Cirque Lodge > Blog > Addiction > Signs of Fentanyl Use and Addiction

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain medication. In rare cases, it may be prescribed to treat severe pain. However, fentanyl is most associated with the opioid epidemic. As it is man-made, fentanyl is frequently manufactured illegally.

Addiction to opioids is a severe issue. A person can become physically or mentally dependent on prescription opioids or illicit opioids like heroin. If you suspect that you, or someone you love may have a fentanyl addiction, there are some signs to look out for. Many addiction treatment programs are highly effective for recovery.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic prescription opioid. Fentanyl is known for its high potency. It is fifty times greater in strength than heroin and one hundred times stronger than morphine.

Opioids work as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. This means the person will feel a relaxed, sedative effect when taking opioids. Furthermore, opioid prescription drugs bind to the opioid receptors in the body and this effect is why opioids work for pain relief. A person taking opioids will also have an overall feeling of well-being and pleasure. The effects of opioid use can be highly addictive, both physically and psychologically.

However, opioids should never be used for long-term management of chronic pain. Opioids are very effective for short-term pain relief and prolonged use can result in opioid dependency or addiction. Doctors are reluctant to prescribe fentanyl or other prescription opioids for this reason.

Prescribed fentanyl will come in the form of lozenges, sublingual sprays, sublingual tablets, nasal sprays, and dissolvable tablets. However, these legally obtained forms of fentanyl are not commonly used for substance abuse. Typically, it is illegally manufactured fentanyl tablets or powder that are used by those suffering from addiction.

Fentanyl Addiction Cycle

Untreated fentanyl addiction is a serious issue for a person and their family members. Similar to any drug addiction, understanding the addiction cycle can help to recognize the warning signs.

Initial Use

A fentanyl addiction will begin with the initial use. While doctors occasionally prescribe fentanyl, it is rare and only in cases of severe pain.

Other opioids such as oxycodone, codeine, or morphine are used in a medical capacity. Any initial use of these opioids can result in addiction. After the period of initial use, a person could begin abusing the drug.

Drug Abuse

Drug abuse refers to any misuse of a substance. Fentanyl could be misused by taking higher doses than prescribed, attempting to obtain fentanyl illegally, or taking fentanyl for longer than advised.

It is not uncommon for a person with a fentanyl addiction to attempt to obtain fentanyl prescriptions from illegal sources. Similarly, they may engage in a practice known as doctor shopping. Doctor shopping is when a person will go to different doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions.

At this stage, some signs to look out for include illegally buying fentanyl, forging prescriptions, and asking friends or family for opioids. These are a good indication that a person has begun abusing fentanyl. It may also indicate a fentanyl addiction.


If a person is abusing fentanyl for a long period, they will eventually develop a tolerance. This means the person will now require higher doses of the drug to achieve the desired effect. As fentanyl is a highly potent substance, this kind of substance abuse comes with a high risk of overdose.

In recent years, the US has seen an increase in opioid deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl overdose deaths have risen significantly since 2020 and they account for many emergency room visits. Fentanyl abuse played a large role in statistics relating to fatal opioid overdoses. A fentanyl overdose is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention.

If a person is abusing fentanyl and develops a tolerance, they are at high risk of developing physical or mental dependence. Drug dependence occurs when the body is used to the presence of the drug and now requires the drug to function normally. Sudden cessation of the substance abuse at this point, such as quitting cold turkey, will result in withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Fentanyl Abuse

Sudden cessation of any drug or alcohol after prolonged abuse will result in symptoms; however, withdrawal symptoms will vary for each substance. The withdrawal process can vary from person to person and will depend on the substance.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms are known to be particularly uncomfortable. The intensity of these withdrawal symptoms will depend on the length and severity of the fentanyl addiction. The longer a person engages in fentanyl abuse, the more intense the fentanyl withdrawal will be.

If you are concerned that a loved one may be suffering from a fentanyl use disorder, the withdrawal period would be difficult to hide. Fentanyl withdrawal will produce intense physical and mental effects. Some physical signs and symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • High temperature
  • Runny nose
  • Chills
  • Goosebumps on skin
  • Sweating
  • Dilated pupils
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion or dizziness

The withdrawal symptoms from fentanyl are not just in the body. Withdrawal is often experienced in the mind, especially if a person has developed a psychological dependence on the drug. Some common behavioral symptoms of fentanyl abuse include:

  • Irritability
  • Sleeping for long periods
  • Inability to sleep
  • Intense cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Depression

There are many addiction treatment programs to help people overcome fentanyl addiction. Many treatment facilities offer medication-assisted treatment programs to help the person through the withdrawal process. An untreated fentanyl use disorder can be life-threatening.

Risk Factors of Fentanyl Abuse

Addiction can affect anyone. There is no profile that is specifically at risk. However, there are a few risk factors such as gender. Research has found that women are more likely than men to have chronic pain, and therefore are more at risk of developing an addiction to opioid drugs. Furthermore, young people under the age of thirty are also at greater risk. Similarly, those who spend time in places where drugs are present are also at an increased risk.

Addiction to prescription painkillers can be caused by chronic pain conditions. However, addiction is usually a symptom of underlying mental health conditions. Those who are at an increased risk of becoming fentanyl users are those who suffer from panic disorder, forms of depression, and other mental health conditions.

It is possible for those suffering from fentanyl use disorder to have co-occurring disorders. A person who has fentanyl use disorder may also have a stimulant use disorder, or smoke marijuana regularly. Opioid addiction is powerful and a person may not only use fentanyl. They could take fentanyl and other opioids such as heroin, or they may engage in frequent alcohol abuse.

Signs of Fentanyl Abuse

An addiction to opioids is severe and would be more difficult to hide than other substance abuse. There are many negative consequences of fentanyl abuse and you may notice some signs and symptoms. Potential signs may include a change in the person's behavior, activities, or appearance.

If a person is taking fentanyl, slurred speech may be a sign. Furthermore, they may appear confused, sleepy, or have an elevated mood. If the person has been taking fentanyl for a long time, they may display extreme weight loss. Someone with a fentanyl addiction may choose to inject the drug. If this is the case, the person may have marks on the skin in areas where veins are present.

Within their home, there may be a residue of white powder or other drug paraphernalia present. An example of drug paraphernalia could be a straw or other cylindrical object used for snorting powder.

Fentanyl abuse can affect a person socially and those who frequently engage in fentanyl abuse could have disturbed relationships. Opioid use disorders will affect a person financially and they could get into legal trouble.

A person may display a change in behavior or mood. This is particularly evident if the person is going through withdrawal. At this time, they may appear anxious, irritated, or have intense mood swings. They may be experiencing nausea or vomiting, and they may have constipation.

Overdose Signs and Symptoms

Due to fentanyl's high potency, overdose occurs in this population regularly. Overdose effects can be severe as a person could stop breathing, resulting in oxygen deficiency and brain damage. An opioid overdose could be fatal.

If you suspect a person may have taken a fentanyl overdose, there are some early signs and symptoms to look out for. Common signs include disorientation, extreme sleepiness, loss of consciousness, unresponsiveness, a blue tinge to the skin, not behaving in a normal manner, inability to breathe, or slowed heart rate. Fentanyl overdoses can be prevented with early addiction treatment.

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

If you are looking for an addiction treatment program to treat fentanyl addiction, Cirque Lodge can help. At our exceptional treatment facility surrounded by the mountains of Utah, we treat patients for addiction to fentanyl and other drugs.

At our serene location, we offer residential treatment programs such as medical detox, behavioral therapies, and a group-centric program. As we know that those with addiction can have co-occurring disorders, we offer a tailored plan to suit the individual's needs.

Our opiate and fentanyl addiction treatment program consists of medical detox and rehab. Cirque Lodge is unique as we offer experiential therapies. This holistic program includes art therapy, yoga, equine therapy, and many more.

Fentanyl abuse continues to take many lives each year. Every overdose death is a preventable death. Seeking addiction treatment can prevent this outcome and long-term recovery is possible. Call us today to discuss your recovery plan.

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