Fentanyl Overdose: Symptoms, Signs & Treatment

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the primary cause of the recent spike in opioid overdoses. Sometimes, a fentanyl overdose can also involve other drugs like cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine. Due to its greater potency, fentanyl is considered to be more dangerous than most other opioids, especially when used in combination with them.

By reading this article, you will learn many things you need to know about fentanyl and how it is used. Besides that, we will help you get familiar with the signs and symptoms of fentanyl overdose and withdrawal and analyze some general fentanyl overdose statistics

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a completely synthetic opioid painkiller that is 50–100 times more potent than morphine, which makes it even more dangerous when misused. 

Most opioids are derived from the opium poppy plant. However, fentanyl is made in a lab, using the same chemical makeup as other opioids that are naturally derived from the plant. While this is a prescription drug, it is also commonly produced and used illegally. 

When prescribed, fentanyl is used to treat severe pain, typically after surgery. Additionally, it may be prescribed to patients who suffer from chronic pain and have built up a tolerance to other opioids of lower potency. A person becomes tolerant to a drug when they require a higher dose of the medication or more frequent dosing to achieve the same effects. 

When prescribed by a physician, fentanyl is available in several different forms. These include dermal patches, injections, tablets, nasal sprays, or lozenges. When made and sold illegally, it is often in the form of a powder, eye droppers, nasal sprays, or pills. 

fentanyl overdose

Fentanyl Usage in the US

Most fatal overdoses in the US are caused by synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The percentage of opioid-related deaths involving fentanyl has grown from 14.3% in 2010 to 59% in 2017.

In 2022, over 75,000 Americans fell victim to a fatal overdose of synthetic opioids. The majority of these deaths involved fentanyl, which is the top cause of death for adults aged 18–45 years old. 

Effects of Fentanyl

The side effects of fentanyl are similar to those of other opioid narcotics like morphine, oxycodone, methadone, hydrocodone, heroin, and hydromorphone. Most commonly, this drug produces the following effects:

  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Sedation
  • Confusion
  • Pain relief
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Constricted pupils
  • Urinary retention
  • Respiratory depression

Not all side effects require medical attention; some of the less severe ones may go away as your body adjusts to the medication. 

If you have any questions or concerns about the side effects that you are experiencing, you should discuss them with your physician. They might also be able to suggest some ways for you to prevent or reduce some of them. You can also report additional side effects to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) at 1-800-332-1088.

How Long Do Fentanyl Effects Last?

Since fentanyl is a short-acting opioid, similar to heroin, the effects will last a shorter time than those of long-acting opioids like methadone. One thing is certain: they can vary dramatically, lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 days.

Lozenges, tablets, and pills may take about 15–30 minutes to kick in and begin taking effect, and the effects typically last about 4–6 hours. However, fentanyl patches might take up to 1–2 days to begin working, but the effects will typically last for up to 72 hours. 

When injected (as a liquid or dissolved powder), the effects of fentanyl only last for roughly 30 minutes to 1 hour. On the other hand, absorbing the drug via eye drops or nasal spray, or inhaling it, produces effects that last between 2 to 4 hours.

Although fentanyl is a short-acting opioid, it takes the body much longer to remove it from the system in comparison to other short-acting opioids. The average time for fentanyl to clear from the body is approximately seven days, but some traces of the medication may still be detectable for up to 14 days after the last use. 

Fentanyl Addiction

Even when fentanyl is used only as prescribed by a healthcare professional, it is possible to develop a tolerance to it and experience withdrawal symptoms when a person stops using it. 

Such symptoms may also indicate addiction or opioid use disorder. This occurs when using the drug begins to take over your life and you continue to use it despite all of the associated negative consequences.

People who use fentanyl in high doses for extended periods of time are at an increased risk of opioid use disorder. This is also true for anyone who starts using at a young age or has a family history of substance use disorder. 

Fentanyl addiction can be identified by some or all of the following signs:

  • Anxiety/depression
  • Euphoria
  • Loss of interest in work, school, or social life
  • Demonstrating a strong focus on obtaining more fentanyl
  • Strong cravings
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea/vomiting/diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Respiratory depression
  • Increased heart rate
fentanyl overdose

Fentanyl Overdose Symptoms

Because it is so potent, fentanyl is frequently combined with other illicit substances like cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin. These combinations significantly increase the risk of fentanyl toxicity and overdose because these drugs become even more dangerous when combined.

A person might not even know that they are consuming fentanyl because it is frequently combined with other substances. Unfortunately, this means that a person does not have to be intentionally using fentanyl to be at increased risk for a fentanyl overdose. 

Fentanyl overdose signs and symptoms can include all of the following: 

  • Gray, blue, or pale skin
  • Blue or purple lips and nails
  • Clammy, cold skin
  • Constricted pupils
  • Slow or shallow breaths/respiratory depression
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Decreased level of consciousness or loss of consciousness
  • Limp or flimsy limbs
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Slurred speech or inability to speak
  • Vomiting, choking, or making gurgling sounds

If you think that you or anyone else is experiencing a fentanyl overdose, you must call 911 immediately, as such a situation is extremely dangerous and can even be life-threatening. 

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone becomes addicted and dependent on fentanyl, they will have increased difficulty discontinuing the drug or even reducing their dose and frequency. In such cases, they will also experience symptoms of withdrawal while their body is detoxifying from the drug. 

Although extremely uncomfortable, fentanyl withdrawal is usually not life-threatening, but the severity of your symptoms depends on several different factors. These include the dosage, frequency, and length of time that you have been taking fentanyl, as well as the presence of any underlying physical or mental health conditions. 

The following symptoms are commonly associated with fentanyl withdrawal and can each range from mild to severe:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Chills
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive perspiration

It can be helpful to seek help from a medical professional if you are considering quitting a drug that you have become dependent on. Your physician can help you develop a plan that will help you avoid or reduce the symptoms of withdrawal. 

Can Fentanyl Overdose be Prevented?

During one study, researchers examined overdoses in 10 different states. They found that approximately 57% of people who died from a fentanyl overdose also tested positive for heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine. While fentanyl overdose can occur even when the medication is taken exactly as prescribed by your physician, there are actions you can take to avoid this issue.

The best way to prevent a fentanyl overdose is to abstain from using it completely. However, if your physician has prescribed this medication, it is important that you take it exactly as directed.  You should never take drugs that are not prescribed to you by a healthcare professional, as this significantly increases your risk of overdose.

ANR Opioid Dependence Treatment

ANR, also known as Accelerated Neuro-Regulation, was developed by Dr. Andre Waismann and has helped over 24,000 people overcome their opioid dependency with no cravings or symptoms of withdrawal.

ANR is the process of returning the brain to its pre-addiction state by treating the biological root cause of opioid dependency with modern medicine and top-of-the-line technology. The primary goal of Accelerated Neuro-Regulation is to rebalance the central nervous system by modulating it to slow down receptor production while restarting endorphin production. 

The ANR process also allows for the metabolization and elimination of any opioids remaining in the body. This is all done while you are under sedation, providing you the opportunity to completely avoid suffering withdrawal. Ultimately, this guarantees your successful completion and eliminates your chance of dropping out and relapsing. 

Get started today by reaching out to the ANR Clinic to learn more and schedule your free medical consultation. Your new opioid-free life could be right around the corner, but you should hear it from others that have undergone treatment here at the ANR Clinic and changed their own lives! 

Key Takeaways

Whether it has been prescribed to you or you didn’t even know you were taking it (because it was combined with other illicit drugs), it is essential that you seek medical treatment immediately if you find yourself or someone you love addicted to fentanyl. 

Fentanyl addiction or dependence requires medical assistance due to the dangers and risks associated with its use. Continued use puts you at an increased risk of overdose, which can potentially be fatal. In order to overcome your addiction and prevent a fentanyl overdose, you should seek help from professionals like the ones at the ANR Clinic. They can help you return to a life free of opioids while also preventing cravings and symptoms of withdrawal.

Schedule a FREE consultation with one of our physicians today

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