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Is Fentanyl Addictive?


Fentanyl is a drug that has become an increasingly abused substance, but there still remains a lack of widespread understanding of the addictive nature of Fentanyl. You may be wondering, “Is Fentanyl addictive?” and if so, “Why is Fentanyl addictive?” Fentanyl is a drug that be extremely beneficial and potent when taken under the advisement of a licensed medical professional to manage severe pain; unfortunately, it is too often that Fentanyl ends up being abused and the body physically dependent upon it.

In order to understand how addictive Fentanyl is and why the body becomes dependent upon it, it is first important to understand what Fentanyl is. From there, it is possible to explore signs of substance abuse, what the common withdrawal symptoms are when detoxing from Fentanyl, and what steps you need to take to get the help needed to combat a Fentanyl addiction.

What is Fentanyl?

In order to understand how and why Fentanyl is addictive, it is vital to have a foundational understanding of what Fentanyl is and how it works within the body. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is often used to manage pain following major surgery or for continued pain management for individuals who have developed a tolerance to other prescription pain medications. When used in a controlled environment and for a short duration of time, Fentanyl can be extremely effective in managing pain, but Fentanyl can become problematic when ingested for a long period of time because it can cause a dependency to develop within the brain and the body.

Fentanyl is not advised for consumption by individuals with any type of respiratory or lung disease, a brain tumor, a history of traumatic brain injury, slow heartbeats, liver or kidney disease, or in conjunction with a sedative (diazepam, alprazolam, lorazepam, Ativan, Klonopin, Restoril, Tranxene, Versed, Xanax) or a Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor (MAOI) (isocarboxazid, linezolid, methylene blue injection, phenelzine, rasagiline, selegiline, tranylcypromine).

Fentanyl also has several potential side effects that may occur when it is being taken, including sedation, respiratory depression and arrest, unconsciousness, nausea, confusion, and tolerance. In its prescription form, Fentanyl is known by a number of different brand names, such as Actiq®, Fentora®, Duragesic®, Lazanda®, or Sublimaze®. In contrast to these names, Fentanyl has also earned a battery of different street names. When purchased illicitly, Fentanyl is known by names such as Apache, China Town, China Girl, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfellas, Great Bear, He-Man, Jackpot, King Ivory, Murder 8, and Tango and Cash. With this information in mind, it is now possible to examine whether or not Fentanyl is addictive.

The Addictive Nature of Fentanyl

Fentanyl is an extremely addictive drug, which has led to its classification as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). To be classified as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency, a substance must have a high potential for being abused, which subsequently leads to a severe physical or psychological dependency. Fentanyl is extremely potent, which contributes to why it is incredibly addictive for those that use it, whether legally or illegally.

Some individuals may become addicted to Fentanyl inadvertently when receiving it legally for treatment, which drives them to continue to purchase and use Fentanyl long after their treatment has ceased. Fentanyl is fifty times stronger than Heroin and one hundred times more potent than Morphine. In addition to being used on its own as an illicit substance, it is common for drug dealers to cut less powerful drugs, such as Heroin, and lace it with Fentanyl so that it produces a stronger effect and gives users a different type of high.

In recent years, Fentanyl has steadily increased in popularity on the illegal drug market because of its potency and its highly addictive nature. The way that Fentanyl affects the chemistry of the brain and changes the way the body responds and functions is a contributing factor to its immense addictiveness, and why it produces such intense withdrawal symptoms.

As mentioned above, Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. Fentanyl binds to the opioid receptors in the body. The body’s opioid receptors are how the brain controls how it processes pain and emotions. When Fentanyl is introduced to the bloodstream, it binds to the opioid receptors and causes a surge of dopamine to flood the brain. Dopamine produces feelings of euphoria, pleasure, and relaxation. Fentanyl effectively tricks the brain into thinking that it is experiencing euphoria because of its control over the opioid receptors.

However, opioid receptors also control a number of vital bodily processes. Opioid receptors monitor how the body controls its breathing rate. When an individual takes a dose of Fentanyl, it can compromise the body’s ability to ensure that the breathing rate remains normal and is controlled. In some cases, this can cause individuals who take a high dose of Fentanyl to stop breathing, which can lead to coma, and in some cases, can be fatal. Because of how addictive and potent Fentanyl is, it has a higher probability of resulting in an overdose when taken illicitly without the supervision and oversight of a licensed medical professional.


How to Recognize Potential Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

Because of its highly addictive nature, a dependency upon Fentanyl can develop rapidly and will require the user to continuously seek Fentanyl in order to maintain their dosage, and to continuously achieve the same feeling or high, they will require a continuously higher dose over the course of time. This can lead people to do things that they would never imagine themselves doing just so that they can get one more dose of Fentanyl. Signs of Fentanyl abuse can be divided into three distinct types of signs: behavioral, physical, and psychological. Below are the most common behavioral, physical, and psychological signs of Fentanyl addiction.

Behavioral Signs of Fentanyl Addiction:

  • Appearing to nod off or be in a daze
  • Attempting to forge prescriptions for Fentanyl
  • Hiding Fentanyl around the home, in the car, or at work to conceal its use
  • Stealing someone else’s Fentanyl prescription to take
  • Increasing the dose of Fentanyl taken in order to maintain the same effect
  • Stealing money from loved ones or friends to pay for Fentanyl
  • Borrowing money from loved ones or friends to pay for Fentanyl
  • Being deceptive and concealing how much Fentanyl is being taken
  • Attempting to go to multiple doctors in order to obtain more prescriptions for Fentanyl
  • Undergoing medical procedures or self-inflicting injuries in order to receive a prescription for Fentanyl
  • Frequently visiting the doctor or emergency room to attempt to get a prescription for Fentanyl
  • Visiting the doctor specifically to ask for a Fentanyl prescription
  • Exhibiting signs of cravings when Fentanyl cannot be obtained for a short period of time

Physical Signs of Fentanyl Addiction:


  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Unusual sleep patterns
  • Tremors
  • Slowed breathing
  • Headache


Psychological Symptoms of Fentanyl Abuse:


  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Impulsiveness
  • Psychosis
  • Delusions
  • Mood swings


Common Symptoms Experienced During Fentanyl Withdrawal

When an individual takes Fentanyl in a high dose or for a prolonged period of time, the brain and body develop a dependency on receiving the Fentanyl. This means that in the absence of Fentanyl, the body will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms, which due to how strong Fentanyl is and its effect on opioid receptors, can be very severe. Because fentanyl floods the brain with dopamine, the body becomes used to this consistent influx of dopamine and may slow its own natural production of dopamine as a result.

When the Fentanyl is no longer present in the bloodstream, the body will have to fight to regain balance and regulate itself in the absence of the drug, which is why Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms occur. The withdrawal timeline will vary from person to person, but there are three main stages that comprise the Fentanyl withdrawal process. During the initial phase of withdrawal, symptoms begin to arise within twelve to thirty hours from the last dose of Fentanyl. The initial symptoms of withdrawal may appear mild, but often increase in severity as time passes and the body struggles to regulate itself.

The initial phase often lasts one to two days before the body enters the second phase of withdrawal. During this phase, withdrawal symptoms will increase in intensity and will often manifest in both psychological and physical symptoms. The second stage often begins to wind down and improve five days after the last dose of Fentanyl, but this varies depending on the severity of the addiction, as well as number of other environmental and biological variables. After the worst of the withdrawal symptoms have begun to subside, individuals enter the third stage of withdrawal, in which the body continues to slowly improve and regulate itself without the Fentanyl. From the third stage of withdrawal, the body completes the detoxification process and the individual can embark on their recovery. Below are a handful of the most common physical and psychological symptoms that are experienced during Fentanyl withdrawal.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches or bone pain
  • Cravings or obsession about the substance
  • Memory problems or difficulty focusing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Exhaustion or fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Itching
  • Fever
  • Goosebumps
  • Chills
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Depression

Steps to Take to Get Help for a Fentanyl Addiction

The first step to seeking treatment for a Fentanyl addiction is to recognize that there is a need for change. It can be difficult to acknowledge that there is an addiction, but seeking help to combat the psychological and physical dependency that has built up over time is the best way to be able to move forward and live a healthy, sober life. Once the need to make a change has been recognized, the next step is to actively seek out the right treatment center to help during the Fentanyl detox process to ensure it is safe and to help after withdrawal has ended so that recovery can begin and be lasting. In order to find the right treatment center, it is important to first decide whether or not treatment would be most effective locally or out-of-state.

This will be entirely dependent upon the individual and their unique circumstances. For some, remaining close to a network of supportive friends and family while in detox and recovery can be beneficial. However, for others, remaining local can expose them to people or places that foster their addiction and can lead to an increased probability of relapse. On the other hand, out-of-state treatment fosters a dynamic chemistry and supportive environment amongst patients and gives individuals the ability to focus solely on their recovery. However, out-of-state treatment facilities often cost considerably more and require additional planning and logistics to attend. This decision should be carefully considered, and when a decision has been made the next step is to research various treatment centers that specialize in Fentanyl detox and treating painkiller addictions.

It is important to verify what the staff to patient ratio is, that the facility is accredited, what the qualifications of the staff are, and whether all treatment plans are individualized based on the needs of the patient. This will help reveal whether or not the methodology and approach of the treatment facility align with the patient and their respective circumstances. Choosing the right treatment center can be integral to fostering a lasting recovery from an addiction to Fentanyl.

Luminance Recovery is a drug rehab in Orange County that focuses on a holistic approach to treat Fentanyl addictions. Our center has helped many people overcome their Fentanyl addiction and live a life that is drug free. If you are ready to embark on your journey toward a life that is addiction free, call us today to learn more.


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