ClickCease Fentanyl: Signs of Abuse - Granite Recovery Centers

Fentanyl: Signs of Abuse

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: August 27th, 2021

James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.


Fentanyl is an opioid drug. It is often compared to morphine because both are strong drugs that are highly addictive. People who misuse fentanyl will often show signs of use. Once a regular user stops taking fentanyl, they show withdrawal symptoms.


Fentanyl Uses

Fentanyl is a drug most often used as a pain reliever. While many opioids come from the poppy plant, fentanyl is a manmade drug. Scientists create the drug by replicating the chemical structure in a laboratory. The drug is available by prescription in the U.S. In most cases, it’s prescribed after surgery or for patients experiencing extreme or chronic pain.

You can purchase fentanyl as a tablet, lozenge, patch, or spray. The drug is addictive and potent in all of its various forms. If you’re prescribed fentanyl, always follow the dosage prescribed by your doctor. Taking the drug for longer than the prescribed time frame can lead to a substance use disorder. Regular use of fentanyl can increase your tolerance to the drug. This requires you to take more of it, which increases your likelihood of becoming addicted.

Always make your doctor aware of any additional medications you’re taking. Do this to reduce the risk of drug interactions. It is not recommended that you take any of the following drugs with fentanyl:

  • Mifepristone
  • Naltrexone
  • Safinamide
  • Nalmefene

Some branded drugs include fentanyl as the main ingredient, including the following:

  • Duragesic
  • Subsys
  • Actiq
  • Abstral
  • Fentora
  • Lazanda
  • Onsolis
  • Sublimaze

Fentanyl is a manmade drug that some drug producers sell illegally. The drug is produced in labs. Illegal fentanyl comes in many forms. For instance, it can be purchased in powder form. Fentanyl can even be put into blotters, nasal sprays, or eye droppers. The drug is also commonly abused in pills that resemble prescription drugs.

You should never purchase fentanyl illegally. Those who purchase it illegally are at a higher risk of overdose. This is because some users may not be aware of the drug’s potency. Those who sell it may combine it with heroin or cocaine, unbeknownst to the user.


Signs of Fentanyl Use

The signs of fentanyl use are consistent with those of other opioid drugs. Those who use fentanyl will often appear relaxed, which induces both sleepiness and sleeping too much. Other signs and symptoms are as follows:

  • Pain relief
  • Euphoria
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizzy feeling
  • Sedation

The above symptoms are among the most common. The symptoms vary from mild to severe. For instance, those who take a small amount of fentanyl might appear drowsy whereas those who take large amounts over an extended period of time might appear lethargic or have trouble staying awake. Pupil constriction and retention of urine are also signs of fentanyl use. In some cases, patients experience slower or ineffectual breathing. Difficulty breathing should always be treated as a medical emergency.


Fentanyl Use Disorder

Fentanyl can relax you while reducing your pain. Because it gives you a pleasurable feeling, fentanyl can be especially difficult to stop taking. One major sign that you have a use disorder is that you think about the drug obsessively.

If you are addicted to fentanyl, you will feel as though you’re unable to live without the drug. You will have a strong craving for it, and you may struggle with impulse control. Fentanyl use disorder causes several other effects. If addicted, you might do the following:

  • Show an inability to quit the drug despite negative consequences
  • Take increasing doses of the drug in order to satisfy cravings
  • Lie to your family and loved ones about taking the drug
  • Lie to your doctor or healthcare provider to get more fentanyl

In addition to the above, those who develop a fentanyl use disorder also show physical signs. Those who have taken fentanyl have reported the following: physical symptoms:

  • Tightness in the chest
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Lack of balance and coordination
  • Abnormal thinking
  • Mood swings
  • A feeling of pounding in the ears
  • Chest pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty breathing or labored breathing
  • Black stool
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Decreased urine flow
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Dry mouth
  • Chills
  • Back pain
  • Side pain
  • Pale skin
  • White spots inside the mouth
  • Sunken eyes
  • Ulcers or sores in the mouth
  • Swollen calves, feet, ankles, or hands
  • Numbness or tingling in the feet, hands, or lips
  • Loss of appetite

Some side effects create more cause for concern than others. If you have any of the symptoms listed below, you should seek immediate medical care:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Hallucinations
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Mental confusion
  • Fainting
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Fever

The symptoms listed in the above two lists are the most commonly seen in fentanyl users. Another common side effect of using fentanyl is developing a habit. Once your body becomes accustomed to using it, you’ll develop a tolerance for it. This means that you must take more of the drug to feel high or satisfied.

Rare symptoms of fentanyl use are as follows: headache, involuntary muscle movements, stomach pain, and abdominal pain. Some patients are slow to respond to stimuli, such as sounds or movements. Other patients report feeling extremely constipated.

Some users feel anxious or worried if they fear they will no longer have access to the drug. Fentanyl users may steal the drug or lie to obtain it. Some users report buying it from online listings. They may drive to certain neighborhoods to purchase the drug. In some cases, healthcare workers illegally sell the drug for cash.

You are said to be addicted to opioids when taking it interferes with your daily life. Your loved ones will probably notice. For instance, if you’re feeling uncoordinated or dizzy, you will appear clumsy to others. Your loved ones may notice that your head droops, and you may fall or have trouble walking. Loved ones might comment on your lack of energy or motivation. In many cases, the reason you appear lazy or lacking in energy is that the drug makes you sleep during the day. Your lack of energy and activity could also cause you to gain weight.

Those with a fentanyl use disorder will often have interpersonal problems. For instance, your loved ones will obviously notice if you’re having hallucinations or mood swings. They will probably argue with you about the reality of a situation. They may also contradict the statements you make.

Fentanyl use can damage your relationships with loved ones. For instance, loved ones might feel insulted if you spend more time obsessing over fentanyl than fulfilling the obligations you have to them. In some cases, loved ones will break off relationships with those who use drugs. Or, in other cases, they may try to intervene and help a loved one who has a substance use disorder.

Your work life could also be impacted. Those who develop a substance use disorder sometimes lose their jobs. They are often seen as irresponsible by their supervisors and coworkers. They may miss work, show up late or behave inappropriately.

Substance use disorder is a constant struggle within yourself. You may deny that you have a problem. This is especially common in prescription drug users because they don’t feel as much of a stigma as those who take recreational street drugs.


Things To Remember About Fentanyl Use

Some people think that they won’t become addicted to fentanyl simply because they don’t have an addictive personality. However, anyone can develop a fentanyl use disorder. Yes, it’s true that some people are more prone to addiction than others. For instance, if you have a history of drug abuse, you should speak to your doctor before taking fentanyl.

No one should ever purchase fentanyl illegally. You could get into legal trouble if you do. You will also be at a higher risk of overdose. This is because prescription fentanyl will accurately tell you what dosage you are taking. However, homemade fentanyl can be much stronger than you think it is. It might also be mixed with other drugs, such as heroin, that could cause a serious medical emergency.

People who take fentanyl while under the care of a physician rarely overdose. Because of a recent prescription drug crisis in the United States, physicians are careful not to overprescribe drugs. In most cases, your physician will prescribe a heavy opioid like fentanyl for only a few days after surgery. Taking the drug for a short duration decreases the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder.

However, in some cases it’s necessary to prescribe fentanyl for chronic pain. If this is the case, your physician will generally talk with you about the risk of forming a use disorder. They may often put you on the lowest possible dose to treat your pain. If possible, many physicians will recommend alternative treatments.


Signs of Fentanyl Overdose

Shallow and slow breathing are most commonly seen in those who overdose. If you think that you or someone you know has overdosed, seek immediate medical help.

Other opioid overdose signs are:

  • Constricted pupils
  • Losing consciousness
  • Limp body
  • Pale skin
  • Blue skin


Fentanyl Withdrawal Signs

If you stop taking fentanyl or reduce your dosage, you will notice withdrawal signs.

Among the most common withdrawal signs are:

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Chills
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Muscles aches or pains
  • Weak feeling
  • Backache
  • Pain in the joints
  • Yawning
  • Stomach ache or cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Wide pupils
  • Faster breathing
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increase in heart rate

Other withdrawal symptoms can also occur when a person stops taking fentanyl, such as:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Bone pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Cold flashes
  • Goosebumps
  • Severe cravings for the drug
  • Uncontrollable movements in the legs

The above withdrawal symptoms can be mild or severe. Severe withdrawal symptoms cause discomfort and pain. As a result, people often relapse and resume taking the drug to rid themselves of the painful withdrawal symptoms. It is not recommended that you quit fentanyl on your own.

Granite Recovery Center’s medication-assisted detox program can assist you with managing withdrawal symptoms. We offer common substitution therapy using drugs like suboxone, methadone, and Vivitrol. With our help, you can use these drugs to safely transition from fentanyl to the substitute drug. This helps rid your body of fentanyl in a process called detoxification. Do not stop taking the drug suddenly. If you do stop the drug quickly, you are more likely to experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

If you or someone you know has a substance use disorder, we can help. Our treatment facility offers several different programs, including inpatient and outpatient options. We help with detox and counseling therapy. Our counselors can also provide mental health counseling.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.