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Understanding Fentanyl Addiction – Effects, Symptoms & Treatment

Written by Thomas Christiansen

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Deep Shukla, PhD, MS

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 6/17/2022

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Fentanyl is a synthetic pharmaceutical drug that is an opioid pain reliever. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s used to relieve severe pain like the pain one experiences during cancer treatment or after surgery. It is also used to relieve breakthrough pain. This occurs when there are flare-ups of intense pain among those who are on round-the-clock narcotic treatment.

All opioid pain medications have a risk for abuse and addiction. This is even more the case with one as strong as fentanyl, which produces a high similar to that of heroin. Fentanyl is a very dangerous drug, especially to those that don’t have a tolerance to opioids. If it is mixed with an illegal narcotic like heroin or a stimulant like cocaine, the drug’s damaging effects can be amplified.

Brand Names of Fentanyl

Fentanyl is legally prescribed and manufactured by pharmaceutical companies under these brand names and formulations:

  • Lazanda – nasal spray
  • Actiq – lollipops
  • Duragesic – transdermal patch
  • Abstral – sublingual tablets
  • Subsys – sublingual spray
  • Fentora – effervescent buccal tablets

Illicit Fentanyl

Non-pharmaceutical versions of the drug also exist illicitly. It is known on the street as apache, China white, China girl, dance fever, Goodfella, friend, jackpot, TNT and Tango. It’s often found as a powder or it may be attached to blotter paper. It is often used in combination with cocaine or heroin, which is often a deadly combination.

The Effects of Fentanyl on the Body

Fentanyl works by increasing the production of the feel-good chemical, dopamine, in the brain and by blocking the pain receptors. Fentanyl can also cause:

  • Seizures
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Blurred vision
  • Itching
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches

Fentanyl Addiction Signs and Symptoms

If you suspect someone you love may be addicted to fentanyl, there are many signs and symptoms you need to be aware of. These can be physical or behavioral.

Physical Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

  • Noticeable drowsiness or sedation
  • Evident euphoria or elation
  • Constricted pupils
  • Slowed respiration
  • Nodding out or losing consciousness
  • Constipation

Behavioral Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

  • Confusion
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Visiting multiple doctors or pharmacies to obtain multiple prescriptions
  • Social isolation
  • Financial problems
  • Damaged relationships
  • Failure at work or school

Having a Fentanyl Addiction Intervention

If a loved one is addicted to fentanyl, you may need to have an intervention in order to get your loved one into treatment. It is a good idea to consult with an intervention specialist before you have an intervention. He or she will be able to look at your situation with your loved one and advise you on the best way to go about staging an intervention for Fentanyl addiction. He or she will also be in charge of the intervention and make sure that it runs smoothly.

Although an intervention can help you to communicate your concerns to your loved one, ultimately the decision to seek treatment must be made by your loved one. It’s a good idea to have treatment options arranged beforehand so that your loved one can go immediately into treatment.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Quitting fentanyl can cause difficult and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Like any other opioid, it is recommended that you seek medically-assisted detox. While detoxing under medical supervision, healthcare professionals will make sure you are comfortable throughout this process.

Some early fentanyl withdrawal symptoms you may experience include:

  • Body aches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Watery eyes
  • Anxiety

Some late fentanyl withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Goosebumps on skin
  • Large pupils

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

If you or someone you love is addicted to fentanyl, it’s imperative that you seek treatment as soon as possible. Fentanyl treatment may necessitate medical detox, inpatient programs and/or outpatient programs as well as aftercare with the help of recovery groups like Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery.

Convenient to Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon, The Recovery Village Ridgefield offers medically-assisted detox, residential treatment programs, partial hospitalization programs, outpatient treatment programs and aftercare programs for fentanyl addiction treatment. With a team of skilled addiction experts and healthcare professionals, we are dedicated to helping you find your path to recovery. Give us a call today, and take back control of your life.