Fentanyl Addiction, Statistics, Abuse, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a powerful narcotic pain medication similar to but more potent than morphine. Fentanyl is an opiate-based drug and is typically used for the treatment of patients with severe pain or “breakthrough” cancer pain that cannot be controlled by other medications. Prescription forms are Sublimaze, Actiq, and Duragesic.

Common street names for Fentanyl include “China White,” “Dance Fever,” “Apache,” “TNT,” “Goodfella,” “Murder 8”, and “Tango.” Fentanyl works in the body by blocking pain receptors and inducing feelings of relaxation and euphoria by increasing dopamine levels in the brain.

Like all perscription drugs, one runs the risk of developing a Fentanyl addiction. Fentanyl is a prescription drug that should be used under direct supervision of a physician. In addition, special programs called Fentora REMS or the FOCUS program regulate administration of the drug, requiring registration and documentation before treatment.

In prescription form, Fentanyl is usually administered in a lozenge form, injection, or transdermal patch. However, when used for recreational purposes, the drug is typically mixed with street-sold cocaine or heroin in attempt to amplify the potency of the drugs. When sold on the black market, Fentanyl patches may be cut and eaten or the gel from the inside of the patch smoked.

Fentanyl may become habit forming even if used for a brief period of time; this is because the effects of Fentanyl last for a short duration. Non-medical use of Fentanyl is extremely dangerous and can result in death. If you or a loved one has been struggling with a Fentanyl addiction, it is important that you seek the help you need. Finding a qualified Fentanyl treatment center can be a life-saving decision as you obtain the necessary interventions to find freedom from this addiction.

Fentanyl Abuse Statistics

A Fentanyl addiction can occur at any time during a person’s lifespan, with vulnerabilities across the age groups. Statistics about Fentanyl addictions are helpful in understanding the fragility of this illness and in improving treatment outcomes. The following are statistics about Fentanyl addiction:

  • According to the European Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, trafficking of illegally produced Fentanyl is increasing, particularly in countries bordering the Baltic Sea and the Russian Federation [1].
  • From early April 2005 through late March 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated over 1,000 individuals had died from Fentanyl overdose and misuse [2].
  • In spite of the strict regulations on the drug, Fentanyl is frequently prescribed for medical reasons. In 2008, there were about 7.64 million prescriptions written for Fentanyl because of medical reasons [3].

Causes of Fentanyl Addiction

The cause of a Fentanyl addiction is not easily understood, though it is known that many reasons can contribute to the development of an addiction. Possible factors involved in a Fentanyl addiction could be biological, social, and psychological.

For example, biological causes of a Fentanyl addiction might be a genetic predisposition to addictive type behaviors or having a physical condition that would warrant use of the drug in the first place. Possible social factors of a Fentanyl addiction might include an individual’s living conditions that expose them to drug use, or peer pressure from friends or family to try or use drugs.

Psychological causes could include any instances of abuse or underlying trauma that might influence a man or woman to become addicted to a painkiller, like Fentanyl. An addiction to Fentanyl may be developed because of a combination of these factors.

Whether for physical or emotional reasons, Fentanyl may be sought as a temporary method of relieving pain. However, there is a fine line between medicinal use and abuse, and many individuals may find themselves quickly trapped in the deadly cycle of a Fentanyl addiction. In order to prevent the consequences associated with a Fentanyl addiction, it is necessary to obtain professional help along with the support of loved.

Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction

Certain signs and symptoms will be evident if you or a loved one is suffering with a Fentanyl addiction can be identified by a variety of signs and symptoms. To learn some of the common signs and symptoms manifested in an addict’s life when controlled by Fentanyl, review the following signs and symptoms:

  • Swelling in hands and feet
  • Constipation, nausea, vomiting
  • Feeling weak, tired
  • Shallow or weak breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Difficulty concentrating, confusion
  • Dizziness, drowsiness
  • Unconsciousness, Coma

Fentanyl Effects

An addiction to Fentanyl will impact your life in costly ways, both in the short and long term. An addiction to Fentanyl can impact your life in the following ways:

Physically: The non medical abuse of Fentanyl can incur physical damage to otherwise normal mechanisms in the body. If cases of overdose, irreversible damage or death can occur. These are possible physical effects that may result from a Fentanyl addiction:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Weakened immunity
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Unconsciousness or sedation

Psychologically: A Fentanyl addiction will alter one’s perception of reality and intensely disturb an addict’s mental and emotional well being. The following are some psychological effects that may result from the abuse of Fentanyl:

  • Increased possibility of developing depression
  • Risk of anxiety or paranoia attacks
  • Personality shifts or mood disorders
  • Delusions or Hallucinations

Socially: As addicts become consumed by their drug use, the relationships and family units around them will become stressed and broken. Increased isolation will hinder their ability to have healthy relationships with others. If you or a loved one is abusing Fentanyl, you may observe these social effects:

  • Loss of interest in social activities once found pleasurable
  • Inability to interact or engage socially
  • Damaged relationships with family and close friends
  • Seclusion from loved ones

Though the physical effects of a Fentanyl addiction might be the most apparent, this is only one aspect of the major suffering involved. Men and women abusing Fentanyl will yield damaging outcomes to the other facets of their lives, such as in their financial responsibilities, social life, familial relationships, and psychological health. As long as Fentanyl continues to be abused and misused, addicts will continue to experience these consequences until professional help is sought and appropriate treatment is received.

Fentanyl Withdrawal

A physical dependence on opiate based drugs, such as Fentanyl, can be created through misuse of the drug. Once an individual has become addicted to Fentanyl, a decrease in the dosage normally consumed will result in withdrawal symptoms that could be detrimental physically and mentally.

Symptoms can vary from person to person depending on how long Fentanyl has been used and the amount normally consumed. Withdrawal symptoms will typically begin anywhere from 6-36 hours after the last use of the drug and can include the follow:

  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Rapid breathing
  • Confusion, altered reality
  • Muscle aches
  • Irritability

Individuals who have used more potent doses of Fentanyl for longer periods of time will likely experience more severe withdrawal symptoms from Fentanyl. Complications may occur as the body withdraws from the drug; therefore, this process should always take place under medical supervision. Generally, withdrawal symptoms are the most discomforting in the first 1-2 days after discontinuing the medication.

There are instances when physicians can prescribe approved drugs to help alleviate symptoms experienced during withdrawal from Fentanyl. Fentanyl treatment programs often have the necessary resources to safely and efficiently withdraw from the drug and should be considered as part of the withdrawal and recovery process.

Fentanyl Treatment and Help

With the right resources, tools, and support, you can be well on your way on the recovery journey towards freedom from a Fentanyl addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with a Fentanyl addiction look for an accredited rehab center and take comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

There is nothing more valuable than your life, wellness, and peace and you are deserving of the freedom that is experienced apart from dependence on a drug. Though you might feel it is impossible to live a life without Fentanyl, take hope in knowing that recovery is always an achievable option. You will ultimately have the ability to overcome this addiction by receiving the help you need.

Other Articles About Fentanyl

  • While a greater awareness is being drawn to the heroin epidemic, another type of drug abuse is growing underground, perhaps even more dangerous that an addiction to heroin. A resurgence of fentanyl laced heroin has killed a substantial amount of individuals in many cities across the country.


[1]: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2806%2969181-2/fulltext Accessed 19 February 2013.

[2]: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov Accessed 19 February 2013.

[3]: Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Diversion Control. Drug & Chemical Evaluation Section “Fentanyl”. http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/fentanyl.pdf

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 1, 2014
Published on AddictionHope.com, Drug Abuse Help Guide