Causes & Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction

Since 1957, Azure Acres Treatment Center has given hope to individuals struggling with fentanyl addiction and its lasting effects. Azure Acres provides residents high-quality alcohol and drug abuse treatment near Santa Rosa, California.

Understanding Fentanyl

Learn about fentanyl and substance abuse

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain medication that is frequently used to treat severe pain that develops after a surgical or medical procedure. This medication, which is similar to morphine but much stronger, can provide respite for those who suffer from severe and debilitating physical pain. Fentanyl is effective because it boosts dopamine levels, which brings about a feeling of relaxed euphoria, all while reducing sensations of pain. However, while this effect is helpful for those who use fentanyl medically, the effects of this substance can be so pleasurable that those who do not require it medically can begin to abuse it. In addition, those who take this medication for legitimate medical purposes might find that they have developed a tolerance to it, causing them to take larger doses or taking more of it over a shorter period of time to achieve the same results. The tolerance that can develop from fentanyl use and abuse can cause individuals to rapidly fall into the throes of addiction and cause them to battle with controlling their behaviors. As their ability to function normally on a day-to-day basis decreases, it is likely that individuals have developed fentanyl use disorder and will require professional treatment to defeat it.


Fentanyl addiction statistics

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reports that in 2013 and 2014, more than 13 million prescriptions were written out for fentanyl. This does not mean that there are 13 million people who are abusing fentanyl, rather it shows how readily accessible this substance is. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) offers estimates that show that between 2007 and 2011, fentanyl abuse played right into an increase in the amount of emergency room visits, boosting that number up to 5,000. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that between 2005 and 2007, more than 1,000 people lost their lives to fentanyl abuse and overdose.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for fentanyl addiction

The causes and risk factors connected to an individual’s vulnerability in developing an addiction to fentanyl can be explained in the following:

Genetic: Some of the likelihood that an individual has in developing a fentanyl use disorder can be determined through his or her genetic makeup. Those who have family members who battle with fentanyl use disorder or other opioid use disorders are at a higher risk of developing similar addiction and abuse issues than those who do not have this family background. In addition, there are specific personality traits and temperaments that can add to the desire to abuse substances, and those traits are noted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as being inheritable.

Risk Factors:

  • Suffering from a condition for which fentanyl was prescribed
  • Being in an environment where drug and/or alcohol abuse is commonplace
  • Having a novelty-seeking personality type
  • Having an impulsive temperament
  • Prior experience with abusing other substances
  • Having easy access to obtaining fentanyl
  • Family history of substance abuse and addiction

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of fentanyl addiction

The signs and symptoms linked to the abuse of fentanyl can vary from individual to individual, however might include some or all of the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Frequent absences from work or school
  • No longer taking care of daily responsibilities
  • Spending increasing amounts of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the use of fentanyl
  • Slurred speech
  • Forging prescriptions in order to obtain fentanyl
  • Declined performance in work or at school
  • Continuing to abuse fentanyl despite the onset of detriments as a direct result of that use

Physical symptoms:

  • Psychomotor retardation
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Drowsiness
  • Constricted pupils
  • Insomnia

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Impaired memory
  • Impaired judgment
  • Attention difficulties
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Cravings for fentanyl
  • Suicidal ideation

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Declined interest in things one was once interested in
  • Euphoria, typically followed by apathy
  • Depression


Effects of fentanyl addiction

The continual abuse of fentanyl can lead to many dangerous consequences within an individual’s life. Such consequences can affect all parts of an individual’s functioning, including life at school, at work, at home, or socially. Additionally, an individual’s health can be put in harm’s way as fentanyl abuse continues. Some of the many effects that can develop when fentanyl abuse goes untreated can include:

  • Suffering from an oxygen deficiency in the body’s tissues (anoxia)
  • Onset of new, or worsening of current, mental illness symptoms
  • Suspension or expulsion from school
  • Job loss
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • Academic or occupational failure
  • Impaired visual acuity
  • Slowed gastrointestinal activity
  • Financial difficulties
  • Legal interactions due to criminal activity taking place in order to obtain fentanyl (e.g. forging prescriptions)
  • Disturbed relationships
  • Dry mouth and nose

Co-Occurring Disorders

Fentanyl addiction and co-occurring disorders

An addiction to this substance can often occur in conjunction with other mental health conditions. Some of the many disorders known to exist alongside of fentanyl use disorder can include:

  • Stimulant use disorder
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Tobacco use disorder
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of fentanyl withdrawal and overdose

Effects of fentanyl withdrawal: Similar to the use of other opioids, when the use of fentanyl is stopped suddenly or reduced significantly, withdrawal symptoms can develop. These symptoms, which can be painful, can include:

  • Dysphoric mood
  • Intense cravings for more fentanyl
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Dilated pupils
  • Diarrhea
  • Aching muscles
  • Fever

Effects of fentanyl overdose: Overdosing on fentanyl is a risk for anyone who abuses this drug. An overdose can happen when more fentanyl than the body can handle is consumed. And overdose on any substance, including fentanyl, is incredibly dangerous and can be lethal. Immediate medical attention should be obtained if an individual displays the following signs after abusing fentanyl:

  • Slurred speech
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Shallow or labored breathing
  • Inability to think or talk in a normal manner
  • Confusion
  • Inability to walk
  • Disorientation
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Severe dizziness

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My addiction to prescription drugs was very out of hand before going to Azure Acres. I am so grateful to all of the staff that has helped me through my recovery.

– Former Patient