Fentanyl Addiction | Effects, Warning Signs, & Treatment

If you think you or a loved one has an opioid use disorder (OUD), professional treatment can help you build a foundation of skills for long-term recovery.

Fentanyl is a powerful and dangerous synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine. When prescribed by a doctor, fentanyl is used to treat severe pain that doesn’t respond to alternative pain relievers.

Fentanyl is a schedule II controlled substance that’s highly addictive and comes with a high risk of overdose if abused. If you think you or a loved one has an opioid use disorder (OUD), professional treatment can help you build a foundation of skills for long-term recovery.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a prescription drug sold as lozenges, or transdermal patches under the brand names Duragesic, Actiq, and Sublimaze.

Drug dealers often use illicit fentanyl as an adulterant in commonly abused drugs like heroin and methamphetamine. Fentanyl may also be known by its street names, which include China Girl, Dance Fever, and Goodfellas.

Although it can be beneficial for severe or cancer-related pain, it is dangerous if misused. Fentanyl is associated with a significant increase in opioid overdose deaths. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), overdose deaths involving fentanyl increased more than 50% in the past year.

Effects Of Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a central nervous system depressant that slows important brain functions like breathing and heart rate. It attaches to opioid receptors in the brain to relieve pain and increases the production of dopamine.

Along with pain relief, fentanyl can also produce euphoria, relaxation, and sedation.

Similar to other opioids, fentanyl may also cause unwanted side effects, including:

  • constipation
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • confusion
  • drowsiness

Learn more about the Side Effects Of Fentanyl

Fentanyl Overdose

When fentanyl is mixed with other opioids or depressant drugs, like benzodiazepines, it increases these effects and the risk of overdose.

Signs of fentanyl overdose include:

  • slow or shallow breathing
  • slow heart rate
  • low blood pressure
  • mental confusion
  • bluish skin tone
  • loss of consciousness

A fentanyl overdose can be fatal and requires immediate medical care. If you have Narcan (naloxone), you can use it while you wait for help to arrive. However, fentanyl may require more than one dose of Narcan to reverse the effects of an overdose.

Learn more about Fentanyl Overdose

Fentanyl Dependence & Withdrawal

Fentanyl abuse is becoming increasingly more prevalent, despite the life-threatening risks associated with it.

Fentanyl patches and other forms of the drug may be misused if taken in a way other than how it is prescribed. Illicit forms of the drug, including fentanyl powder may be abused or mixed with other drugs to increase the effects.

Long-term fentanyl use can cause changes in the brain that lead to a dependence on the drug. If you stop taking opioids or try to reduce the amount used, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • muscle aches
  • bone pain
  • trouble sleeping
  • diarrhea
  • goosebumps
  • intense cravings

Fentanyl Addiction Warning Signs

Dependence increases the risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD), also known as addiction. If you are concerned about fentanyl abuse, there are several physical and behavioral changes that can help you determine if professional treatment may be necessary.

Warning signs of drug addiction may include:

  • desire to cut back but unable to stop on your own
  • loss of control over how much you use
  • continued use, despite physical/mental health consequences
  • prioritizing drug use over relationships
  • loss of interest in other activities or hobbies
  • dependence and withdrawal symptoms

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment 

Although fentanyl is a potent opioid and highly addictive, professional addiction treatment can help you stop using drugs. When you are ready to reach out for help, a healthcare professional can connect you with the level of care that is right for you.

Depending on your needs, your treatment plan may include:


If you are dependent, a detox program may be necessary to stabilize physical withdrawal symptoms and prepare you for a drug rehab program. During a detox program, you will have 24/7 supervision and may receive medications to ease severe symptoms.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) 

MAT programs consist of FDA-approved medications, like methadone and buprenorphine, along with behavioral therapy.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), MAT programs can effectively treat opioid addiction, help individuals maintain long-term recovery, and reduce the risk of overdose.

Residential Treatment

Residential treatment programs, also known as inpatient rehab, involve an intensive daily schedule of individualized treatment services. Therapies and activities may include behavioral therapy, counseling, and meditation.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient rehab is a flexible alternative to inpatient treatment. You will live at home and travel to scheduled treatment sessions. Each treatment session will be tailored to your needs and may include individual counseling, group therapy, or family therapy.

Northeast Addictions Treatment Center offers a wide range of comprehensive outpatient treatment options. To learn more about our treatment center, please contact an addiction specialist today.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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