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What are the Fentanyl Addiction Symptoms and Risks?

Learn more about drug addiction before and after treatment and how to find the help you need in this informative article.

The potency of fentanyl surpasses that of heroin and morphine by a considerable margin. This makes it addictive and lethal even in minute doses.

As its illicit use continues to rise, it’s important to understand fentanyl addiction symptoms and usage risks.

In this article, we’ll shed light on the various aspects of fentanyl addiction. We will also delve into the distinct fentanyl addiction symptoms that may arise and their risks.

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What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid pain medication prescribed to manage severe pain. It is handy in cases where other opioids have proven ineffective, such as in cases of advanced cancer.1

Fentanyl provides valuable pain relief when used as directed. But, it is also highly addictive and dangerous.

Below are some reasons that fentanyl is so addictive.

Potency

Fentanyl is incredibly potent. This is obvious in the various fentanyl addiction symptoms. It is estimated to be up to 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.

This high potency makes it extremely addictive. It produces intense and rapid euphoria. It also leads to a heightened risk of dependence and addiction.

Rapid Onset and Short Duration

Fentanyl is available in various forms, including:

  • Transdermal patches
  • Lozenges
  • Injectable solutions

When misused, the rapid onset of euphoria and the short duration of its effects can drive repeated use. This increases the risk of addiction.

Physical and Psychological Dependence

Prolonged use of fentanyl can lead to physical dependence. This is where the body adapts to the presence of the drug and needs it to function.

Fentanyl can also cause psychological dependence. It makes individuals experience intense cravings and compulsive drug-seeking behavior.

Tolerance Development

With continued use, tolerance to fentanyl can develop rapidly. This means that higher doses are needed to achieve the desired effects. It can lead to escalating use and increase the risk of overdose.

Overdose Risk

Fentanyl is associated with a higher risk of overdose compared to other opioids. Even small amounts can lead to:

  • Life-threatening respiratory depression
  • Coma
  • Death

Individuals with fentanyl addiction are particularly susceptible to overdoses. This is especially true when they get the drug from illicit sources. Here, dosage and purity are not guaranteed.

Common Fentanyl Addiction Symptoms

Some common fentanyl addiction symptoms include:

  • Intense cravings for fentanyl
  • Persistent preoccupation with getting and using the drug
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Increasing tolerance, needing higher doses for the desired effects
  • Physical fentanyl addiction symptoms like drowsiness, dizziness, constipation, and slowed breathing
  • Financial difficulties
  • Engaging in risky behaviors to get the drug
  • Physical deterioration

Psychological and Behavioral Fentanyl Addiction Symptoms

Some of the psychological and behavioral fentanyl addiction symptoms will be detailed below:

Cravings and Compulsive Drug-Seeking Behavior

Individuals with fentanyl addiction may experience intense cravings for the drug. This leads to a persistent desire to get and use fentanyl.

Increased Tolerance

Over time, individuals may develop a tolerance to fentanyl. This means they need higher doses to achieve the desired effects. This can lead to increased drug use and a higher risk of overdose.

Social Withdrawal

People struggling with fentanyl addiction may:

  • Withdraw from activities and previously enjoyed interests
  • Isolate themselves from family and friends
  • Prefer to spend time alone or with individuals who also use drugs

Neglected Responsibilities

Individuals may neglect their responsibilities at work or home. This is due to their preoccupation with getting and using fentanyl.

This can result in poor performance and decreased motivation. It can also lead to strained relationships with loved ones.

Financial Difficulties

Fentanyl addiction can lead to significant financial strain. Individuals may spend a large part of their income on getting the drug.

They may also neglect financial obligations or engage in illegality to finance their addiction.

Physical and Mental Health Problems

Fentanyl addiction can have severe physical and mental health consequences. Individuals may experience:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Heart issues
  • Cognitive impairments

They may also experience depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders.

Risky Behaviors

Individuals may engage in risky behaviors such as doctor shopping or forging prescriptions. This can lead to legal problems and a higher risk of harm to oneself or others.

Loss of Interest and Motivation

People with fentanyl addiction may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. They may become apathetic or lethargic. They may also prioritize drug use over other aspects of life.

Continued Use Despite Negative Consequences

Even when faced with negative consequences, individuals with fentanyl addiction may continue to use the drug. They often find it difficult to control or stop their drug use.

Important Note about Fentanyl Addiction Symptoms

It is important to note that fentanyl addiction symptoms vary among individuals. Not everyone will exhibit all of these symptoms.

If you or someone you know is struggling with fentanyl addiction, seeking professional help from healthcare providers is highly recommended.

Fentanyl Addiction Symptoms: Risks and Dangers

Below are some of the risks and dangers associated with fentanyl addiction.

Overdose

Due to its potency, even small amounts of fentanyl can lead to overdose. A fentanyl overdose can cause respiratory depression. It can lead to a lack of oxygen in the body and can result in:

  • Coma
  • Brain damage
  • Death

Doctor Shopping

Fentanyl addicts may also engage in “doctor shopping.” This means seeking multiple prescriptions from different doctors to maintain their supply. This behavior is illegal and highly dangerous.

Mood Swings and Behavioral Changes

Fentanyl addiction can cause significant mood swings and erratic behavior.

Individuals may become irritable, anxious, or depressed when not using the drug. They may also exhibit uncharacteristic behavior to get and use fentanyl.

Respiratory Problems

Fentanyl can significantly depress the respiratory system, making breathing shallow or difficult. This effect can be particularly dangerous during an overdose. It can lead to a complete cessation of breathing.

Addiction and Dependence

Fentanyl is highly addictive, both physically and psychologically. Prolonged use can lead to dependence. The body may become reliant on the drug to function normally.
Addiction can result in compulsive drug-seeking behavior. It can be challenging to overcome without professional help.

Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person dependent on fentanyl attempts to quit or reduce their dosage, they may experience severe withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include:

  • Intense cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Cold flashes

Withdrawal from fentanyl addiction should be managed under medical supervision to ensure safety.

Illicit Fentanyl

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs or sold as counterfeit prescription pills. This increases the risk of unintentional overdose as users may not be aware of the actual potency of the substance they are consuming.

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Fentanyl Addiction Symptoms: Impact on Relationships and Well-Being

Here are some of the ways in which fentanyl addiction symptoms can affect various aspects of a person’s life.

Relationships

Fentanyl addiction can strain relationships with family members, friends, and romantic partners. The person may become emotionally distant or preoccupied with drug use.

They may also exhibit changes in behavior, such as mood swings and irritability.

Trust issues often arise due to secretive behavior. Individuals may prioritize getting and using fentanyl over maintaining healthy relationships.

Occupational Functioning

Fentanyl addiction symptoms can impair an individual’s ability to perform well at work. Frequent absences, decreased productivity, and impaired decision-making can lead to job loss or disciplinary actions. The person may also experience financial difficulties.

Overall Quality of Life

Fentanyl addiction symptoms severely impact an individual’s quality of life.

Physical Impact of Fentanyl Addiction

Physically, they may experience a range of symptoms such as:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Respiratory depression
  • Overdose

Psychological Impact of Fentanyl Addiction

Psychological symptoms include anxiety, depression, and an overwhelming craving for the drug. Fentanyl addiction can also lead to social isolation and a decline in mental health.

Legal Consequences

Fentanyl addiction can result in legal troubles. The illicit use, possession, or distribution of fentanyl is illegal. Individuals may face criminal charges, which can further disrupt their lives.

Fentanyl Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms

Below are the withdrawal symptoms commonly associated with fentanyl addiction.

Physical Symptoms

Individuals may experience physical discomfort, such as:

  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Sweating

These fentanyl addiction symptoms contribute to overall discomfort during the withdrawal process.

Psychological Symptoms

Fentanyl withdrawal can also have significant psychological effects. Individuals may experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty concentrating

These symptoms can be intense and may interfere with daily functioning.

Insomnia

Many people going through fentanyl withdrawal have difficulty sleeping. They may experience insomnia or have disrupted sleep patterns.

This can worsen other withdrawal symptoms and lead to fatigue and exhaustion.

Drug Cravings

Fentanyl withdrawal can trigger intense cravings for the drug. These cravings can be overwhelming and make it challenging to resist the urge to use fentanyl again.

Cravings may persist for an extended period. They can be a significant hurdle during the recovery process.

Flu-Like Symptoms

Some individuals may experience flu-like symptoms during fentanyl withdrawal. This may include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Yawning
  • Feverish sensations

These symptoms can contribute to a general feeling of malaise and discomfort.

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Fentanyl Addiction Symptoms: Treatment Options

Below are some treatment options available for people struggling with fentanyl addiction.

Medical Detoxification

Fentanyl withdrawal can be intense and uncomfortable. Medical detoxification is often the first step in treatment.

Under medical supervision, individuals can safely taper off fentanyl while managing withdrawal symptoms.

Inpatient Rehabilitation

Inpatient or residential rehabilitation programs provide intensive, round-the-clock care for individuals with severe fentanyl addiction. These programs offer:

  • A structured environment
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Medical support
  • Skill-building activities to help individuals maintain recovery

Outpatient Programs

Outpatient programs are suitable for individuals with less severe addiction. They may also work for those who have completed inpatient treatment.

These programs offer counseling, therapy sessions, and support. They allow individuals to live at home and continue with their daily routines.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

MAT combines medications with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat fentanyl addiction. Medications such as buprenorphine and methadone can help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Counseling and Therapy

Counseling and Therapy play a vital role in addiction treatment. They may include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Motivational interviewing (MI)
  • Contingency management

Support Groups

Support groups can provide a sense of community for individuals struggling with fentanyl addiction. These groups offer a safe space to share experiences and receive encouragement.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Many individuals with fentanyl addiction may also have co-occurring mental health disorders. Dual-diagnosis treatment programs specialize in addressing both addiction and mental health issues concurrently.

Resources to Consider When Seeking Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

When seeking treatment for fentanyl addiction, consider reaching out to the following resources.

Local Addiction Treatment Centers

Research and contact local treatment centers that specialize in substance abuse.

Healthcare Professionals

Consult with healthcare professionals such as doctors, therapists, or addiction specialists.

Support Groups

Look for support groups in your area that specifically focus on fentanyl addiction. They can provide a network of individuals who understand what you’re going through.

Online Resources

Utilize reputable online resources to gather information about fentanyl addiction symptoms.  Look for websites of organizations and government agencies that provide accurate information.

Rehabilitation Facilities

Consider residential rehabilitation facilities that offer comprehensive treatment programs for fentanyl addiction.

Detoxification Programs

Look for detoxification programs that specifically address fentanyl addiction. These programs can help you safely manage withdrawal symptoms and begin your journey to recovery.

Counseling Services

Seek out individual or group counseling services that focus on addiction recovery. A qualified counselor can provide support, therapy, and guidance throughout your treatment process.

Community Mental Health Centers

Contact local community mental health centers. They often provide addiction treatment services or can refer you to appropriate resources.

Peer Recovery Coaches

Consider working with a peer recovery coach who has personal experience with addiction.

fentanyl addiction symptoms

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Medical Reviewer Kate Perfetti, LADC II

Medically Reviewed by Kate Perfetti, LADC II

Kate is a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor who has worked in the field of substance abuse for the last nine years. At Rockland Recovery, Kate works to provide resources to the local community and engage and progress Rockland Recovery’s alumni program.

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