Fentanyl Addiction, Effects, Withdrawal & Treatment

Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid that is responsible for many drug overdose deaths in the past several years. Although prescription fentanyl may be used under strict medical guidelines for severe levels of pain, such as breakthrough cancer pain or post-surgical pain, illegally manufactured forms of the substance are widespread, contributing to accidental overdose.1,2

This page will cover the adverse effects of fentanyl use, fentanyl withdrawal symptoms, and how to find fentanyl addiction treatment.
Did you know most health insurance plans cover addiction treatment?

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It has powerful painkilling effects but may also lead to respiratory depression and fatal overdoses. Most overdose deaths in the U.S. involve fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.1

When manufactured illegally, it is often distributed in powdered form, which may be dissolved into solution to be put in eye droppers or sprays or pressed into pills made to resemble other prescription opioids.1

As with other opioid drugs—including both illicit drugs like heroin and prescribed drugs like morphine—fentanyl binds to and activates the body’s natural opioid receptors. The feeling of pain is lessened, but the user may also experience a sense of euphoria. This may drive continued use.1

Additionally, tolerance builds to the effects of opioids like fentanyl, meaning that our bodies and brains get used to the drug, eventually requiring increasing amounts of it to achieve the desired effects.1

Health Risks

Adverse Effects of Fentanyl Use

Fentanyl is associated with adverse effects that can include: 1

  • Confusion.
  • Drowsiness, sedation, or even unconsciousness.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Constipation.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Unconsciousness.

Other adverse effects associated with fentanyl use include:3

  • Developing a tolerance to fentanyl, and potentially needing larger doses.
  • Increased risk of toxicity and overdose.
  • Increased risk of respiratory arrest in overdose, and resulting permanent brain injury (from lack of oxygen).
  • Risk of developing fentanyl addiction.

Fentanyl is dangerous enough on its own and when used knowingly, but a person may be unaware the substances they use contain fentanyl.2

Drug suppliers may intentionally mix fentanyl with other drugs because less fentanyl is needed to produce the sought after high than a comparable volume of non-adulterated product.1,2

It is also possible that even the drug dealer is unaware the substance contains fentanyl because it has infiltrated the illicit drug supply to such an extent, and a person cannot tell if a substance contains fentanyl by just looking at it, tasting it, or smelling it.2

Someone expecting a certain high from substances such as meth, cocaine, or heroin could be getting a much higher dose of an entirely different drug, for which little or no tolerance exists, which could greatly increase the chance of overdose.1

Fentanyl Overdose

Fentanyl use has contributed to an increase in synthetic opioid overdose related deaths in the last several years.4

A person can overdose on fentanyl alone, or from using another substance that is laced with fentanyl. Fentanyl overdose symptoms can include:5

  • Severe drowsiness.
  • Confusion.
  • Constricted or “pinpoint” pupils.
  • Slowed, shallow, or altogether stopped breathing.
  • Blue lips and complexion due to lack of oxygen.
  • Loss of consciousness.

A fentanyl overdose is a medical emergency. Call 911 immediately if you suspect someone is experiencing a fentanyl overdose.5

If naloxone is available, it should administered right away to reverse certain life-threatening symptoms. Naloxone does not cause any harm but can reverse the effects of fentanyl and other opioid drugs.1,5

Fentanyl Dependence, Withdrawal & Addiction

Fentanyl Dependence

Opioid dependence can develop with consistent use and may even develop to some degree in people using fentanyl as prescribed.1

Dependence is characterized by a continued need for the substance in question to feel and function “normally” and, once developed, is accompanied by the arrival of withdrawal symptoms when the person stops taking the drug or slows its use.1

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Some symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal may include:6

  • Yawning.
  • Runny nose.
  • Goose bumps.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Dysphoric mood.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Fever.
  • Insomnia.

Although a person can develop substance dependence without exhibiting compulsive patterns of drug use, dependence is one of the diagnostic criteria of a substance use disorder, and is often present in those who struggle with addiction.1

Fentanyl Addiction

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition classifies addiction to fentanyl as an opioid use disorder. The DSM-5 outlines several different criteria on which a substance use disorder diagnosis is made. A few of these criteria for an opioid use disorder involving fentanyl include:6

  • Continuing to use fentanyl despite its use causing or making worse problems in social situations or relationships.
  • Knowing that fentanyl use is causing or contributing to physical or psychological problems but continuing to use it.
  • Craving fentanyl.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping use or the need to continue using fentanyl or other opioids to avoid fentanyl withdrawal symptoms.

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment Near Miami

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can develop quickly but there is relief during detox in the form of medications for opioid use disorder, which can reduce cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms.1,7

These medications can be administered at a detox facility to help stabilize someone experiencing acute opioid withdrawal and maintain them in their recovery from an opioid use disorder.1,7

After successful completion of medical detox and withdrawal management, there are several approaches to facilitate a person’s continued recovery journey.

Counseling, through evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and contingency management, has seen success as a way to help people understand and avoid drug use in the future.1

exterior and water feature at recovery first treatment center

There are multiple options when it comes to fentanyl addiction treatment: inpatient or outpatient treatment facilities, programs that offer medical detox and a continuum of care all the way through discharge and aftercare.

Recovery First Treatment Center—an alcohol and drug rehab near Miami, FL—offers various levels of rehab and uses proven treatment approaches to help a person who is suffering from opioid use disorder.

Our Florida addiction rehab is in-network with most major insurance providers to help ease the financial burden of paying for rehab. Check your insurance coverage for rehab using our secure now.

For more information about the rehab admissions process, call a caring admissions navigator at . Please don’t wait to get the help you need.


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