Fentanyl: Signs and Symptoms of Abuse and Fentanyl Statistics

fentanyl, fentanyl addiction, fentanyl abuse, carfentanil

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a very potent synthetic opioid that is usually prescribed by medical professionals to treat patients with serious chronic pain that cannot be effectively managed with morphine or other less potent analgesic drugs.

Fentanyl is over 50 times more potent than morphine. It potency also increases its likelihood of abuse as it is one of the largest contributors to the opioid epidemic.

How Does Fentanyl Work?

When fentanyl is taken like other opioids, it binds with the brain cells and influences dopamine by producing a feel-good or satisfactory or euphoric feeling. The potency of this drug to produce such intense highs is one key reason why it is commonly abused. The abuse of fentanyl occurs regardless of age, religion, gender and socioeconomic status.


The abuse of fentanyl is further increased by the abuse of some of its synthetic derivatives which have similar effects and poses greater dangers. A typical example of a synthetic derivative of fentanyl that is commonly abused is carfentanil which is reportedly 10,000 times stronger than heroin.

Carfentanil is normally used by veterinary anesthetic to sedate large animals, but many individuals continue to abuse it by mixing it with heroin. This can quickly result in addiction and death.

How is Fentanyl Administered?

Fentanyl is usually available in these forms;

  • A lozenge that is sucked until it dissolves.
  • In Buccal tablet. Taken between the cheek and gums, where it dissolves.
  • In a solution that is sprayed on the nose
  • A sublingual tablet that is placed under the tongue, where it dissolves.
  • Sublingual spray that is sprayed under the tongue.
  • Transdermal patch that is placed on the skin


The report of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) over a 20-year period between 1991 and 2011 showed the total number of painkiller prescription medications yearly increased from 76 million to 219 million, a 288% increase. Between 2013 and 2014, over 13 million Fentanyl prescriptions were written. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also corroborated this report by disclosing that over 80% of deaths due to prescription medications was from fentanyl and synthetic derivatives of fentanyl in 2013 and 2014.

Over 42,249 opioid overdose deaths were recorded in 2016. About 45.9% were due to the usage of various forms of synthetic opioids.

Signs & Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction

A good number of patients who are prescribed fentanyl medication by their doctor and use it for a short period as instructed do not usually have the need to use it for other purposes and are thus free from the consequences of abusing it.

However, some other patients become addicted to fentanyl or a fentanyl derivative due to its ability to produce an intense high. The initial symptoms of prescription medication abuse may not be easily detected, but over time anyone with the knowledge can easily detect them.  Some of those signs and symptoms of Fentanyl abuse include;

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Displaying unusual or erratic behavior that is uncharacteristic
  • Lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyed in favor of substance abuse
  • Inability to control the frequency and amount or volume of usage
  • Taking fentanyl and/or fentanyl derivatives regardless of hazardous situations
  • Social isolation
  • Continuing to abuse fentanyl and/or fentanyl derivatives despite problems caused by this type of substance abuse
  • Having a very strong urge and doing almost anything to get the medication

Physical symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Racing heart
  • Swollen feet and hands
  • Slowed breathing
  • Vomiting

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Disorientation
  • Fixation on finding more of the drug
  • Intense cravings for the drug

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Loss of interest productive activities that were formerly enjoyed

Causes & Risk Factors of Fentanyl Addiction

The causes of Fentanyl addiction may vary from person to person, so it is usually best to address those factors that increase the risk of any individual to taking these medications and subsequently abusing them. Some of the vital reasons and factors include;

Genetics: If you are battling with an addiction problem chances are you have a close relation or someone in your family who is going or has gone through something similar. In addition, some individuals who have displayed certain risky behaviors, impulsivity, boredom, and thrill-seeking are more likely to abuse drugs.

Environmental: The nature of the environment you grow up in may play a big role in determining whether you will abuse drugs or not.

Risk Factors:

  • Easy access to fentanyl or a synthetic derivative of fentanyl
  • Family history of addiction
  • Getting a fentanyl prescription for a disease or injury
  • Growing up in an environment in which substance use normal
  • Possessing certain personality traits
  • Stress
  • Previous opioid abuse
  • Trauma

Effects of Fentanyl Abuse

Folks who do not go for treatment of an addiction to fentanyl or a synthetic derivative of fentanyl may be exposed to the following risks;

  • Arrest and incarceration
  • Depression
  • Diminished performance in school or at work
  • Failed social relationships
  • Financial troubles
  • Homelessness
  • Inability to find and keep a job
  • Physical injury due to impaired motor functioning and/or poor decisions
  • Significant physical and psychological health problems
  • Suicidal ideation and attempts
  • Withdrawal





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