What are the Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl?

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While doctors have not studied the long-term effects of fentanyl and other pharmaceutical opioids, real-world observations suggest that using fentanyl for a long time can lead to severe mental and physical problems.

This guide highlights some of the key dangers of ongoing fentanyl use. You will also learn how to get effective treatment for opioid addiction.

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What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a strong painkiller, much stronger than morphine. It goes by names like Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze. Doctors use it to treat severe pain, often after surgery. Sometimes, fentanyl is given to people who have chronic pain and need stronger relief than other opioids can provide. 

Fentanyl is also made and used illegally. Sadly, fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are now the main cause of drug overdose deaths in the United States. This is because illegal fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs, making it very dangerous. Even a tiny amount can cause an overdose.

People who use fentanyl illegally may not know they are taking it, which increases the risk of overdose. It is important to be aware of the dangers of fentanyl and to seek help if you or someone you know is using it. Many treatments can help people recover fully and lead healthier lives.

Facts About Fentanyl Addiction

Many myths surround fentanyl, so it’s helpful to stay informed if you or a loved one is using this potentially deadly substance.

Highly addictive nature

Fentanyl is extremely addictive. It affects the brain’s reward system, making people feel intense pleasure. This can quickly lead to addiction, even after just a few uses.


When people use fentanyl regularly, their bodies get used to it. This is called tolerance. It means that over time, the usual amount of fentanyl no longer has the same effect. To get the same pain relief or high, they need to take more and more of the drug. This can be very dangerous because taking higher doses increases the risk of overdose.


As people continue to use fentanyl, their bodies start to rely on it to feel normal. This is called dependence. When someone is dependent on fentanyl, their body needs the drug to function properly. If they stop taking fentanyl suddenly, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be very uncomfortable and include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Trouble sleeping

Because of these symptoms, it can be hard for someone to stop using fentanyl on their own. They might keep using the drug just to avoid feeling sick. This is why it’s important to have medical help when trying to quit fentanyl. Doctors can provide medications and support to make the process safer and more comfortable.

image of man depicting long term effects of fentanyl

Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

All fentanyl addictions are unique, but these are common signs to watch for:

  • Needing higher doses to achieve the same effect
  • Feeling unable to stop using the drug
  • Craving the drug constantly
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Having financial problems
  • Spending a lot of time using the drug
  • Neglecting duties at work, school, or home

Treatment Options

Fentanyl addiction is treatable. There are several ways to help people stop using fentanyl and start feeling better.

  • Seeking help: The first and most important step toward recovery is seeking help. This can mean talking to a doctor or counselor or contacting a treatment center. There are many people and resources ready to help those struggling with fentanyl addiction. Getting the right support could mean the difference between relapse and recovery.
  • MAT: MAT (medication-assisted treatment) uses medications to help people with withdrawal symptoms and cravings. This makes it easier to stop using fentanyl. Some common medications used in MAT are methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. They help the brain and body feel normal without the need for fentanyl. MAT works best combined with talk therapy.
  • Talk therapy: In talk therapy, people meet with a therapist to talk about their addiction. The therapist helps them understand why they started using fentanyl and teaches them new ways to handle stress and emotional problems. There are different types of talk therapy, like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and DBT (dialectical behavior therapy).
  • Support groups: Support groups can be helpful for people recovering from fentanyl addiction. In these groups, people meet and support each other. They share their stories and give advice. Support groups help people feel less alone and more motivated to stay away from drugs.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Living a healthy lifestyle can also help in recovery. This means eating whole foods, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. Doing fun activities and spending time with family and friends can also make it easier to stay away from fentanyl.

5 Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl

What are the long-term effects of fentanyl, then? Here are five serious issues caused by the ongoing use of synthetic opioids.

1) Brain changes

Using fentanyl for a long time can change how the brain works. It affects areas in the brain responsible for thinking, decision-making, and memory. This can impair concentration, memory, and problem-solving. Even after stopping fentanyl, these brain changes can last for a long time and might be permanent.

2) Mental health problems

Long-term fentanyl use can lead to serious mental health issues. Many people experience depression, anxiety, and mood swings. It can also make existing mental health problems worse. Some people may even develop paranoia or hallucinations, seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. These mental health issues can make everyday life very difficult.

3) Physical health issues

Fentanyl can cause serious physical health problems. Long-term use can lead to chronic breathing issues, which might require medical treatment. It can also cause heart problems, like irregular heartbeat or heart failure. The drug weakens the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight infections. Additionally, long-term fentanyl use can damage vital organs like the liver and kidneys, leading to long-term health complications.

4) Social problems

People addicted to fentanyl often face significant social challenges. Relationships with family and friends can suffer due to changes in behavior and priorities. Trust issues and conflicts may arise, leading to isolation. Work and school performance can decline, resulting in job loss or dropping out of school. Financial problems can also occur as more money is spent on obtaining the drug.

5) Increased risk of overdose

The longer someone uses fentanyl, the higher their risk of overdose. Tolerance builds up, meaning they need more of the drug to feel the same effects. This can easily lead to taking too much, causing an overdose. Overdoses are extremely dangerous and can be fatal if not treated immediately. Signs of an overdose include severe drowsiness, slow or stopped breathing, and loss of consciousness.

If you need help with fentanyl detox, call 949.694.8305.

image depicting california detox fentanyl long term effects

Get Effective Fentanyl Addiction Treatment at California Detox

If you or a loved one needs effective fentanyl addiction treatment, we can help you at California Detox in Laguna Beach.

Our medical fentanyl detox program is supervised to make the process safer. You can access medications and 24/7 care to reduce cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms. Fentanyl detox takes about one week. Following detox, you can move into ongoing inpatient treatment at our rehab by the beach.

All opioid addictions are different, so all our treatment programs offer tailored therapies, such as:

Begin your recovery from fentanyl addiction today by calling 949.694.8305.


Yes, fentanyl is very addictive. Even a small amount can lead to addiction very quickly.
Some fentanyl long-term effects can improve with treatment. It’s essential to get help as soon as possible, though.


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