Fentanyl Addiction: Symptoms And Signs Of Abuse
- Kristina Ackermann, Director of Content
Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opiate used to treat chronic and severe pain. Fentanyl is at least 50-100 times stronger than morphine. Symptoms of fentanyl abuse and/or withdrawal may include:
- A rapid heartbeat
- Opening a fentanyl patch to eat its gel beads
- Buying fentanyl illegally from people who may have a lawful prescription
- Showing fear at the prospect of not having access to fentanyl
As the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, fentanyl is a generic synthetic opioid.
This means that fentanyl is a narcotic pain reliever that carries a high risk of abuse. Typically, fentanyl is used after surgery for the treatment of severe pain. The drug is the main ingredient in different branded drugs, including but not limited to Fentora, Sublimaze, and Duragesic. This manmade narcotic comes in different formats, including as a tablet, patch, spray, and lozenge. All formats are potent, addictive, and an overdose could prove fatal. In fact, fentanyl is 50-100 times more powerful than morphine .
Tolerance Is A Key Symptom Of Being Addicted To Drugs
Sometimes an addiction can sneak up on you slowly and insidiously. As you continue to use a drug, you can slowly build up a tolerance to it, which means that you no longer get the same feeling or high that you once got by taking a small amount.
Once your tolerance begins to build, you might increase the dose or frequency of taking the drug. You are trying to get that same high that you felt in the beginning when your body was not used to the drug. As you continue to build tolerance, you end up taking more of the drug. Your body becomes chemically dependent on the drug. This means you discover that you need to take the drug just to feel normal or leveled out
Signs And Symptoms Of Fentanyl Addiction
Teens who use fentanyl often show signs of typical drug-addicted behavior cravings for the drug, compulsive use and impaired judgement. They may also experience a wide range of physical symptoms such as blurred vision, slurred or slow speech, drowsiness, confusion, nausea and slowed breathing.
An addiction to fentanyl also causes many young users to ignore their relationships and responsibilities: withdrawal from family or social events, absences or poor performance at school, abandoning hobbies or activities that they once found enjoyable, and the inability to perform even the most routine chores and activities.
Other signs of a teen fentanyl addiction include:
- Needing more and more of the drug to attain a high
- Constantly thinking about how to get more fentanyl
- Forging prescriptions
- Seeing more than one doctor to get prescriptions
- Experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms when fentanyl use stops
- Engaging in risky behavior when using fentanyl
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Will Fentanyl Show Up On A Drug Test
Although fentanyl is much stronger than other opiates, its not commonly tested for on standard drug tests, which often aim to detect the presence of opioids that metabolize into morphine. Since fentanyl doesnt metabolize into morphine, its unlikely to be detected unless an advanced drug test is ordered.
However, if an advanced drug test is ordered, fentanyl is easily detected through urine, hair, saliva, and blood tests. Fentanyl can be detected in:
- Urine for eight to 24 hours
- Blood for up to 12 hours
- Saliva for one to three days
- Hair for up to 90 days
How Long Does A Fentanyl Detox Last
Fentanyl detox can last as little as three days, or as long as several months. The amount of time it takes to detox from fentanyl depends on a wide range of factors, such as the detox method being used, the severity of a persons dependence and addiction, and whether a person also needs treatment for co-occurring disorders. Most detox centers work closely with patients to develop customized treatment plans based on each patients unique struggle with fentanyl dependence.
With the tapering detox method, the patients tapering schedule is often based on the severity of their dependence. For instance, those who have been using exceptionally high doses of fentanyl for a long period of time, or who abuse other substances along with fentanyl usually taper off the drug slowly over a long period of time to prevent and manage withdrawal symptoms.
With a medical detox, patients can expect the onset of fentanyl withdrawal symptoms to occur within 12 hours of taking the last dose. Symptoms are usually mild between days one through three, and peak between days three through five. In most cases, physical withdrawal symptoms clear up within two weeks, but some psychological symptoms may last for weeks or months.
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Whether You’re Calling For Yourself Or A Loved One Our Intake Coordinators Are Here To Help Your Call Is Confidential And There’s No Pressure To Commit To Treatment Until You’re Ready
Substance addiction is caused by two broad factors:
- Genetic factors
- Environmental factors
There is no single addiction gene that causes people to become addicted when they are exposed to drugs. Rather, there are various genes that influence whether a particular person is predisposed to addiction. There are genes that are protective against developing addiction. The combination of these genes determine individuals predisposition to becoming addicted when they are exposed to drugs.
Addiction is also closely tied to other mental health disorders because they each can cause the other. Mental health disorders and substance use disorders share many of the same genetic causes, risk factors and even symptoms. A co-occurring mental health disorder occurs in more than 50% of people with addiction. Many people begin their drug or alcohol use to self-medicate symptoms of a mental health disorder.
Likewise, many people use drugs or alcohol as a dysfunctional coping mechanism for dealing with life stressors, past traumas or other elements that cause negative thoughts, emotions and feelings.
Factors That Influence The Elimination Time
Like fentanyl half-life depicts, this substance stays in human systems for certain periods of time. However, the elimination times differ from person to person. Several factors could be responsible for the different duration in ones body.
Fentanyl is a potent opioid, and many factors can influence its elimination from the system, such as age, dosage and even ingestion route. However, if one is concerned about not testing positive for this drug, it can be dangerous to quit cold turkey. The most effective way is tapering off slowly under medical supervision. Treatment centers have all the necessary tools to help a patient go through fentanyl withdrawal safely and without complications. If one is worried about an addiction that has already developed in them or their loved one, enrolling in an inpatient treatment program is a good way to overcome it.
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Can You Overdose On Fentanyl
Yes, a person can overdose on fentanyl. An overdose occurs when a drug produces serious adverse effects and life-threatening symptoms. When people overdose on fentanyl, their breathing can slow or stop. This can decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, a condition called hypoxia. Hypoxia can lead to a coma and permanent brain damage, and even death.
What Is Samhsa’s National Helpline
SAMHSAs National Helpline, , or TTY: is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
Also visit the online treatment locator.
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Treatment For Fentanyl Addiction
Rehab for fentanyl addiction uses the same process as opioid rehab. The detox process for fentanyl addiction is usually more intensive than the approach used for other types of opioid addiction. Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms will likely be more severe than those of other opioids.
Addiction professionals may ease fentanyl withdrawal symptoms with medications, such as methadone or Suboxone . Rehab facilities monitor people detoxing from opioids while keeping them as comfortable as possible.
People addicted to opioids benefit most from inpatient addiction treatment, also known as residential treatment. Most experts recommend a minimum of 30 days of inpatient care for people with severe addiction, and people addicted to fentanyl likely have a severe drug addiction.
During inpatient treatment, patients participate in a daily schedule of individual counseling, group therapy and educational classes. They may also have access to alternative treatments, such as yoga classes or animal-assisted therapy. These activities help individuals recognize triggers, cope with cravings and learn healthy ways to enjoy life.
Inpatient treatment is usually followed by outpatient care and support group attendance. Many people live in sober living homes after rehab. These homes provide structure and accountability during early recovery.
How To Get Fentanyl Out Of Your System
Drinking lots of water, exercising, and other elimination myths will not help you get fentanyl or other opiates out of your system to beat a drug test. The only way to get fentanyl out of your system is to stop taking the drug and allow your body time to metabolize and eliminate it.
If you want to get fentanyl out of your system because you feel you have taken too much and you do not want to be at risk for a respiratory arrest, seek medical attention immediately.
While Narcan , a nasal spray used to treat opioid overdose in an emergency situation, will not actually remove fentanyl from your system, administering it will block the opiate receptors in the body, causing you to go into withdrawal. This is unpleasant but definitely preferable to an overdose.
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Who Can And Cannot Take Fentanyl
Fentanyl can be used by most adults.
Some patches can be used in children from the age of 2 years and over. However, young children and older people are more likely to get side effects.
Fentanyl patches are usually only used if you’ve already been taking other strong opioid painkillers. Your doctor will work out how much fentanyl to give you depending on what dose of other opioids you have been taking. This is to reduce the risk of an overdose.
Fentanyl is not suitable for some people. Tell your doctor before starting this medicine if you:
- have ever had an allergic reaction to fentanyl or any other medicines
- have breathing difficulties such as asthma or a lung condition
- are addicted to alcohol or a heavy drinker
- have a head injury or condition that causes fits or seizures
- have irregular heartbeats
- are trying to get pregnant, are pregnant or breastfeeding
As We Mentioned Earlier Fentanyl Withdrawal Can Become Quite Severe In Most Cases People Are Often Not Aware Of How Bad It Can Get And May Have Only Experienced Mild Withdrawal When Missing Their Dose
Detoxing helps because it removes those harmful toxins from the body. When it is done correctly, it can reduce the severity of symptoms while also reducing the risk of complications.
When it comes to stopping the use of Fentanyl, detoxing is a requirement for safety reasons. There are several different forms of treatment that may be prescribed.
Holistic withdrawal treatment should also be the standard for the best drug detox programs. This is because the body is very good at detoxing on its own when it is in good health. Unfortunately, drug abuse takes quite a toll, and the kidneys and liver often suffer as a result.
By making certain dietary changes and adding exercise, the body can be brought into a better state of health. It can also help with teaching the brain how to release the right amount of dopamine again.
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How Do People Use Fentanyl
When prescribed by a doctor, fentanyl can be given as a shot, a patch that is put on a persons skin, or as lozenges that are sucked like cough drops.6
The illegally used fentanyl most often associated with recent overdoses is made in labs. This synthetic fentanyl is sold illegally as a powder, dropped onto blotter paper, put in eye droppers and nasal sprays, or made into pills that look like other prescription opioids.7
Some drug dealers are mixing fentanyl with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA. This is because it takes very little to produce a high with fentanyl, making it a cheaper option. This is especially risky when people taking drugs dont realize they might contain fentanyl as a cheap but dangerous additive. They might be taking stronger opioids than their bodies are used to and can be more likely to overdose. To learn more about the mixture of fentanyl into other drugs, visit the Drug Enforcement Administrations Drug Facts on fentanyl.
Side Effects Of Fentanyl Use
The side effects associated with fentanyl can emerge, with greater severity, in individuals who abuse this drug. For this reason, it is helpful to consider some of the most common side effects, which include but are not limited to:
- Feeling of a tight chest
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Back pain or side pain
- Tingling or numbness in the hands, lips, or feet
- Ulcers, sores, or white spots in the mouth
- Sneezing, sore throat, or sunken eyes
- Swelling in the calves, ankles, feet, and hands
One of the most common side effects of fentanyl abuse is the onset of addiction . When the body continues to receive fentanyl, it naturally makes adjustments. One adjustment is to build tolerance, which then requires the person to take more fentanyl in order to achieve the desired high.
There is a great danger implicit in tolerance as the fentanyl intake rises, so too does the risk of harmful side effects. The body wants to promote survival but once drugs are introduced, and drugs are foreign substances to the body, the system gets turned into a potential engine of personal destruction.
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Signs Of Opioid Abuse Can Include:
- Taking higher doses than prescribed
- Using opioids without a prescription
- Taking opioids just for the effects
- Continuing to use opioids for longer than prescribed
- Taking opioids with other substances like alcohol or benzodiazepines to intensify the effects
- Using opioids other than how theyre intended to be used
While the signs of opioid abuse are different from addiction, abuse often leads to addiction.
Signs of opioid addiction can include:
- Compulsive, out-of-control use of opioids
- Using opioids even when there are negative consequences to health
- Engaging in dangerous activities while on opioids or to get opioids
- The inability to stop using opioids, even when trying
- Opioids become a top focus and priority above all else
How Long Does It Take To Detox From Fentanyl
In recent years, fentanyl has become one of the deadliest drugs in the United States. Fentanyl is a Schedule II opioid drug commonly prescribed by U.S. doctors to treat severe pain, but can also be illicitly purchased on the streets and from China via the Internet. Fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin, and up to 100 times than morphine. Only two milligrams of this drug can trigger an overdose and cause death.
Fentanyl is highly addictive, and can quickly lead to physical dependence when misused. Thousands of Americans are suffering overdoses associated with this powerful, potent drug including emergency responders who accidentally come into contact with fentanyl when arriving at overdose scenes. Though fentanyl is extremely dangerous and can lead to death after just one use, detoxing or withdrawing from this drug comes with its own serious risks due to the severe effects of this substance on the brain and body.
Continuing fentanyl use can drastically increase ones risk for an overdose and death, but a professional fentanyl detox can help individuals safely quit using with a lowered risk for complications.
So, exactly how long does it take to detox from fentanyl? Heres what you need to know about fentanyl detox, and how you or your loved one can stay addiction-free after overcoming fentanyl dependence and addiction.
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How Long Does It Take To Get Addicted To Drugs
There isnt a simple formula for how long it takes an individual to become addicted. Some users will begin craving the drug immediately after it wears off the first time. Others may use a drug recreationally several times. Or even binge on it a few times, before developing a daily drug habit.
Users of habit-forming prescription drugs may prevent dependency by speaking to their prescribing doctor about the possible risks of dependency. While short-term use of habit-forming drugs may be effective in treating some conditions, long-term use may lead to tolerance and dependency. Especially in those who have a history of substance abuse.
A good indication of how habit-forming a medication is can be its half-life. This is the time it takes for half of a drugs dosage to be metabolized and eliminated from the bloodstream.
Those with a shorter half-life may take action more quickly, but they also leave the body more quickly. These drugs have a higher risk of withdrawal symptoms and a higher risk of abuse or dependency.