fentanyl addiction
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Fentanyl Addiction: overview

Fentanyl is a synthetic narcotic analgesic that belongs to the opioid class of drugs. Fentanyl causes the rapid building of tolerance and addiction which eventually leads to overdose hence it should not be abused.


According to statistics, out of 70,237 deaths related to drug overdose in 2017, 67.8 percent were attributed to opioid overdose out of which 28,466 opioid overdose deaths were related to a fentanyl overdose. Moreover, from 2018 to 2019 there has been a surge of 15 percent in synthetic opioid-related death from overdose. To counter this upsetting trend of the opioid crisis measures have been taken and awareness regarding prescription opioid misuse is being created among the masses.

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What is Fentanyl and How Does it Work?

Fentanyl is a strong opioid analgesic that is much the same as morphine but it is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl is reserved for use in the setting of chronic pain that is resistant to other analgesics such as cancer pain or pain after surgery.

Fentanyl like heroin and morphine works by acting on the opioid receptors present in the brain that regulate pain and emotions. Fentanyl also interferes with the reward center in the brain and is therefore highly addictive as it creates a feeling of euphoria due to the release of dopamine and inhibition of pain signaling.

Fentanyl is a schedule II controlled drug that is approved by the FDA. Being a schedule II drug means that Fentanyl has significant potential for abuse and can lead to severe physical and psychological dependence.

Fentanyl can be used for long-term pain management and this can often lead to the development of addiction to this analgesic. Fentanyl is available as transdermal patches, nasal sprays, sublingual dissolving tablets, and injectable liquids. However, when used for illicit purposes fentanyl is used in powder form and drug dealers often mix it with MDMA, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

What is Fentanyl Addiction?

Fentanyl addiction begins when an individual feels compelled to take the drug despite the negative outcomes. The inability to stop use is due to drastic changes in the brain that occur over time with use. For some, fentanyl addiction takes hold rapidly while for others, it is shaped over time. 

What makes Fentanyl so addictive? The answer lies in the mechanism of action of the drug as mentioned above. Fentanyl works by rewiring the reward center of the brain which results in a surge of dopamine, altering the brain chemistry and it makes the individual feel a sense of extreme euphoria and a ‘high’ and hence dependence on drugs like fentanyl develops rapidly.

Eventually, the individual develops physical and psychological dependence on fentanyl no matter if he or she is using fentanyl for legitimate medical reasons or recreational purposes.

Once dependence develops on fentanyl, the individual requires the drug to function optimally and they are unable to execute the daily tasks without the support of the drug since withdrawal symptoms develop as soon as the effect of fentanyl wears off. Dependence ultimately paves the way to addiction and individuals continue to take Fentanyl regardless of the adverse consequences that they experience as a side effect of the drug.

Fentanyl Addiction poses a serious threat to an individual’s health because when one becomes involved in a substance use disorder, obtaining a drug such as fentanyl and using it dominates their life and there’s a significant risk of getting into fentanyl overdose.

When individuals accidentally take a large amount of fentanyl, they experience respiratory depression which results in a condition called hypoxia which means inadequate oxygen delivery to vital organs such as the brain which may lead to coma or death.

what are the Signs of Fentanyl Addiction?

It can sometimes be difficult to know if someone is addicted to fentanyl, however, certain red flags can help you determine if someone you know is dealing with fentanyl addiction.

Following are the symptoms of Fentanyl addiction:

  • Preoccupied with the thoughts of obtaining and using fentanyl
  • Isolating from all social activities
  • Developing tolerance to fentanyl and using more quantity of the drug to achieve
  • the desired effect
  • Lagging in work and academics with an increasing number of absent days
  • Using fentanyl to avoid the negative symptoms of withdrawal
  • Inability to quit fentanyl despite wanting to do so
  • Continuing to use the drug even after experiencing negative side effects
  • Committing crimes to acquire money to purchase fentanyl

Following are the signs of Fentanyl addiction:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Mood swing
  • Impaired balance and coordination
  • Hallucinations
  • Bizarre thoughts
  • Chest tightness

what are the Side Effects of Fentanyl Addiction?

Once the effect of fentanyl wears off, individuals experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms which make them crave the drug and they end up in a vicious cycle of obtaining the drug and using it.

Following are the side effects of Fentanyl:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anorexia
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Weight loss
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Trouble urinating
  • Pupil dilation
  • Changes in vision
  • Depression
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Tolerance
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
  • Death

Begin your Recovery Experience

How to Get Help for Fentanyl addiction

It is never too late to seek treatment for your substance use disorder. Fentanyl addiction treatment is possible, and focusing on healing the mind, body, and spirit remains the cornerstone of addiction treatment.

Recovery does not happen overnight, but once a commitment is made and one stays determined, nothing can stop the individual from being drug-free.

At Cornerstone Healing Center, there are multiple options for fentanyl addiction treatment for you to choose from. Our programs such as inpatient Inpatient Rehab or Intensive Outpatient Programs can make a positive and lasting impact on your life. Let’s start the drug-free journey together. 

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