Fentanyl Side Effects, Addiction & Treatment

The U.S. is in the grips of a fentanyl crisis.1 Fentanyl misuse is associated with many short- and long-term risks to a person’s health, including fentanyl addiction.2 This page will cover the fentanyl epidemic, fentanyl’s side effects, as well as fentanyl overdose, withdrawal, and detox.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine.1 As a powerful painkiller, pharmaceutical fentanyl is frequently used to manage severe pain, such as post-surgical pain.1 Fentanyl is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which means that even though the drug has medical uses, it also has a high potential for misuse that can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.3

While pharmaceutical fentanyl can be diverted for non-medical misuse, illicitly manufactured fentanyl is what more commonly distributed through illegal drug markets and linked to overdoses.1 Fentanyl may be illegally manufactured in powdered form, which may then be added to other drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine.1

The Fentanyl Epidemic

Fentanyl may be added to other illicit drug supplies to boost potency and decrease costs; however, it may also make them more addictive and deadly.1 While the current U.S. opioid epidemic has been an increasingly significant issue since the 1990s, the last decade has seen a marked uptick in the number of opioid-related overdose deaths specifically involving fentanyl.4

Overdose deaths increased from 2019 to 2021, with more than 70,000 people dying from synthetic drug overdoses, primarily fentanyl-related, in 2021.5 It’s estimated that more than 150 people die daily from overdoses associated with synthetic opioids like fentanyl.1

Fentanyl Side Effects

Fentanyl can have a number of harmful side effects. Some of these side effects include:2

  • Sedation and drowsiness.
  • Confusion.
  • Nausea.
  • Constipation.
  • Problems breathing.
  • Unconsciousness.

Fentanyl’s long-term effects include increased risk of dependence and addiction and, more critically, life-threatening overdose.12 Since fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, it can make overdose more likely, particularly for individuals who use a fentanyl-adulterated substance unknowingly.1

Fentanyl Overdose Signs

A fentanyl overdose is life-threatening. Some signs of fentanyl overdose include:1

  • Pinpoint pupils.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Slowed or weak breathing.
  • Respiratory arrest or altogether stopped breathing.
  • Limp body.
  • Cold, sweaty skin.
  • Blueish color in the skin, lips, and nails.

Fentanyl Withdrawal

When someone has become dependent on a substance, in this case fentanyl, their body has become so used to the presence of the drug that they need it to feel or function as normal. When use is abruptly slowed or stopped, they will experience withdrawal.11

The severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on how long fentanyl has been used, the dose of fentanyl, and the time between doses.9 Some of the symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal include:9

  • Anxiety.
  • Fast pulse.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Fever.
  • Sweating.
  • Runny nose and watery eyes.
  • Yawning.
  • Bone and muscle pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.

Fentanyl Detox

While opioid withdrawal seldom presents medical dangers, it can be intensely uncomfortable and difficult to get through without pharmaceutical management. Medical detox can help make withdrawal as safe and comfortable possible.9

Supervised detoxification provides essential support during withdrawal, minimizing complications and helping to alleviate the physical and psychological distress associated with withdrawal.9

While detox alone is often not sufficient treatment for individuals to achieve sustained abstinence,10 it can serve as a vital entry point for more comprehensive treatment and long-term recovery.9

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment Near Miami, FL

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to fentanyl or other opioids, we can help. At our inpatient rehab near Miami, FL we help individuals struggling with addiction get on the road to recovery and back to living the life they deserve.

Reach out to our compassionate and knowledgeable admissions navigators at today to learn more about our different levels of care and how to start admissions. If you’re worried about how to pay for rehab, our navigators can guide you through different payment options, including using insurance coverage for rehab. Recovery is possible, so don’t wait. Call or text us today.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.

You aren't alone. You deserve to get help.
Recovery First is located in Hollywood, Florida, which is easily accessible from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. Our small groups means you get more one-on-one support and make stronger connections with the community. Take the next step toward recovery: learn more about our addiction treatment programs near Florida's Atlantic coast or learn about how rehab is affordable for everyone.