatever the case, those who are actively seeking drugs may:

  • be absent from home, work, or school during unusual times
  • experience sudden, unusual financial problems
  • repeatedly try to borrow or get money from loved ones
  • change their personality and act unusually friendly, caring, and manipulative
  • spend time with others who use or sell drugs 
  • steal money, prescription medications, or other property
  • engage in high-risk sexual behavior related to drug use
  • attempt to order risky prescription drugs over the internet
  • attempt to buy other people’s prescriptions
  • attempt to use other substances, like alcohol or cough syrup, in unusual ways
  • become anxious or agitated if they can’t get their way
  • visit multiple doctors (“doctor shopping”) for unusual illnesses or injuries in order to collect prescriptions 

You may also be able to recognize other changes in your loved one’s overall physical and mental health, appearance, self-care, and hygiene that can signal a pattern of ongoing substance abuse. 

How To Recognize Doctor Shopping

Prescription drug abuse is common in the U.S. today, with the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics reporting that 6 percent of Americans ages 12 and over abuse prescription drugs each year. 

The U.S. Department of Justice has published guidelines to help medical providers better recognize drug-seeking behavior (“feigning” or “doctor shopping”) at their offices. 

These warning signs include the following:

  • the patient needs to be seen urgently due to their symptoms or travel constraints
  • they specifically want appointments during inconvenient times when a provider might feel more rushed
  • they claim that non-narcotic drugs don’t work or that they can’t take them
  • the patient pressures the provider for medications using sympathy, guilt, or even threats
  • they display unusual behavior in the waiting room or in their overall appearance
  • the patient does not have a regular doctor or is unwilling to get in touch with them
  • they have an unusual knowledge of medications of abuse or specific conditions or symptoms that warrant the use of those medications

New regulations have been established to dramatically reduce the abuse of prescription and over-the-counter medications in the United States in recent years. This includes new requirements for the prescription of controlled substances and reporting systems designed to flag doctor shopping and unnecessary or redundant prescriptions. 

Addressing Drug-Seeking Behavior

If you believe a friend or loved one has been abusing drugs and is seeking out their next high, it’s important to talk to them directly. Drug abuse is always harmful and can lead to severe, long-term physical and mental health problems as well as relationship problems, problems with the law, financial insecurity, homelessness, victimization, and even overdose and death. 

If you are going to have a conversation to share your concerns, make sure you choose a private location where you can both speak freely and where your loved one feels secure. Make sure you also feel safe, and invite someone you trust to go with you if you have concerns. 

While speaking to your loved one:

  • use non-confrontational “I” statements (e.g., “I feel that …” or “I have noticed …”)
  • have specific examples to back up your statements
  • ask open-ended questions, and make sure your loved one feels heard if they choose to speak
  • recommend practical next steps and offer your support to help your loved one recover

However this conversation goes, you should also be prepared to establish healthy boundaries with your loved one to ensure that you are not enabling their behavior or exposing yourself to unnecessary risk. For instance, make it clear that you will not give your loved one money or fulfill their responsibilities for them. It can also be a good idea to forbid your loved one from keeping drugs in your personal spaces or from being around you or others in your family while high. 

Nevertheless, it is important to keep lines of love, communication, and trust open, and to offer your genuine support, encouragement, and assistance in getting your loved one professional care and support when they are ready. 

Addiction Treatment

When someone is drug feening, they can feel entirely out of control, like they have no choice but to follow their cravings and chase the next high. 

Professional treatment services can help by:

  • providing a safe and secure environment to detox
  • removing the triggers, pressures, and habits of the client’s normal environment
  • teaching healthy coping strategies to manage drug cravings or compulsions
  • providing emotional support and therapy to address underlying issues that have contributed to their substance use
  • sharing information about substance abuse, addiction, and relapse to equip clients to make proactive lifestyle choices
  • encouraging peers in treatment to share their experiences, motivation, and to hold one another accountable
  • providing helpful medications like methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone to help reduce the risk of relapse

Remember, recovery is actually the most likely outcome for those who experience a substance use disorder, especially among those who commit to the recovery process. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the majority of adults who have ever had a substance use problem consider themselves to be in recovery today.

Find Help Today

At Ohio Recovery Center, you’ll find a team of trained professionals working to support people facing addiction by offering medical detox services, personalized inpatient recovery programs, and mental health recovery programs. 

Our specialties include dual diagnosis care to help address any co-occurring mental health concerns you may be experiencing (e.g., depression, PTSD, an anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, etc.), psychotherapy, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), peer support programming, and aftercare coordination. 

To learn more, please contact our team today.

  1. American Psychiatric Association (APA) - What Is a Substance Use Disorder? https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction-substance-use-disorders/what-is-a-substance-use-disorder
  2. MedlinePlus - Drugs and Young People https://medlineplus.gov/drugsandyoungpeople.html
  3. U.S Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) - Recognizing the Drug Abuser https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/GDP/(DEA-DC-3)%20Recognizing%20the%20Drug%20Abuser.pdf
  4. Discover Mental Health - Craving among patients seeking treatment for substance use disorder https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10630178/

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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