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Signs of Fentanyl Abuse You Should Be Aware Of


Fentanyl abuse can be challenging to identify at times because many warning signs can also be attributed to other circumstances and causes, but early identification of substance abuse is extremely important in order to seek treatment and get the necessary help needed to combat the addiction. In recent years, Fentanyl drug abuse has steadily risen as more and more individuals have been exposed to this extremely potent and addictive drug, but correlating information about how to recognize signs of Fentanyl abuse has not been widely understood.

If you suspect that someone you love may have become addicted to Fentanyl, it is vital that you know common Fentanyl abuse side effects so that you can intervene and help your loved one get the help they need. We have put together a list of the most common physical, behavioral, and psychological signs of Fentanyl abuse.  

A Breakdown of What Fentanyl Is and Why the Body Becomes Addicted

As with many things in life, when used correctly and under the advisement of a professional, Fentanyl can be an extremely beneficial and useful drug. However, in recent years, these benefits have become increasingly skewed as cases of Fentanyl abuse have steadily risen. While for some Fentanyl can be a drug that has saved them from extreme pain in a time of need, for others it has become a severe dependency that rules their day to day interactions and decisions.

The benefit and the danger of Fentanyl arise from how it interacts within the body, and how its effect can be manipulated when it begins to be abused rather than taken under the supervision of a qualified medical professional. To understand how Fentanyl dependency begins and why certain warning signs arise when an individual becomes addicted, it is important to have an understanding of what Fentanyl is and how it functions within the body.

What is Fentanyl? Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is classified as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) due to its high potential for being abused and the probability that its use will result in a severe physical or psychological dependency. Fentanyl is extremely addictive and intensely potent. When compared to other drugs that are commonly abused, it becomes clear that Fentanyl is much stronger. Fentanyl is fifty times stronger than Heroin and one hundred times stronger than Morphine.

Because of its potency and high potential for creating a dependency, Fentanyl is often only prescribed for a short duration of time to mitigate the risk of developing an addiction. Fentanyl is often prescribed following major surgery to manage pain or for individuals who have developed a tolerance to other pain medications. Fentanyl is capable of lessening feelings of pain because of how it interacts within the body. Fentanyl binds to opioid receptors within the body, which control feelings of emotion and pain.

When Fentanyl binds to these receptors, it produces a rush of dopamine that floods the brain. Within the brain, dopamine produces feelings of pleasure, euphoria, and relaxation. In essence, Fentanyl tricks the brain into believing that it is in a euphoric state by blocking feelings of pain that would normally be transmitted by the opioid receptors.

However, opioid receptors do not only control feelings of emotions and pain, but also govern a number of base bodily processes, such as the regulation of breathing rate. This means that when an individual takes Fentanyl, their body’s capability to regulate and monitor breathing rate is subsequently compromised as a result. This is just one of many reasons that abusing Fentanyl can pose serious health risks, both psychologically and physically.

When an individual continuously uses Fentanyl, the body begins to develop a dependency on Fentanyl and adjusts its own processes and functions under the assumption that it will continue to receive the same dose of Fentanyl in the future. Once this dependency has formed, it can be dangerous and difficult to attempt to undergo a Fentanyl detox as the brain no longer knows how to behave without the external interference of the Fentanyl. This lack of equilibrium in the absence of Fentanyl leads to the presentation of withdrawal symptoms as the body attempts to wean itself off of the Fentanyl and regain its natural processes and functions. With this information in mind, it is possible to analyze the potential signs of an addition to Fentanyl.

Physical Signs of Fentanyl Abuse

Fentanyl abuse can manifest itself in many different ways depending upon the individual qualities of the person and their biological and environmental factors, but there are a number of common physical warning signs of drug abuse that develop when someone has become dependent upon Fentanyl. These will vary from person to person and should be analyzed in conjunction with both the behavioral and psychological signs of Fentanyl abuse to ascertain an accurate assumption about whether or not an addiction has developed. Below are a handful of the most common physical signs of Fentanyl abuse.

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

Behavioral Signs of Fentanyl Abuse

Behavior signs of Fentanyl abuse are often what alert friends and family that something significant has changed in the life of their loved one. These behavioral signs will vary from person to person, and may increase in severity as their addiction deepens. As users become increasingly desperate for their next dose of a substance, it is common for them to go to great lengths to procure the substance. If they do not, they will begin to exhibit symptoms of withdrawal due to their physical dependency. If a loved one begins to display any of the behaviors listed below, it is best to seek help and develop a plan forward with next steps to how to address their addiction with them and get them the help they need. Below are several common behavioral signs of Fentanyl abuse.


  • Hiding Fentanyl in the home, at work, or in the car: Many people seek to hide their addiction, or the severity of the dependency, from those around them by hiding the Fentanyl they have in various places they are in each day. This includes their home, their place of work, their car, and often many other locations as well.
  • Borrowing money from friends or family to pay for Fentanyl: In some cases, individuals may ask to borrow money from their loved ones so that they can purchase more Fentanyl. They may state that the money will be used for a different purpose, but it is merely a thinly veiled deception to hide their dependency on Fentanyl.
  • Visiting the doctor specifically to ask for a Fentanyl prescription: If an individual makes a trip to the doctor specifically with the intent of obtaining a prescription for Fentanyl, then it is possible that they have developed a physical dependency on Fentanyl and are attempting to continue their Fentanyl abuse through legal channels.
  • Appearing to nod off or to be in a daze: One behavioral sign of Fentanyl abuse is when an individual appears to be nodding off or be in a daze without any other reason for their behavior. Fentanyl abuse can manifest itself differently in each individual, and for some the feelings of relaxation that Fentanyl creates can create an appearance of drowsiness or haze.
  • Attempting to forge prescription for Fentanyl: Some individuals may go to great lengths to attempt to continue to supply their Fentanyl addiction through traditional, legal channels and may even attempt to steal a prescription pad from their doctor in order to forge a prescription for Fentanyl. This action can result in serious legal consequences should they be caught.
  • Steadily increasing the dose of Fentanyl so that they can achieve the same effect: As with many other drugs and medications, over time the human body will develop a tolerance to Fentanyl over time. To combat this tolerance, users will need to consistently increase their dosage of Fentanyl in order to experience the same effects. This often results in an increased demand for Fentanyl as they attempt to satiate their addiction.
  • Stealing money from family or friends to pay for Fentanyl: While some individuals may attempt to borrow money to buy Fentanyl, others may try to steal money from those closest to them in order to get their next dose of Fentanyl. Fentanyl is extremely addictive and can drive people to do things they would never dream of when sober.
  • Hiding how much Fentanyl is being taken: Some individuals may admit to taking Fentanyl, particularly if they have a prescription, but may attempt to hide exactly how much Fentanyl they are taking on a day-to-day basis so that those closest to them remain ignorant about their painkiller addiction. Often, friends or family will begin to recognize that they are being deceptive and will inquire about the amount of Fentanyl being taken, which may lead to further lies or may begin a conversation about the need to seek help.
  • Doctor shopping (visiting multiple doctors in an attempt to get multiple prescriptions for Fentanyl): The practice of doctor shopping can be a tenuous and risk exposure of an addiction, but some individuals are driven to try to visit multiple doctors to get prescriptions for Fentanyl when they are in need of their next dose.
  • Stealing someone else’s prescription for Fentanyl: If an individual cannot get their own prescription for Fentanyl, they may attempt to steal a family member or friend’s prescription so that they can get the dose they need to prevent the onset of withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, if the prescription is not being actively taken, this can be overlooked for some time before it is discovered.
  • Undergoing medical procedures or self-inflicting injuries in an attempt to receive a Fentanyl prescription: Since it is common for Fentanyl to be prescribed to manage pain following major surgery or trauma, some individuals may attempt to take advantage of this practice by self-inflicting injuries or undergoing a medical procedure with the sole purpose of procuring Fentanyl. This is an extreme tactic and can be dangerous to the individual’s health and well-being.
  • Frequently visiting the emergency room in an attempt to get a dose of Fentanyl: Some individuals may try to make trips to the emergency room to persuade a doctor to give them a prescription for Fentanyl; however, there are many guidelines and restrictions within the medical community put in place to help prevent this type of substance abuse and recognize when patients are simply trying to acquire a dose of the drug they are addicted to.
  • Displaying signs of cravings when Fentanyl has not been taken for a short period of time: If an individual begins to exhibit signs of cravings or “drug-seeking” behaviors when they have not had a dose of Fentanyl for a short period of time, it is likely that they have become addicted and will begin experiencing Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms (Link to: Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms) if they do not get another dose.
  • Withdrawing from activities that were previously enjoyed: Addiction can affect all aspects of an individual’s life, and in some cases, may drive people to distance themselves from activities, and sometimes relationships, that they previously enjoyed and valued. When someone becomes physically and psychologically dependent on a substance, they can begin to value that substance above other factors and people within their life and may experience an all-encompassing urge to continue to use that substance rather than spend time on activities they previously enjoyed.


Psychological Signs of Fentanyl Abuse

In addition to physical and behavioral signs of Fentanyl abuse, there are a number of different psychological symptoms to be aware of. Psychological conditions, such as various mental illnesses, may worsen when an individual is addicted to Fentanyl. In addition to this exacerbation of previous mental health conditions, there are also a number of other symptoms that are common in those addicted to Fentanyl. Below are several of the most common psychological signs of Fentanyl abuse.

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


Understanding the signs of Fentanyl abuse is the first step in getting yourself or a loved one help with addiction. Luminance Recovery is a drug rehab in Orange County that specializes in the detox and treatment of drug addictions. Using a holistic approach to treatment, we have helped many people free themselves from their Fentanyl addiction. If you’d like to learn more about our holistic treatment or detox process contact us today.


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