Causes & Effects of Fentanyl Addiction

Understanding Fentanyl Addiction

Learn about fentanyl addiction and abuse

Following a surgical procedure or after suffering from an injury or complications brought on by an illness, fentanyl, an opioid painkiller, may be administered to alleviate pain. This medication is typically prescribed by a physician and is known for its potent and addictive properties. And despite the benefits that fentanyl can elicit in the lives of those who require it, there are individuals who abuse this medication with the hope of achieving a high.

When taken outside of a doctor’s prescribed guidelines or for recreational purposes, fentanyl can produce sensations of pleasure and feelings of euphoria. These effects, which are said to be stronger than those produced by heroin, can quickly ensnare a person in the insidious cycle of substance abuse and render detrimental effects across several areas of life if left unchecked. Additionally, because a person can become tolerant of this medication and become chemically dependent up on it, this type of addiction can be incredibly difficult to overcome without professional help. For this reason, seeking effective treatment that is designed to care for those who wish to achieve sobriety after having battled a fentanyl addiction is the best option if a person wishes to live a healthier, more satisfying, fentanyl-free life.


Fentanyl addiction statistics

In 2011 alone, over 20,000 visits to emergency rooms were due to the abuse of fentanyl, and the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports that the abuse of this medication is on the rise. Additionally, since 2009, the number of individuals who required immediate care following the misuse of fentanyl has doubled. Lastly, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has gone on record in saying that almost 6.5 million prescriptions for this painkiller were written in 2014, which has likely contributed to the prevalence of fentanyl abuse in recent years.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for fentanyl addiction

In order to understand why and how an individual comes to abuse fentanyl, several factors must be considered. The following causes and risk factors are those that experts in the field of addiction believe may explain what can cause an individual to resort to misusing this powerful painkiller:

Genetic: An individual’s genes are known to impact whether or not the development of an addiction to substances, such as fentanyl, is likely. If a person possess a genetic history that includes family members who struggled with addiction and/or chemical dependency, than he or she has a great risk of also battling similar challenges. Additionally, those with certain personality characteristics, which are also believed to be genetic, have an increased likelihood of abusing and becoming addicted to substances as well.

Environmental: Just as one’s genetics can influence the development of an addiction, a person’s environment can be just as impactful. For instance, if an individual undergoes surgery, experiences a serious injury, or suffers from serious pain due to a medical condition, he or she may be prescribed fentanyl, which can increase the chances of that person misusing this medication. Additionally, if an individual has access to this substance and lacks poor coping skills or is surrounded by others who abuse drugs, the risk of that person abusing fentanyl is high as well.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of substance abuse, addiction, and/or chemical dependency
  • Possessing impulsive or novelty-seeking personality traits
  • Personal history of abusing substances
  • Having a prescription for fentanyl after having surgery, being injured, or experiencing health complications due to an illness

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of fentanyl addiction

There are many warning signs that suggest a person is abusing fentanyl. If it is suspected that someone you care about is abusing this medication, it could be helpful to note the presence of the following symptoms:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Spending a great deal of time acquiring, using, and recovering from fentanyl use
  • Misusing fentanyl in situations in which it could be hazardous
  • Prioritizing fentanyl use over responsibilities and obligations
  • Seeking prescriptions for fentanyl from multiple doctors
  • Using fentanyl in larger amounts over a long period of time
  • Prior failed attempts to stop abusing fentanyl
  • Continuing to abuse fentanyl despite negative effects that occurs because of fentanyl abuse

Physical symptoms:

  • Experiencing withdrawal when not using fentanyl
  • Constricted pupils
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Restlessness
  • Slowed movements
  • Developing a tolerance and, thusly, requiring more of this medication in order to achieve the desired effects
  • Drowsiness

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory impairment
  • Poor decision-making
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Overpowering cravings for fentanyl
  • Delayed thinking
  • Poor attention

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Agitation
  • Shifts in mood
  • Decline interest in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Irritability


Effects of fentanyl addiction

Failing to seek treatment for a fentanyl addiction can result in a number of consequences, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Contracting viruses, including HIV and hepatitis
  • Social isolation
  • Loss of child custody
  • Interaction with the legal system
  • Vital organ damage
  • Overdose
  • Onset or worsening of mental health disorders
  • Polysubstance abuse, addiction, and/or chemical dependency
  • Problems with digestion
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Problems acquiring and maintaining employment
  • Demise of meaningful relationships
  • Damage to one’s heart

Dual Diagnosis

Fentanyl addiction and dual diagnosis

Many people who become addicted to fentanyl also struggle with other mental or behavioral health challenges. Clinical professionals refer to the presence of fentanyl addiction and another mental or behavioral health disorder as dual diagnosis. If you’ve been dealing with fentanyl addiction, you may have an elevated risk for the following:

  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Other substance use disorders

If you need, but fail to receive, effective professional care for dual diagnosis, it can be difficult to achieve long-term recovery from fentanyl addiction. But when you get help at a center that provides comprehensive dual diagnosis programming, you can end your fentanyl abuse and live a much healthier life.

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of fentanyl withdrawal and overdose

Effects of fentanyl withdrawal: Prolonged abuse of fentanyl can cause a person’s body to become tolerant of this medication. When this occurs, it is likely that an individual will experience a set of uncomfortable symptoms if the use of it stops, which are the body’s way of attempting to readjust to functioning without this medication. The following are telltale signs that a person is experiencing fentanyl withdrawal:

  • Watery eyes
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Depressed mood
  • Muscle aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Frequent yawning
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose

Effects of fentanyl overdose: An overdose on fentanyl is an unfortunate effect of abusing this painkiller. If any of the below listed signs are displayed, emergency medical attention should be sought so as to avoid a grave outcome:

  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Breathing problems
  • Poor coordination
  • Sleepiness
  • Cold / clammy skin
  • Seizure
  • Unconsciousness
  • Disorientation
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