What You Need to Know About Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent. It is typically used to treat or manage patients with severe pain after surgery. When misused, fentanyl can lead to addiction, overdose, and death. Here’s what you need to know about fentanyl addiction.

Fentanyl: The Deadly Opioid Sweeping the Nation

Fentanyl acts on the central nervous system to relieve pain. It is classified as a Schedule II prescription drug, which means it has a high potential for abuse and addiction. 

In recent years, fentanyl has become increasingly popular as a recreational drug and a tool for illegal drug dealers to mix with other drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, to increase their potency. This has led to a dramatic increase in the number of overdoses and deaths due to fentanyl abuse.

The Dangers of Fentanyl: Fentanyl Overdose

Because fentanyl is so potent, it’s extremely easy to overdose on, even for experienced users of other opioids. Also, fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs without the user’s awareness, further increasing the risk of overdose. 

Between 2013 and 2016, there was a nearly sevenfold increase in the number of deaths due to overdoses involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl. In 2016 alone, there were over 20,000 deaths due to overdoses involving synthetic opioids—a record high. The CDC has called this increase in deaths “unprecedented.” 

Symptoms of a fentanyl overdose include: 

  • Shallow breathing
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Slow heart rate
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Muscle weakness 

If you believe someone overdoses on fentanyl, it is crucial to call 911 immediately and Administer naloxone if available. 

How Does Someone Become Addicted to Fentanyl?

People can become addicted to fentanyl both through legal and illegal means. Those prescribed fentanyl for pain relief can quickly develop a tolerance and dependence on the drug. They may turn to illicit sources when they can no longer obtain a prescription. 

Others may use fentanyl recreationally after trying other opioids, such as heroin or prescription painkillers. The risk of addiction is higher in those with a family history of addiction or mental illness. When misused, fentanyl can lead to addiction, overdose, and death. 

The most common way people abuse opioids is by taking them orally, crushing them into powder, and snorting them through the nose. People also abuse opioids by injecting them into veins or muscles or smoking them.

What Are the Signs of Fentanyl Abuse?

Several signs may indicate someone is abusing fentanyl, including:

  • Taking the drug more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed
  • Taking someone else’s prescription 
  • Crushing and snorting pills 
  • Injecting opioids 
  • Making frequent doctor’s appointments for early refills 
  • Isolating from family and friends 

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

Treatment options are available if you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to fentanyl. Treatment typically begins with detoxification, followed by inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation. 

Detox is a vital part of recovering from fentanyl due to the high risk of dehydration while going through withdrawal. Supervised medical detox ensures your comfort and safety. 

Inpatient Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction 

Following fentanyl detoxification, inpatient treatment is highly recommended. Detox alone isn’t addiction treatment, only the removal of the substance from the body. This quickly leads to an overdose, as the body is no longer tolerant of the drug’s effects. At this point, people in recovery are most vulnerable to start using again, which can be dangerous as they will reach for the same dose they took before detoxing. 

Inpatient treatment requires individuals to live at the drug rehab center while attending their treatment program. This provides a supportive environment where patients can focus on healing and understanding their addictive behaviors. 

Fentanyl Addiction Outpatient Treatment Options 

Once someone completes an inpatient program, typically lasting 30 to 90 days, they’ll be recommended to an outpatient program. Depending on the level of support they are looking for, individuals can choose from standard outpatient programs, intensive outpatient programs, or partial hospitalization programs (PHP). 

Behavioral Health Counseling for Fentanyl Addiction 

Behavioral health counseling and medication-assisted treatment are often used in combination with rehabilitation to provide patients with the best possible chance of recovery.

Behavioral health therapy can include: 

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) 
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) 
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI) 
  • Individual counseling 
  • Group therapy 

These different therapy approaches are used to help individuals develop new perspectives on their addiction and help them learn to cope in healthy ways. 

Medication-assisted treatments can help those with fentanyl addiction by decreasing their urges to continue to misuse fentanyl.

Common MAT medications for opioid addiction include: 

  • Methadone 
  • Buprenorphine 
  • Subutex/Suboxone 

Finding Fentanyl Addiction Treatment 

If you suspect someone you know is abusing fentanyl, getting help as soon as possible is essential. Fentanyl addiction can be challenging to overcome without professional treatment. 

Finding a treatment program that meets your individual needs is essential for recovering from addiction and avoiding relapse. Reach out to our drug and alcohol addiction at (704) 368-1131 for personalized assistance today. 


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Synthetic Opioid Overdose Data

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Death Rate Maps & Graphs

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – Overdose Death Rates