Fentanyl Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

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Fentanyl addiction can quickly and easily occur. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid with powerful sedative and analgesic properties. It is classified as a potent narcotic pain reliever, and it is highly susceptible to abuse. Typically, fentanyl is prescribed for managing severe pain following surgical procedures and serves as a key component in various branded medications like Fentora, Sublimaze, and Duragesic. The production of illicit fentanyl in large quantities is one of the primary drivers for the third wave of the U.S. opioid epidemic.

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  • What is the purpose of fentanyl?
  • Is fentanyl addictive?
  • Addicted to fentanyl: how to connect with treatment in Southern California.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid that belongs to the class of drugs known as narcotics. It is mainly used for its powerful pain-relieving properties and is often prescribed to manage severe pain, especially after surgery or in cancer patients. Fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States due to its high potential for abuse and the risk of addiction.

Fentanyl works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, effectively blocking pain signals and producing feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Its potency is estimated to be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and many magnitudes more potent than heroin.

In addition to its medical use, fentanyl has gained notoriety as an illicit drug. Illicitly produced fentanyl, often mixed with other substances, has contributed to a surge in overdose deaths in the United States. Its high potency and the difficulty of measuring safe doses means that there is no safe fentanyl use outside of a controlled clinical setting.

Understanding the properties of fentanyl and the risks associated with the drug is crucial for healthcare providers, the general public, and fentanyl addicts to mitigate the potential harms and promote safe and responsible use when medically necessary.

Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

Developing an awareness of common fentanyl addiction signs can help identify potential addiction and the need for intervention.

  • Social isolation: People addicted to fentanyl may withdraw from friends and family, isolating themselves to hide their drug use.
  • Neglect of personal hygiene: A decline in personal grooming and hygiene can be noticeable as people start to prioritize fentanyl use over self-care.
  • Financial problems: Fentanyl addiction can lead to financial instability as individuals with addictions spend a significant portion of their income on obtaining the drug.
  • Doctor shopping: Some people may engage in doctor shopping to obtain multiple prescriptions for fentanyl or other opioids. This is a hallmark sign of fentanyl abuse.
  • Loss of interest: Individuals with fentanyl addiction may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.
  • Mood swings: Frequent and intense mood swings, including irritability, depression, and anxiety, can be indicative of fentanyl addiction.
  • Deceptive behavior: A fentanyl addict may resort to lying or deceptive behavior to conceal fentanyl use.
  • Track marks: Individuals who inject fentanyl may have visible track marks or scarring on their arms or other injection sites.
  • Respiratory issues: Fentanyl can lead to respiratory problems, and those with addictions may experience frequent coughing or difficulty breathing.
  • Unexplained health issues: Fentanyl abuse can result in various health issues, such as infections, abscesses, or unexplained illnesses.
  • Loss of control: Continued use of fentanyl despite a desire to stop or control it is a hallmark of addiction.
  • Legal problems: Legal issues may arise due to illegal acquisition or possession of fentanyl.
  • Overdose: Repeated episodes of overdose or near-overdose, requiring medical intervention, indicate a severe problem.

Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl addiction, like addiction to other opioids, is characterized by a range of symptoms outlined in DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, revised text). Here are the 11 DSM-5 fentanyl addiction symptoms:

  1. Individuals with fentanyl addiction often consume the drug in larger quantities or over more extended periods than initially planned.
  2. Repeated, unsuccessful efforts to reduce or quit fentanyl use despite a strong desire to do so.
  3. A significant amount of time is dedicated to activities related to fentanyl use, such as obtaining the drug, using it, or dealing with its after-effects.
  4. Frequent, intense cravings for fentanyl, which may lead to compulsive use.
  5. Fentanyl addiction can lead to neglecting important responsibilities, such as work, school, or family duties.
  6. Despite negative consequences on relationships and social life, individuals with addictions persist in using fentanyl.
  7. Hobbies and interests that were once important may be abandoned or reduced due to the preoccupation with fentanyl.
  8. Engaging in fentanyl use in circumstances that could be dangerous, such as while operating heavy machinery or driving.
  9. Even when aware of the adverse health effects, individuals may continue to use fentanyl.
  10. A need for increasing amounts of fentanyl to achieve the desired effect or a diminished effect when using the same amount.
  11. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when fentanyl use is reduced or discontinued, leading to a compelling need to use it again to relieve these symptoms.

The presence of at least two of these symptoms within a 12-month period is indicative of an opioid use disorder – the clinical term for fentanyl addiction. Seeking professional help and support can help those struggling with fentanyl addiction to achieve recovery and regain control over their lives.

image of man representing symptoms of fentanyl addiction

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction & Withdrawals

Treating fentanyl addiction involves comprehensive care to address both the physical and psychological aspects of the condition. Due to the potency of fentanyl, addiction can be especially challenging to overcome, often requiring specialized treatment approaches. Here are some key components of treatment for fentanyl addiction:

Medical detoxification

The first step is often medical detoxification, which is conducted in a supervised and controlled environment. This helps manage the intense withdrawal symptoms associated with fentanyl cessation – severe cravings, pain, and nausea. Medications may be administered to ease withdrawal and reduce cravings, including buprenorphine or methadone.

Inpatient or residential treatment

Following detox, many people benefit from inpatient rehab, also known as residential rehab. Inpatient programs provide a structured and supportive environment where individuals can focus solely on their recovery. Therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and CM (contingency management) are often part of the treatment plan, as well as counseling, family therapy, and holistic therapies.

Outpatient treatment

Some people may transition to outpatient programs after inpatient care. Outpatient treatment allows for greater flexibility while still providing access to therapy, counseling, and support groups.

MAT (medication-assisted treatment)

MAT combines counseling and therapy with FDA-approved medications like buprenorphine, naltrexone, or methadone to reduce cravings and prevent relapse. MAT can be an effective long-term strategy for some individuals.

Behavioral therapies

Various forms of behavioral therapy, including CBT and DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), can help individuals address the psychological aspects of addiction, develop coping skills, and prevent relapse.

Support groups

Participation in support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) or SMART Recovery can provide ongoing peer support and a sense of community during ongoing recovery from fentanyl addiction.

Mental health care

Given the high rates of co-occurring mental health issues among individuals with fentanyl addiction, addressing underlying mental health conditions is a component of successful recovery for many people.

Aftercare planning

Developing a robust aftercare plan can help streamline sustained recovery. This may include ongoing therapy, support group participation, and strategies for preventing relapse.

Family involvement

Family therapy and education can help repair relationships damaged by addiction and provide a supportive environment for recovery.

Treatment for fentanyl addiction is highly individualized, with care plans tailored to unique needs and circumstances. The first step is often seeking help from a healthcare provider or addiction specialist who can assess the situation and recommend an appropriate treatment path. With the right support and treatment, recovery from fentanyl addiction is possible.

image of woman representing fentanyl use treatment

Get Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction at California Detox

Whether you require assistance with a fentanyl overdose or help unpacking fentanyl addiction, we can help you at California Detox in Laguna Beach, CA.

Take advantage of emotional and clinical care alongside FDA-approved medications with our supervised medical program. After a week or so, you can transition into ongoing treatment having overcome opioid dependence.

Our 30-day inpatient program offers personalized treatment that blends behavioral, pharmacological, and holistic treatments from MAT (medication-assisted treatment) and psychotherapy to family therapy, group therapy, and individual counseling sessions. All treatment programs also include a comprehensive aftercare plan to minimize the chances of relapse disrupting your recovery.

Call the friendly admissions team today at 949.694.8305 and begin recovering from fentanyl addiction tomorrow.


Fentanyl is highly addictive, with a significant potential for the development of dependence. It binds to opioid receptors in the brain, leading to tolerance, withdrawal symptoms upon cessation, and a strong drive to use the drug repeatedly.
Fentanyl can be deadly, especially when misused or taken in excessive amounts. It is estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and can cause respiratory depression, leading to fatal overdoses if not treated promptly with naloxone and medical intervention.


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