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Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. It was initially introduced to the medical field in 1959 as an anesthetic and for pain relief. 

It became increasingly popular in the 1990s when the fentanyl patch was introduced to treat chronic pain, more specifically, chronic pain related to cancer and end of life care. In its prescription form, fentanyl is known as Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze®. 

Fentanyl as a street drug

Fentanyl became a popular street drug in the early 2000s when individuals could no longer quickly obtain prescriptions for opioids instead of turning to heroin. Fentanyl became the new heroin. Fentanyl is often added to heroin to increase its strength or is being disguised as heroin leading to more lethal overdoses.

Unfortunately, it is impossible in the absence of a detection kit to tell if a powder or pill contains fentanyl as it is tasteless, colorless, and odorless. As a result, even dealers may not be aware of what they are selling. As a result, the difference between a lethal dose and a dose that results in a euphoric high is minimal. Street names for illegally used fentanyl include Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfellas, Jackpot, Murder 8, and Tango & Cash.

Street fentanyl can be ingested, snorted, injected, or smoked and is usually sold as a powder or pill. Street fentanyl is often made illegally in a lab or comes from prescription patches that were stolen or sold from patients.


  • Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are now the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths in the United States.
  • In 2017, 59 percent of opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl compared to 14.3 percent in 2010.
  • Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and about 50 times more potent than heroin.
  • The number of deaths involving fentanyl, whether alone with other drugs, doubled from 2015 to 2016. 

Over the last three years, the number of fentanyl-related deaths increased by 540 percent.

Signs and symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction

  • Drowsiness 
  • Dizziness
  • Euphoria
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor coordination
  • Lack of awareness
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Slowed breathing
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dry mouth
  • Nightmares
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Constipation 

Overdose can occur within minutes of use. Warning signs of overdose include slow, shallow breathing, extreme drowsiness, confusion, and loss of consciousness. Since fentanyl is exceptionally potent, overdose can occur without warning and can occur at nearly any dosage. 

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction, how we can help

Treatment for fentanyl addiction includes a multidisciplinary regimen that consists of both medication and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy helps the individual learn healthy coping skills, recognize past triggers and patterns, and develop strong relationships.

Psychotherapy includes cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectal behavioral therapy in multiple settings, including group, individual, and family sessions.

Medication-assisted therapy in the mainstay form of treatment for fentanyl addiction. Medications are given routinely to alleviate withdrawal side effects associated with fentanyl withdrawal.

The medicines that are given contain a low-dose and long-acting opioid. Methadone, Naltrexone, and Suboxone are FDA approved medications that are used to help alleviate fentanyl withdrawal symptoms.

AKUA Mind & Body Treatment Program

AKUA Mind and Body is a full-service treatment program that offers a wide range of “east meets west” treatment modalities for many different populations struggling with anxiety and other mental health and substance use disorders. We offer both intensive inpatient programs as well as outpatient treatment. AKUA Mind & Body works diligently with each client and their family to ensure that their depressive disorder treatment plan is specifically tailored to their needs, and not just their disorder.

Signs and symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal, including fentanyl withdrawal, is not life-threatening; however, it can be very uncomfortable and painful. Severe withdrawal side effects are one of the main reasons why individuals continue to abuse fentanyl. 

  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Sweating
  • Low-grade fever
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nightmares
  • Depression

Saving a life one test strip at a time

Fentanyl test strips were originally manufactured for urine drug tests. Recently these test strips have been used off-label by individuals who use street opioids to test whether fentanyl is mixed with heroin. 

Since fentanyl-laced heroin can result in a lethal overdose, studies have shown that testing street drugs for fentanyl has led many individuals to modify their drug use behavior. Studies have shown that 70% of individuals who reported knowing that fentanyl was present in their drugs resulted in not using the drug, using the drug more slowly, or using a drug that includes naloxone. All three mechanisms are ways to prevent a lethal overdose. 

Individuals who purchase illegal opioids on the street are not looking for fentanyl and are becoming more concerned about whether fentanyl is laced into the product. 

Fentanyl test strips are one way to combat unwarranted lethal overdoses associated with fentanyl. 

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