What is Fentanyl? 

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid drug that’s similar to morphine. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl is also a prescription drug that’s made and used legally to treat patients with severe pain, especially after surgery, and may be prescribed for patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids. In its prescription form, Fentanyl is known by its brand names: 

  • Actiq
  • Duragesic
  • Sublimaze

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), synthetic opioids, including Fentanyl, are the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths in the U.S. In fact, in 2017, 59% of opioid-related deaths involved Fentanyl, compared to 14.3% in 2010. 

When prescribed by a medical professional, Fentanyl can be administered as a shot, a patch on the skin, or as lozenges that are sucked on like cough drops. The illegal drug Fentanyl is sold illegally as a powder, dropped onto blotter paper, put in eye droppers and nasal sprays, or made into pills that look like other prescription opioids. Since it takes very little to produce a high with Fentanyl, some drug dealers mix Fentanyl with other drugs like Heroin, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, and MDMA, making the drug more dangerous and increasing the risk of overdose. 

Fentanyl Effects

Similar to morphine and other opioid drugs, Fentanyl works by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors, which control pain and emotions. When a person misuses these types of drugs, the brain adapts to them, diminishing their sensitivity, and making it hard to feel pleasure from anything but the drug itself. This is when addiction occurs. 

Drug side effects may differ by person, but common side effects include:

  • Extreme happiness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Sedation
  • Problems breathing
  • Unconsciousness

Contact your doctor or seek medical attention if you or a loved one experiences any dangerous side effects.

Signs of Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction

Because Fentanyl is so potent, it’s a highly addictive drug. If you or a loved one are misusing Fentanyl, you could develop a dependence and addiction to substance use disorder. You or a loved one may suffer from Fentanyl abuse and addiction if you experience these side effects:

  • Social withdrawal or social isolation
  • Visible mood swings
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Newfound willingness to engage in risky behavior
  • Lack of personal hygiene 

When someone experiences substance abuse addiction, they may not act like their normal selves. Seek medical attention if you or a loved one may be addicted to opioid drugs. 

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

If you or a loved one have a Fentanyl addiction, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the painkiller drug. The length and intensity of withdrawal vary depending on the frequency of use, usage, and family history of mental illness. Typically, users will experience the worst symptoms within the first few days of withdrawal. Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fever
  • Heavy sweating
  • Runny nose
  • General irritability
  • Chills and goosebumps
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Abdominal cramps

Long Term Side Effects of Fentanyl Abuse

According to the American Addiction Centers, long-term Fentanyl use may increase the risk of:

  • Fractures in the elderly
  • Chronic and severe constipation that leads to bowel obstruction
  • Breathing problems during sleep
  • Heart attack and heart failure
  • Immune system suppression
  • Hormonal and reproductive issues
  • Anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders

One of the major risks of long-term Fentanyl use is the risk of overdose. Seek immediate medical treatment if you or a loved one experiences overdose symptoms:

  • Constricted pupils
  • Severe respiratory depression like slow or shallow breathing
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Gray, blue, or pale skin
  • Blue or purple lips and nails
  • Unconsciousness
  • Limp arms and legs
  • Slurred speech
  • Vomiting

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

Similar to other opioid addictions, Fentanyl addiction treatment involves help from addiction professionals at a treatment center. Here, patients can undergo inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment and participate in cognitive behavioral therapy, individual therapy, group therapy, and more. Sober living is possible when you have help from addiction professionals.