What is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Because it is so much more powerful than other opioids, it can be very dangerous. Just a small amount could lead to overdose or death.
There are two types of fentanyl: prescription fentanyl and illegally manufactured fentanyl.
Originally developed to help cancer patients manage pain, prescription fentanyl is most often prescribed by healthcare providers for people who are suffering from long-term, severe pain. However, a provider might also prescribe fentanyl for someone who is recovering from surgery.
Unfortunately, fentanyl is also made illegally in labs and sold outside of the healthcare setting. Some people don’t even know that they have taken fentanyl because the drug has been mixed with other substances, like cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin, without them knowing it.
What does fentanyl look like?
When prescribed by a healthcare provider, prescription fentanyl can be given as a shot, a patch someone puts on their skin, or a lozenge. Common names for prescription fentanyl include Sublimaze®, Actiq®, and Duragesic®.
Illegally manufactured fentanyl takes on lots of different forms, such as powders, liquid dropped onto blotter paper or put in eye droppers, nasal sprays, and pills that look like other prescription opioids. Its street names include Friend, Jackpot, and Dance Fever.
What does fentanyl do?
When used properly, prescription fentanyl can reduce pain. But when fentanyl is not used the way it is intended, it can cause a person to become intoxicated. They might become extremely happy, have trouble thinking clearly, slur their speech, and feel drowsy. Other effects fentanyl can have on someone include:
- Loss of appetite
- Constricted pupils
- Slowed breathing
- Slowed heart rate
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
Can fentanyl cause addiction?
Yes, the risk for developing an addiction to fentanyl can be high because fentanyl is much more potent than other opioids, so the brain’s reaction to fentanyl is stronger than it is to opioids like morphine and heroin.
When someone is struggling with a fentanyl addiction, they keep using fentanyl even if their actions are harming their health or causing problems at home or work. They typically start spending most of their time trying to get fentanyl, even if that means doing things that aren’t safe or legal.
It’s tough for someone who is suffering from a fentanyl addiction to stop using fentanyl without the help of professionals. They might have tried to stop using fentanyl several times, but the fentanyl cravings were too powerful or other withdrawal symptoms were too intense. Working with professionals at a fentanyl addiction treatment center can help a person stop using fentanyl and start working toward recovery.
Can fentanyl cause withdrawal?
Yes. People who have an addiction to fentanyl and stop using it often suffer from withdrawal symptoms within a few hours of when they last used fentanyl. Besides cravings, fentanyl withdrawal symptoms might include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Stomach cramps
- Excessive sweating
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Bone or muscle pain
Because fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can be so painful and distressing, many people get caught in a cycle of starting and stopping fentanyl use, and they cannot seem to stop using fentanyl on their own. That’s why getting professional treatment for fentanyl addiction is so important.
Can someone overdose on fentanyl?
Yes, someone can overdose on fentanyl. What’s even more troubling about fentanyl is that it is a major contributor to the opioid overdose crisis in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rates of overdose deaths in the U.S. involving synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, skyrocketed more than 56% from 2019 to 2020. And in 2020, the number of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids was more than 18 times higher than it was in 2013.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) brings this into sharper focus by citing that 107,375 people in the U.S. died of drug overdoses or poisonings in 2021, with 67% of those involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Frighteningly, it only takes about 2 milligrams of fentanyl, which is about the size of the tip of a No. 2 pencil, to create a potentially lethal dose.
How is fentanyl addiction treated?
One of the most effective ways to find recovery from fentanyl addiction is to take part in medication-assisted treatment (MAT), a research-backed approach that combines medication with counseling. This powerful combination can help you heal on a whole-person level by addressing the physical, emotional, behavioral, and social aspects of fentanyl addiction.
We personalize the fentanyl addiction treatment we offer through Comprehensive Treatment Centers to meet each patient’s individual needs. After conducting a thorough assessment, our expert team might recommend a medication like methadone, buprenorphine, Suboxone, or naltrexone. While each medication works a bit differently, they all help ease fentanyl cravings and alleviate distressing withdrawal symptoms.
Taking medication only addresses the physical aspects of fentanyl addiction, so you may also take part in group and individual counseling during your time with us. By participating in counseling sessions, you can determine why you may have started using fentanyl in the first place. You may also develop healthier ways to manage painful memories or emotions and create a plan to help prevent you from using fentanyl again in the future.
After completing fentanyl addiction treatment at Comprehensive Treatment Centers, you’ll leave with a personalized continuing care plan that includes the resources you need to remain in recovery for years to come.