Fentanyl Abuse & Addiction Symptoms, Signs, Causes & Effects

Fentanyl addiction can rob you of your health, your dignity, and your hope for a better tomorrow. At Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center, you will reconnect with your best self, and begin to build the foundation for a more promising future.

What is Fentanyl Abuse

 Learn More About Fentanyl Abuse

Fentanyl, also known as Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze, is a powerful opiate used for pain control. It is similar but much more potent than morphine. It is used to treat severe pain in individuals with injuries or chronic illness, after surgery or prescribed for individuals who are tolerant to other opiates. Fentanyl use disorder often occurs either due to the euphoric effects it produces during treatment, or due to the availability of stronger versions which produce even greater positive moods when mixed with heroin or cocaine. Often what starts as appropriate pain management can turn into a situation bordering on addiction without the individual recognizing they are taking the medication for non-medical reasons. Since it works to eliminate all pain in the body, not just the pain for which it was prescribed, and produces a powerful high, its attraction is hard to resist.


Statistics on Fentanyl Abuse

A Fentanyl addiction can occur at any point across the lifespan. Despite its high potential for addiction and abuse, Fentanyl still has important medical uses. As illegal production of the drug is increasing significantly, so is its availability outside of medical settings. Based on research conducted by the World Health Organization, more than 2 million Americans are addicted to opiates like Fentanyl. From 2005-2007, it was estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that more than 1,000 individuals had died from Fentanyl overdose. Yet in spite of this, millions of prescriptions are written for the drug each year.


Causes of Fentanyl Abuse & Addiction

The causes of Fentanyl addiction aren’t currently well understood but some general factors have been shown to be connected to the development of the disorder. These include:

Genetics – There may be a genetic predisposition to addictive behaviors or to a medical condition that is treated with the medication.

Social Factors – Some individuals may live in an area that expose them to the use of the drug or they may experience peer pressure to try the drug by friends or family.

Psychological Factors – Often individuals who have experienced trauma or abuse develop pain conditions. Combined with the negative aftereffects of the experience, Fentanyl may be an attractive substance to treat both the pain condition and the psychological distress.

Temporary Self Medication – Sometimes individuals may use Fentanyl to temporarily relieve physical or emotional pain. However, given how quickly addiction to this medication can occur, what was intended as a temporary fix often turns into a situation where the individual is unable to stop using it as intended.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders and the Complexity of Fentanyl Addiction

While there is no data specifically on co-occurring disorders in Fentanyl, it is assumed that there is a great deal of overlap with the other opioids. Co-occurring disorders in this class of drug related disorders include:

  • Medical Addictions (e.g. Hepatitis C, HIV)
  • Other Substance Use Disorders – in particular, tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, stimulants and benzodiazepines
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Abuse

While there are no specific symptoms reported for Fentanyl use disorder, it is believed to share symptoms with other opioid use disorders.

Mood Symptoms:

  • Mood may appear elevated or depressed
  • Anxiety


  • The drug is taken in larger amounts or over a larger period of time than intended
  • The person has the desire to cut down or has unsuccessfully tried to cut down on the amount used
  • The person spends a great deal of time obtaining, using or recovering from the drug
  • The person continues to use the drug despite being aware it is causing them problems socially, academically or occupationally
  • Use leads to the inability to fulfill major life responsibilities
  • The person gives up activities that were once important in their life
  • The person uses the drug when in dangerous conditions
  • The person continues to use the drug despite being aware it is leading to or worsening physical or psychological problems


  • Cravings
  • Tolerance
  • Diminished effects while taking the same dose
  • Need for more of the substance to obtain the desired effect
  • Withdrawal – the person either experiences negative symptoms when attempting to stop the medication or takes it to avoid negative withdrawal symptoms
  • Hand and feet becoming swollen
  • Stomach ailments such as constipation, vomiting or nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Unconsciousness, Coma, Death
  • Depressed respiration
  • Increased heart rate

Psychological Symptoms:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Confusion


Effects of Fentanyl Addiction

There are significant short and long term effects of Fentanyl abuse. These include:

  • Immune system depression
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Increasing feelings of sedation
  • Lack of motivation
  • Social withdrawal
  • Paranoia
  • Personality changes
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Loss of relationships with family and close friends


Withdrawal Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction

When someone suddenly stops taking Fentanyl without the help provided at a detox program, withdrawal symptoms are likely to occur. These may differ based on dose and length of time you have been taking. Some common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation and Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Inability to think logically
  • Chills
  • Sweats,
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Feeling overwhelmed by emotions

Due to relief from what may have been a chronic pain state, combined with the highly pleasurable effects and risk of addiction occurring quickly, many individuals don’t realize they have become addicted to the drug until it is too late. Once addicted it is extremely difficult to stop taking the drug without help. At Blue Ridge we have the experienced, trained and compassionate staff to help you get past you problems with Fentanyl.

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Blue Ridge taught me how to put the past in the past and how to look forward to my future. Thank you, BRMRC!

– Mia
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