Fentanyl Addiction: Short & Long-Term Effects and Treatment

Originally caused by overprescription of opioids such as oxycodone, the opioid epidemic has been plaguing the United States since the 1990s. In recent years, however, the main culprit behind it has become fentanyl, an extremely potent, fully synthetic opioid. Unfortunately, each year, tens of thousands of Americans lose their lives to fentanyl addiction.

While anyone who takes this drug can fall victim to it, learning more about it can help minimize the risk of fentanyl abuse, addiction, and overdose.

This article will cover the key things you should know about fentanyl addiction, including its causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a strong synthetic opioid used for severe pain relief and anesthesia. Classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, it can only be obtained by prescription and should always be taken as prescribed to minimize the risk of abuse, dependence, addiction, and overdose.

Fentanyl is available in various forms, including lozenges (Actiq®), injections (Sublimaze®), and transdermal patches (Duragesic®).

fentanyl addiction

Although it is FDA-approved for medical use, fentanyl is also often manufactured and sold illegally. Some common street names for it are Great Bear, China Town, Dance Fever, and Jackpot. It is also among the most common substances used to lace other drugs, including heroin, cocaine, and prescription opioids.

Like other opioids, fentanyl attaches to the opioid receptors in the central nervous system (CNS), preventing pain signals from reaching the brain. Besides relieving pain, it can also trigger dopamine release, inducing euphoric feelings and deep relaxation. However, what makes it stand out from other opioids is its exceptional potency.

Approximately 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, fentanyl is considered the strongest opioid and carries a very high risk of overdose—especially when abused. 

Side Effects of Fentanyl

Like any medication, fentanyl can cause various side effects that range from mild to potentially life-threatening.

Some short-term side effects of fentanyl include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Itchy skin
  • Stomach ache
  • Headache
  • Sedation

If you’re taking fentanyl over a prolonged period of time, here are some long-term side effects of fentanyl you should be aware of:

  • Tolerance
  • Dependence
  • Fentanyl addiction
  • Liver, heart, lung, and other organ damage
  • Development or exacerbation of mental health issues, such as depression

If you experience any side effects while taking fentanyl, inform your doctor about them. Some of them, such as allergic reactions (hives, swelling of the tongue, etc.), may require immediate medical care.

Is Fentanyl Addictive?

Fentanyl is addictive—and very much so. Although it currently falls under Schedule II controlled substances due to its high potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction, there have been initiatives to reclassify all fentanyl substances as Schedule I drugs.

While taking fentanyl as prescribed reduces the risk of fentanyl addiction, it doesn’t eliminate it. Over time, this drug alters the brain, increasing the production of opioid receptors, which causes people to develop tolerance to it. 

Tolerance is a sign of physical dependence on fentanyl, which can lead to fentanyl addiction if left untreated. This means that virtually anyone can become addicted to it—including those who carefully follow their doctor’s instructions while taking it.

Nonetheless, fentanyl abuse greatly increases the risk of opioid addiction. Some examples of abuse include taking the drug more often than prescribed, using it for non-medical purposes (i.e., to get “high”), and taking fentanyl that’s prescribed for someone else.

Fentanyl Abuse Statistics

Now, let’s take a look at some statistics that reveal the prevalence of fentanyl abuse and addiction in the United States:

Fentanyl Addiction Signs and Symptoms

fentanyl addiction

Recognizing fentanyl addiction is the first step to breaking free from it.

On that note, let’s discuss some tell-tale physical and behavioral signs and symptoms of fentanyl addiction.

Fentanyl Addiction Physical Symptoms

Experiencing fentanyl withdrawal symptoms is one of the most common physical symptoms of fentanyl addiction. These symptoms can be both physical and psychological. If you or someone you love struggles with cravings, diarrhea, sleep disturbances, or other such symptoms after attempting to quit this drug, it’s in your best interest to seek medical help.

Not only is it challenging to manage fentanyl withdrawal symptoms on your own, but it can also be dangerous. Without medical supervision, you may be at a higher risk of relapse, overdose, death, and other adverse events.

Besides withdrawal symptoms, some physical signs that may indicate that you or someone you love is struggling with fentanyl abuse and addiction include:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Impaired reflexes
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Slowed breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech

Fentanyl Addiction Behavioral Symptoms

If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from fentanyl addiction, here are some behavioral signs and symptoms you should look out for:

  • Avoiding contact with family and friends
  • Missing work or school
  • Showing little to no interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Neglecting professional and family responsibilities
  • Continuing to take fentanyl despite the negative consequences
  • Taking fentanyl after the medical issue has been resolved
  • Spending a great deal of time obtaining and using fentanyl
  • Becoming more secretive and/or lying about fentanyl use
  • Failing to control fentanyl use
  • Trying to obtain fentanyl in any possible way, including stealing, forging prescriptions, etc.

You can also recognize fentanyl addiction from various cognitive and psychological symptoms, such as a shortened attention span, impaired memory and judgment, suicidal ideation, and depression.

Fentanyl Addiction Causes and Risk Factors

The root cause of fentanyl addiction is the chemical imbalance that occurs in the brain when people take this drug regularly. This means that long-term fentanyl use is one of the main risk factors for developing an addiction to fentanyl, but it isn’t the only one.

Abusing fentanyl by using it more frequently than instructed, at larger doses than prescribed, or in combination with other substances, such as alcohol, also increases the risk of addiction. For this reason, you should always take it according to your doctor’s recommendations.

While it’s undeniable that anyone who takes fentanyl risks developing an addiction to it, certain risk factors can make you more susceptible to it. These include:

  • Having easy access to fentanyl or other opioids
  • Having a personal or family history of substance abuse
  • Growing up or being in an environment where people abuse opioids or other substances

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

If you’re addicted to fentanyl, you’ll inevitably experience both physical and psychological fentanyl withdrawal symptoms after quitting this drug. These may range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of your fentanyl addiction and other individual factors.

Some common fentanyl withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Body aches
  • Anxiety
  • Fever
  • Agitation
  • Headache
  • Cravings
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Enlarged pupils

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can be particularly intense if you stop taking your medication suddenly, which is why you should never quit it “cold turkey” or without medical supervision. If you do, you may be at a higher risk of relapse, which can be potentially lethal since not taking fentanyl for some time reduces your tolerance to it.

These symptoms typically appear within the first 12 hours after taking the last dose. While they usually last around two weeks, some people may struggle with psychological symptoms, such as cravings and sleep problems, for several weeks, months, or even longer.

Risks of Fentanyl Overdose

The risk of experiencing a fentanyl overdose is, by far, the greatest danger of fentanyl addiction. An overdose happens when you take a larger amount of the drug than your body can handle. If not treated on time, it can be fatal.

Given that fentanyl is highly potent, it may take a much lower dose than you’d expect for an overdose to happen—especially if you relapse after a period of sobriety. In this case, your regular dose may be strong enough to cause an overdose.

Moreover, buying fentanyl or other drugs illegally can significantly increase the risk of overdose, as it’s impossible to know precisely how potent the drug is, what it is mixed with, and so on. Mixing fentanyl with alcohol and other substances (opioids, benzodiazepines, etc.) can also significantly increase the risk of a fentanyl overdose.

Call 911 immediately if you notice the following signs of a fentanyl overdose:

  • Vomiting
  • Choking
  • Skin, nail, and lip discoloration
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Unresponsiveness

How to Prevent Fentanyl Addiction

The only foolproof way to prevent fentanyl addiction is to avoid taking the drug in the first place. If you suffer from pain, consider exploring non-opioid treatment options with your doctor before taking fentanyl.

If you do decide to go the opioid route, here are some safety precautions you can take to minimize the risk of fentanyl addiction, abuse, and overdose:

  • Take fentanyl strictly as prescribed.
  • Don’t alter the dosage or frequency of use without consulting your doctor.
  • Inform your doctor about any side effects you’re experiencing.
  • Don’t mix fentanyl with other substances without your doctor’s approval.
  • Store fentanyl away from children and pets.

ANR Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) is a revolutionary fentanyl addiction treatment that has helped more than 24,000 people globally return to an opioid-free life in a matter of days.

ANR Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

The ANR treatment is unlike any other opioid addiction treatment, as it addresses the underlying cause of addiction rather than just treating its symptoms. By re-regulating your endorphin-receptor system to its normal state, ANR eliminates not only the root cause of opioid addiction but also the risk of ongoing withdrawal symptoms and relapse.

Most importantly, the ANR treatment is performed in an ICU setting in accredited hospitals by board-certified medical staff, making it very safe. Better yet, we offer a personalized approach to healing opioid dependence by tailoring the treatment to each patient’s medical history and individual needs.

This, coupled with the fact that our team consists of critical care specialists, cardiologists, nephrologists, and other healthcare professionals, means that the ANR treatment can be safely performed on anyone, including those with complex medical issues.

If you’re ready to make a lasting recovery from fentanyl addiction, contact us today for a free consultation!

Key Takeaways

Hopefully, this article answers your questions about fentanyl addiction.

Before you leave, let’s reiterate the key points we covered:

  • Fentanyl is an exceptionally potent synthetic opioid intended to be used for pain relief and anesthesia, but it is also a prevalent street drug.
  • You can recognize fentanyl addiction from various physical, behavioral, cognitive, and psychological symptoms, such as drowsiness, social isolation, and depression.
  • The leading cause of fentanyl addiction is the chemical imbalance that occurs in the central nervous system of long-term opioid users.
  • People who abuse fentanyl are at a higher risk of fentanyl addiction and overdose than those who don’t, which is why taking it as prescribed is of utmost importance.
  • ANR is an ultra-modern procedure that can help you recover from fentanyl dependence quickly, safely, and effectively.

Fentanyl Addiction FAQ

Fentanyl is very popular due to its potency. Given how strong it is, a small amount of fentanyl goes a long way. Drug traffickers often use this to their advantage by adding small amounts of fentanyl to other drugs to make them more potent and addictive. It is also cheaper to manufacture and easier to smuggle than other opioids.

Most people use fentanyl for pain relief, mainly when non-opioid painkillers aren’t strong enough to alleviate it. However, some take it for non-medical purposes, i.e., to feel “high.” If you’re suffering from pain, you should only take fentanyl as a last resort, as regular opioid use changes your brain chemistry, which makes this drug highly addictive and dangerous.

Fentanyl differs from other prescription opioids, including oxycodone, in that it is extremely potent. For comparison, oxycodone is 1.5–2 times stronger than morphine, whereas fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than morphine.

The only way you can ensure that you’re getting actual opioids is by acquiring them with a doctor’s prescription. Illicit opioids are often laced with other substances, including fentanyl, at unknown doses, which makes them very dangerous.

Although opioids can soothe pain even when other medications fail to do so, they can be bad for your health. Not only can they cause various side effects, such as breathing difficulties and constipation, but they can also lead to dependence, addiction, overdose, and even death. For this reason, you should always take opioids as prescribed.

Like any drug in the opioid family, fentanyl is addictive. While it effectively alleviates pain, it can also cause euphoria, which may entice people to take the drug repeatedly. Most importantly, this drug alters not only the way your brain perceives pain but also your endorphin-receptor system, which is the leading cause of fentanyl addiction.

While there are various treatments for fentanyl addiction, Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) surpasses all of them in terms of speed, safety, and effectiveness. Unlike other fentanyl addiction treatments, ANR restores your brain to its pre-addiction state, thereby negating the risk of persistent withdrawal symptoms and relapse.

Reclaim your life with the revolutionary ANR treatment.

Dr. Andre Waismann

Dr. Waismann identified the biological roots of opioid dependency, Since then he has successfully treated more than 24,000 patients worldwide that are struggling with opioid addiction.

Throughout his career, he has lectured and educated health professionals in dozens of countries around the world to this day.

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