Fentanyl Addiction


Learn more about Fentanyl addiction

Fatalities that involved synthetic opioids other than methadone, primarily fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, increased to 1,825 (29.6%) in 2018. These were involved in nearly 90% of all opioid-involved deaths.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid known for its powerful analgesic characteristics. Some compare fentanyl to morphine, but the synthetic drug is 50 to 100 times more potent. Fentanyl is a Schedule II prescription drug, meaning it can only be legally prescribed under certain circumstances by a doctor who is authorized to do so. In most circumstances, doctors turn to fentanyl when people are physically tolerant to other opioids.

Understanding Fentanyl Addiction

When conventional forms of pain treatment don’t work, pharmaceutical companies have to create new and improved ways to treat them. When this happens, the addiction can be stronger, and the effects more potent to the person using it.

Fentanyl falls into the Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) classification. The DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria for OUD expresses that two of the questionnaire’s criteria must have been observed within a 12-month period to confirm a diagnosis.

A provider may ask the following:

  • Do you feel that your fentanyl use has increased in the amount over a period of time that is longer than intended?
  • Is there a persistent desire to take fentanyl? Has this desire made it difficult or impossible to cut down or control your use of it? 
  • Does your time revolve around the activities necessary to obtain, take, or recover from taking the fentanyl?
  • Have you been experiencing constant cravings or urges to use fentanyl?
  • Does the recurrent use of fentanyl result in your failure to fulfill obligations at home, work, or school?
  • Are you continuing to use fentanyl despite the persistent or recurrent social and interpersonal problems are caused or exasperated by its use?
  • Have you given up the things you love to do for the use of fentanyl?
  • Do you use fentanyl in physically hazardous situations?
  • Despite knowing your fentanyl use has caused your physical or psychological problems, do you continue to use it?
  • Do you show signs of tolerance? Tolerance is defined as the need for increased fentanyl dosage to achieve the desired effects or a diminished effect from using the same amount over time.
  • Are you experiencing withdrawal symptoms between uses of fentanyl?

Fentanyl Overdose Symptoms

Fentanyl affects the brain, which is why the side effects can be extreme. The side effects of fentanyl use can range in severity, often severe enough to result in overdose or death. Like other opioids, fentanyl binds to the opioid receptors in the brain. The fentanyl can rewire your brain, conditioning you to seek out the drug.

Signs of a fentanyl overdose include:

  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Severe sleepiness
  • Faint, dizzy, or confused
  • Trouble walking
  • Trouble talking
  • Unresponsiveness

If an overdose from fentanyl use occurs, it should be treated immediately with naloxone. This opiate antagonist intrudes on opiates in the brain’s receptors. Even with naloxone, it may take several doses to reverse the effects of fentanyl because of the potency, especially in non-pharmaceutical fentanyl. Naloxone is also referred by its most popular brand, Narcan.

Fentanyl Addiction FAQs

1. What are Fentanyl Addiction Risk Factors

Some risk factors that may increase the risk of fentanyl addiction are:

  • Family history of opioid abuse, addiction, or experience with other drugs
  • Being in a relationship with another person suffering from some type of addiction, especially to opioids
  • The existence of a chronic disease or pain condition that requires the use of fentanyl ending up in a dependency on the drug
  • Genetics

2. Are there associated health risks with fentanyl addiction and abuse?

Some of the health risks present in those who have a fentanyl addiction include heart disease, liver failure, visual impairment, kidney disease, HIV, STDs, and Stroke.

3. What forms is fentanyl prescribed in?

There are a few popular methods of delivery when it comes to clinically prescribed fentanyl. These include:

  • A transdermal patch (increased risk of overdose)
  • Injection or intravenous use
  • Sprays
  • Buccal film
  • Oral dissolving tablets

Avenues Recovery Center in Maryland is a rehabilitation center with two locations that can help find the right treatment options for recovery from fentanyl abuse or addiction.

Learn more about Fentanyl treatment

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Brooke Abner,

Motivational Coach