July 21, 2022

How to Get Help for a Fentanyl Addiction [Guide]

In this guide we discuss fentanyl addiction and finding help. Here are the steps you can take and what to expect along the way.


Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Contributors & Editors

Susana Spiegel

Recovery Writer and Advocate

Last Update on February 23, 2024

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How to Get Help for a Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl is one of the most common drugs of abuse in the United States. There is always a potential for abuse with fentanyl and other opioids. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 2 million people reported abusing opioids, including fentanyl, in 2012 alone.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that only 169,868 of these people sought treatment for opioid abuse. Getting help for a fentanyl addiction is important as long-term abuse of opioids can be life-threatening. The following guide will walk you through everything you need about fentanyl addiction, from warning signs to withdrawal symptoms to treatment options.

“Addiction, at its worst, is akin to having Stockholm Syndrome. You’re like a hostage who has developed an irrational affection for your captor. They can abuse you, torture you, even threaten to kill you, and you’ll remain inexplicably and disturbingly loyal.”

Why is Fentanyl addictive?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid made in laboratories using the chemical structure of drugs naturally present in the opium poppy plant. It is used as a pain medication and as an anesthetic in conjunction with other medications.

The opioid is widely used as a recreational drug, often mixed with benzodiazepine, methamphetamine, cocaine, or heroin. It is 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. It is the most powerful opioid pain reliever available for medical use.

Fentanyl, like other opioids, has a rapid onset, and its effects last up to two hours. It is administered intravenously, intranasally, transdermally, or through the skin as a tablet or a lozenge. Intravenous administration of fentanyl is performed to induce anesthesia and to treat pain after surgery. Transdermal patches of fentanyl are used to manage chronic pain, such as cancer pain. Transdermal administration is performed for long-lasting pain relief.

The synthetic opioid works by blocking pain receptors in the brain and boosting dopamine levels. The opioid is often misused for its euphoric effects. It produces effects similar to other opioid analgesics, such as relaxation, sedation, drowsiness, pain relief, pupillary constriction, and dizziness.

Like other opioids, fentanyl attaches to proteins called opioid receptors in the central nervous system, gut, and other body parts. They effectively relieve pain by blocking pain signals sent from different body parts through the spinal cord to the brain. People who use fentanyl for chronic pain management have a higher risk of developing fentanyl addiction.

How to stop using Fentanyl?

Fentanyl makes your brain and body believe that it is necessary for your survival, which is why people keep taking it longer than the prescribed period. Many people fall prey to fentanyl addiction because they don’t learn to tolerate the dose they have been prescribed.

A cold turkey withdrawal is not the best strategy for detoxing from opioids. Therefore, you must taper off your dose slowly to rid your body of fentanyl. Ask your doctor to prescribe a taper schedule that addresses your medical needs while minimizing withdrawal symptoms. You’ll have to closely follow your withdrawal plan to reach your goal. You must steer clear of other opioids and powerful analgesics while detoxing from fentanyl at home.

If you have been misusing fentanyl for a few weeks, you may not be able to detox effectively at home. Consult a licensed counselor or physician to explore your detox and withdrawal options.

How do I know if I have a problem?

Taking fentanyl at an unprescribed level makes the person enter a relaxed state characterized by extreme euphoria. However, it also comes with several adverse, potentially fatal effects on the individual’s body and mind. When warning signs of fentanyl addiction emerge, you should seek help.

Individuals who abuse fentanyl may stop caring for themselves. As they go deeper in their fentanyl addiction, they start neglecting their hygiene and basic needs, such as proper nutrition. Other behavioral changes caused by fentanyl abuse include mood swings, extreme lethargy, and social withdrawal.

Psychological changes caused by fentanyl abuse include concentration difficulties, memory problems, confusion, disorientation, depression, paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations, and impaired judgment. Some physical signs like an upset stomach, pale skin, sunken eyes, convulsion, and shallow breathing indicate an addiction problem.

People with fentanyl addiction often ignore the warning signs and use denial to keep engaging in substance abuse. Continued denial can have grave repercussions, from health problems to damaged relationships. You must seek immediate medical attention if you start exhibiting any warning signs.

Where to start getting help for Fentanyl addiction?

Many different rehab facilities are available in the United States to treat fentanyl addiction. Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide to getting help for a fentanyl addiction.

Step 1: Assess your financial situation. 

If your health insurance does not cover rehabilitative services, you’ll have to pay for your treatment out-of-pocket. Assessing your financial situation will help you determine your treatment options. You also need to reach out to family and friends and let them know you need help. We can also speak with your family on your behalf and see what options are available for you to get into our rehab program.

Step 2: Check your insurance policy.

Health insurances are required to cover rehab for fentanyl addiction. Cornerstone can also help you determine whether your health insurance covers fentanyl abuse treatment. Start the process for insurance verification here. To learn more about how health insurance works, visit our guide to health insurance for drug rehab

Step 3: Sign up for rehab. 

Once everything has been figured out, get yourself ready for the treatment. You need to be fully committed to getting better before you walk through the doors of the rehab you chose. Though entering rehab can be scary, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself.

How is Fentanyl addiction treated?

Depending on the severity of your condition, you’ll be recommended to enter inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab, partial hospitalization, or an intensive outpatient program. Inpatient rehab normally costs the most. Individuals abusing fentanyl for several months are recommended to pursue an inpatient rehab program. The general length of rehab programs for fentanyl is 30 days, 60 days, or 90 days.

What if I Relapse After Going to Rehab for Fentanyl?

Relapse is not indicative of a failure to reach sobriety. It is a normal part of the treatment process. About 40 to 60%of patients with substance use disorder relapse after completing the treatment, as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Substance abuse disorders weaken your brain’s ability to feel pleasure and motivation, create unpleasant emotions, increase your stress response, and impair the functioning of brain areas involved in inhibitory control, decision making, and behavior regulation. Due to the powerful effects of fentanyl and other addictive drugs on the brain, the chances of relapse after completion of treatment are moderately high.

A relapse may indicate a need for a modified treatment plan or additional therapies. Before you enter rehab, you must understand that recovery is a lifelong process, not a single event where you are fully cured. If and when a relapse occurs, be prepared to try again with a new strategy.

Why is it important to reach out for help?

Fentanyl addiction has devastating effects on your health and causes financial, social, and emotional problems. Individuals with fentanyl addiction prioritize misusing drugs over all other life activities, adversely impacting their personal and professional relationships. 

Continued abuse of fentanyl can cause permanent changes in your brain chemistry, which may lead to life-threatening health problems. People who abuse fentanyl and other opioids often lose control of their lives. Reaching out for help to break free from drug abuse and reclaim control of your life is important. Treatment for fentanyl addiction also improves the individual’s ability to deal with underlying issues that may have caused them to abuse the drug.


[1] https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery

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Author & Reviewers

susana spiegel recovery writer and SEO expert

Susana is a recovery writer and advocate with over 8 years in addiction recovery. She is passionate about sharing accurate and helpful information about mental health, addiction, and recovery. She holds a Bachelor’s in Christian Studies from Grand Canyon University and has over 7 years of working in the addiction field. 

lionel estrada lisac clinical director

Lionel is the Clinical Director of Cornerstone’s Scottsdale treatment facilities. He has had over 4 years at Cornerstone. He is personally in recovery and passionate about helping others overcome substance abuse and mental health challenges; he is trained as an EMDR, adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues.

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