Fentanyl Addiction – All You Need to Know

According to a recent study, Fentanyl is one of the chief culprits responsible for the opioid crisis in many states. The narcotic painkiller is a deadly synthetic opioid many individuals have become addicted to. Fentanyl is 100 times more powerful and potent as compared to morphine and heroin. There is no denying that it is one of the most potent pain relievers used in a wide range of medical treatments.   According to The National Institute of Drug Abuse, this synthetic opioid was the main cause of nearly 50 percent of opioid-related deaths in the USA.

Although many medical professionals consider Fentanyl effective and safe if used in a medically supervised setting, it may carry a drug abuse potential.   Fentanyl analogs or designer drugs can be easily manufactured and substituted for cocaine and heroin. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in its recent study, stated that both Fentanyl and it’s designer drugs are highly potent. That is the reason why medical or accidental overdoses are increasingly common.

 If you or your loved one is at risk of developing Fentanyl abuse or addiction, it is important to know the difference between its medical uses, and addiction causes. The article includes everything you need to know about Fentanyl addiction, its symptoms, and possible treatment options. Before we plunge into the details of Fentanyl addiction, let’s understand what it is and how does it affects the brain.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a schedule II prescription narcotic drug that is used to manage severe pain after medical treatment or surgery.  Many medical professionals prescribe Fentanyl to patients who are physically drug-tolerant to reduce chronic pain. Tolerance increases when a patient needs a higher dose of narcotic pain reliever to alleviate pain or get desired results. Fentanyl is sold with many names such as Duragesic, Actiq, and Sublimaze, Chine White, Jackpot, and Apache.

How Fentanyl Is Used –  Fentanyl  Addiction

The overdose or illegal use of Fentanyl drug leads to its addiction. Unfortunately, the pain killer is easily available in many states of America.  The synthetic drug is illegally sold as a powder, pills, nasal sprays, and eye droppers. There are drug dealers who mix Fentanyl with other dangerous drugs to increase its potency and effects. These drugs may include MDMA, methamphetamine, and heroin. Not only does it require a little quantity of Fentanyl, but it also makes a cheaper option to buy drugs.

This is extremely risky as people addicted to Fentanyl do not realize that the cheaper form is a dangerous additive. Taking cheaper Fentanyl means they are consuming stronger drugs than their body is accustomed to.  This may increase the risk of overdosing and lead to Fentanyl addiction.

Considering this, The National Institute of Drug and Abuse has declared Fentanyl as an epidemic drug that contains high addictive potential.  People who ingest high doses of Fentanyl experience an intense sense of euphoria and relaxation.

Following are the outward signs of Fentanyl abuse;

  • Slowed breathing
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Seizures
  • Constipation
  • Itching
  • Euphoria
  • Vomiting
  • Mellowness
  • Nausea
  • Unconsciousness
  • Confusion
  • Sedation


Does Fentanyl Affect Your Brain?

Like other drugs, including morphine and heroin, Fentanyl does have strong effects on the brain. The painkiller binds to the opioid receptors of the body.  These receptors are found in different brain areas that control emotions and pain.

 Upon taking several doses of Fentanyl over time, the brain diminishes its sensitivity by adapting to it.  Gradually, the opioid drug increases dopamine levels in the nervous system.  The increased production of dopamine is what relieves pain, produces relaxation, promotes a feeling of euphoria, and reduces the perception of pain and suffering. After consuming Fentanyl for a long time, the brain eventually reaches a level where feeling pleasure and high from anything except drugs become hard.

Moreover, Fentanyl can depress the cough reflex and respiratory centers. The narcotic analgesic is considered effective for treating moderate- to -severe pain management as it tends to produce sedation within minutes. The shortest duration effect of Fentanyl is 30-90 minutes.

However, it is worth noting that the effects of Fentanyl may vary depending on the medical condition of a person using it. The common contributing factors are an individual’s weight, size, age, and, most importantly, overall health. In addition to this, the volume of drugs taken by an individual determines how Fentanyl will affect him/her. Fentanyl comes in a range of different formulas, including nasal sprays, injections, oral, and lollipops.  

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Fentanyl Withdrawal

As mentioned earlier, Fentanyl use can cause severe addiction and side effects, and it is vital to have a monitored and controlled detox to get rid of Fentanyl addiction. Leaving the high potency opioid cold turkey may have life-threatening side effects that may range from psychological problems, trauma to self-harm, fatal dehydration, and seizures.

Withdrawal symptoms of Fentanyl start within 12 hours after taking the last dose.  The symptoms may last for one week. The following are some more common symptom of Fentanyl withdrawal.

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Cold flashes
  • Agitation
  • Dilated pupils
  • Runny nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe  pain

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

This potent addictive opioid has a relatively higher relapse rate. Medically supervised detox is, without a doubt, one of the best ways to combat Fentanyl addiction similar to quitting Heroin addiction.

Many states in the USA have allowed naloxone to treat an individual who has overdosed Fentanyl. This allows family, friends, and others to use nasal sprays or auto-injectors to save a person addicted to Fentanyl.

Fentanyl Detox

 The first step to overcome Fentanyl addiction is detox.  The synthetic painkiller is used by people suffering debilitating pain or has already developed drug tolerance to various pain medications.

Many addiction professionals conduct Fentanyl detox by using weaning or tapered -off methods. The methods involve progressively reducing Fentanyl doses over a specific period and then stopping it completely.

Fentanyl detox should be done with the help of medical assistance as the withdrawal symptoms are extremely uncomfortable and may lead to relapse. A chemical imbalance in the brain is the main reason for withdrawal symptoms.

Stages in Fentanyl Detoxification

Withdrawal symptoms mainly depend on the individual’s tolerance and dependency on Fentanyl. However, it follows a timeline typically divided into three basic stages.

Early Stage

The stage includes mild withdrawal symptoms that appear within 24 hours after Fentanyl’s final dose. This is the first stage and may last 1-2 days.  The symptoms include;

  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Runny nose
  • Tiredness

Peak Stage

This is the second stage of detox typically occurs after 2-5 days. Withdrawal symptoms are the worst at this stage.  Also, the Relapse rate is the highest within the 72 hours after Fentanyl’s last dose.  Generally, users experience some of the harshest of side-effects during this phase, including:

  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Mood swings
  • Excessive sweating
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

Long-Term Stage

At this stage, physical withdrawal symptoms begin to subside.  However, psychological symptoms continue for four weeks to 2 months, and may include:

  • Depression
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Mood instability
  • Anxiety
southcoastcounseling fentanyl-addiction-all-you-need-to-know photo of a man having trouble in sleeping

Bottom Line

Overall, Fentanyl is a potent opioid and painkiller, offering significant pain relief to people who experience acute pain. However, the drug can also cause considerable harm to people who misuse it. Thus, it is important to consult a medical professional to prevent overdosing of this narcotic drug.

If you or your loved one needs help with drug or alcohol abuse, please contact South Coast Counselling at 1-844-330-0096 and speak with one of our experienced treatment advisors today in complete confidence about our Southern California Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center.


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