What is Fentanyl?

What is Fentanyl? Side Effects, Overdose, Withdrawal, & Addiction Treatment

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. It is a Schedule II controlled substance [1], and it is medically used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery. It is also sometimes used to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids. In its prescription form, fentanyl is known by such names as Duragesic, Actiq, and Sublimaze. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) [2], fentanyl may be habit-forming. As a result, taking certain medications with fentanyl may increase the risk of developing severe or life-threatening breathing problems, sedation, or coma.

The most recent fentanyl overdose and death cases in the U.S. are linked to illegally made fentanyl. It is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often blended with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination drug —with or without the user’s knowledge—to increase its euphoric effects. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [3], rates of overdose deaths involving fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (carfentanil) increased by over 16% from 2018 to 2019. More than 36,000 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, in 2019.

How long does fentanyl stay in your system? ” is a question that many misusers of the drug may have. Since fentanyl can be administered in so many different ways, the administration method determines how long the effects last and how long it may stay in your system. When someone who suffers from an addiction to this drug suddenly stops using it, fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can occur. It is important to remember that recovery from fentanyl addiction takes much more than simply ending drug use. The underlying causes of the addiction and the mental illness from the addiction itself must be addressed for the best chances of a successful fentanyl addiction treatment and recovery.

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What is Fentanyl Used for?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [4], pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. It is prescribed in the form of transdermal patches or lozenges and can be diverted for misuse and abuse in the United States.

Fentanyl works by acting on the brain’s opioid receptors to alter how the brain experiences pain and reacts to it. Additionally, fentanyl is used specifically for opioid-tolerant people, meaning they need relief for serious pain but have developed a tolerance to other opioids, rendering them ineffective.

Fentanyl is not intended to be used for pain that’s short-term and will go away in a few days or on an as-needed basis. Some studies warn against using fentanyl to treat surgical pain, but it is still sometimes used for such pain management. When fentanyl is used for surgical applications, it’s normally part of the anesthesia administered to patients to manage pain following the surgery.

Since there is a high likelihood of abuse and dependence with fentanyl when it’s needed, it’s used under medical supervision. Patients who are prescribed fentanyl are given a set of instructions, which include not drinking alcohol when taking it and checking with a pharmacist before taking any other over-the-counter or prescription medicines, vitamins or supplements.

What Does Fentanyl Look Like?

How do fentanyl look? Prescription fentanyl is available as a schedule II prescription drug under Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze in the form of tablets, an injectable liquid, lozenges, and transdermal patches. Find out more about the signs and fentanyl patch abuse.

What does street fentanyl look like? Illicitly manufactured fentanyl can be in powder or tablet form, prescription opioids. What does powder fentanyl look like? Powdered fentanyl looks like many other drugs. The same goes for the fentanyl pill taste. It is typically combined with drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine and assembled into pills created to look like other prescription opiates. Fentanyl-laced drugs are particularly risky because many people are unaware that their drugs are laced with fentanyl.

What does fentanyl taste like? Unfortunately, many forms of illicit fentanyl don’t necessarily have a specific taste, color, or odor, which makes it extremely difficult to identify whether or not you’re taking it. Fortunately, however, there are fentanyl test strips that can help users identify fentanyl. Some users reported a fentanyl lollipop taste, they claimed that fentanyl has a distinctly sweet taste in comparison to heroin’s bitterness.

Fentanyl is often seen in blue, greenish, or pale-colored counterfeit pills. There may be other colors. 
Image Source: www.getsmartaboutdrugs.gov/

Fentanyl Fact Sheet


Common brand names include Duragesic, Abstral, Subsys, and Ionsys

Fentanyl is considered a narcotic.

Fentanyl is used to treat severe pain.

Controlled substance

High risk for addiction and dependence. Can cause respiratory distress and death when taken in high doses or when combined with other substances, especially alcohol or other illicit drugs such as heroin or cocaine.

Learn more on drugfree.org

Brands: Duragesic, Abstral, Subsys, and Ionsys

Availability: Prescription needed

Pregnancy: Consult a doctor

Alcohol: Avoid. Very serious interactions can occur

Drug class: Opioid


Common brands: Duragesic, Abstral, Subsys


It can treat severe pain.

DEA Warning Candy looking Fentanyl Dangers

The DEA has issued warnings that fentanyl pills look like candy are being sold across America. Likened to “rainbow fentanyl” in the media, the trend wherein fentanyl pills look like candy appears to be a new method used by drug cartels to sell the highly addictive drug.

Controlled substance

High risk for addiction and dependence. Can cause respiratory distress and death when taken in high doses or when combined with other substances, especially alcohol or other illicit drugs such as heroin or cocaine.

Learn more on drugfree.org

Brands: Duragesic, Abstral, Subsys, and Ionsys

Availability: Prescription needed

Pregnancy: Consult a doctor

Alcohol: Avoid. Very serious interactions can occur

Drug class: Opioid

Similar to other opioid analgesics, fentanyl produces effects such as: relaxation, euphoria, pain relief, sedation, confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, urinary retention, pupillary constriction, and respiratory depression.

The drug fentanyl should not be used concomitant with certain medications such as CYP3A4 inhibitors like macrolide antibiotics or azole-antifungal agents, and protease inhibitors may increase plasma concentrations of fentanyl, extending the opioid drug action and exacerbating the opioid-induced respiratory depression


Call your doctor right away if you or your child have a rash, itching, hoarseness, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth while you are using this medicine. Do not use too much of this medicine or use it more often than your doctor tells you to

What is Fentanyl Made From?

What is fentanyl made of? Opioids, such as fentanyl, are a class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Some opioids are made from the plant directly, and others, like fentanyl, are made by scientists in labs using the same chemical structure (semi-synthetic or synthetic). When prescribed by a doctor, fentanyl can be given as a shot, a patch that is put on a person’s skin, or as lozenges that are sucked like cough drops.

The illegally used fentanyl most often associated with recent overdoses is made in labs. This synthetic fentanyl is sold illegally as a powder, dropped onto blotter paper, put in eye droppers and nasal sprays, or made into pills that look like other prescription opioids.

Some drug dealers are mixing fentanyl with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA. This is because it takes very little to produce a high with fentanyl, making it a cheaper option. This is especially risky when people taking drugs don’t realize they might contain fentanyl as a cheap but dangerous additive. They might be taking stronger opioids than their bodies are used to and can be more likely to overdose. 

What Color is Fentanyl?

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is available as injectables, skin patches, nasal sprays, or milky-colored lozenges. Fentanyl powder is placed on blotter paper, nasal sprays, or eye droppers. Color varies from off-white to light brown, similar to illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine. Fentanyl can also be found in counterfeit pills that look like prescription opioids.

“Rainbow Fentanyl” or “Candy Looking Fentanyl”
Image Source: https://www.dea.gov/

What is Rainbow Fentanyl Pills?

Fake pills laced with fentanyl are beginning to look like candy in an effort to lure young Americans. This is also known as rainbow fentanyl. “Rainbow fentanyl comes in a variety of bright colors, shapes and sizes, including pills, powder and blocks that resemble sidewalk chalk.

Rainbow fentanyl pills and powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes—is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults. Brightly-colored fentanyl is being seized in multiple forms, including pills, powder, and blocks that resembles sidewalk chalk.  Despite claims that certain colors may be more potent than others, there is no indication through DEA’s laboratory testing that this is the case.  Every color, shape, and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous.

What is Fentanyl Prescribed for?

The only individuals who can prescribe fentanyl patches and other forms of fentanyl are doctors, and it’s advised that it’s only prescribed by doctors with specific experience cancer treatment. In addition to warnings about who is prescribed fentanyl, who can prescribe fentanyl patches and other forms of the drug, and also what fentanyl is prescribed for, there are also strict guidelines for how fentanyl should be prescribed.

A doctor should start the patient with a low fentanyl dose and gradually move upward until a dose is identified that relieves the patient’s pain. Fentanyl isn’t meant to be used more than four times a day, and patients are warned not to use a larger dose than what they’re prescribed or to stop taking it without approval from a doctor.

Also, when this drug is prescribed, doctors should ask about the patient’s family or personal history of the use of alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription drugs, as well as any mental problems including depression or hallucinations.

It’s also not meant to be prescribed for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, who have breathing problems, or kidney or liver disease. If it is prescribed to any members of these groups, prescribers must use extreme caution. To sum up, what is fentanyl prescribed for, it’s for people with severe pain, most often from cancer, who have not adequately responded to other medications such as morphine.

What is Fentanyl
When fentanyl is prescribed medically, it’s available in several different forms including a lollipop, lozenge, a spray, a dissolving strip, an injectable solution, a tablet, and a patch that goes on the skin.

Fentanyl Side Effects 

Fentanyl is fast-acting but somewhat short-lived when compared to other drugs. It can take effect within minutes and can last as short as a half-hour or as long as one-and-a-half hours. It is measured in micrograms (mcg) because of its potency and risk for fentanyl overdose, even in very small amounts. One dosage in a hospital setting is 5 to 20 mcg, with an average of 10 mcg.

Short-Term Fentanyl Side Effects

Not every person will experience the same side effects the same way. Some of the common short-term negative effects of fentanyl are:

  • Sedation
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased thirst
  • Chest pain
  • Pale skin
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Causea or vomiting
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Respiratory depression

Long-Term Fentanyl Physical Side Effects

Long-term use of fentanyl can lead to heart or respiratory problems. Further, people who inject fentanyl and share needles have an increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, or other infectious diseases.

There are other potential side effects, but these are less common. Rare side effects from fentanyl include:

  • Reduced urine output
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling cold
  • Headache or pain in the head
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Low blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Dyskinesia, or trouble with voluntary movement
  • Nightmares
  • Feeling like the room is spinning
  • Stinging skin
  • Throat irritation
  • Kidney damage
  • Eczema or other skin disorder
  • Bloating or swelling of the face or extremities

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What is Fentanyl
Because fentanyl overdoses are such a high risk among users, professional addiction treatment should be sought out immediately.

Fentanyl Overdose 

Anyone who uses drugs that may contain fentanyl, even occasionally, is at risk of a fentanyl overdose. A fentanyl overdose can overwhelm the central nervous system, disrupting the pathways that control heart function and breathing. Many people who overdose on fentanyl will fall asleep and never wake up. If someone at risk of a fentanyl overdose is breathing exceptionally shallow or slow. This can decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, a condition called hypoxia. Hypoxia can lead to a coma and permanent brain damage, and even death.

Many drug dealers mix the cheaper fentanyl with other drugs like heroin, cocaineMDMA, and methamphetamine to increase their profits, making it often difficult to know which drug is causing the overdose. Naloxone is a medicine that can treat a fentanyl overdose when given right away. It works by rapidly binding to opioid receptors and blocking the effects of opioid drugs. But fentanyl is more potent than other opioid drugs like morphine and might require multiple doses of naloxone.

Fentanyl Overdose Symptoms 

Fentanyl can have harmful cross-reactions with other sedatives. This can be seen in Klonopin detox symptoms (clonazepam), Xanax addiction (alprazolam), Ativan addiction (lorazepam), and alcohol abuse. The combination of these drugs will intensify the depressing effects on the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). The following are symptoms of fentanyl overdose:

  • Body is limp
  • Awake, without the ability to speak
  • Changes in skin color (darker-skinned people look grayish or ashen and lighter-skinned people look bluish purple)
  • Vomiting
  • Fingernails and lips turn blue or purplish black
  • Pulse (heartbeat) is slow, erratic, or not there at all
  • Making a snore-like gurgling noise or “death rattle,” choking sounds
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Non-responsive to outside stimulus
  • Very slow, shallow, erratic, or stopped breathing
  • Face is pale or clammy

Why is Fentanyl so Dangerous?

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths. Even in small doses, it can be deadly. Over 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. [4] Drugs may contain deadly levels of fentanyl, and you wouldn’t be able to see it, taste it, or smell it. It is nearly impossible to tell if drugs have been laced with fentanyl unless you test your drugs with fentanyl test strips.

Answering why fentanyl is dangerous is as simple as explaining the effects of opioids. Opioids work by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain. These neurotransmitters are responsible for feelings of pleasure and pain, so when this synthetic drug attaches to them, it can relieve pain and induce a sense of euphoria.

What is the fentanyl death pose? The “fentanyl death pose” is a phrase that has been used in media to refer to the stiffening of the body when someone overdoses on fentanyl. Fentanyl-induced muscle rigidity of the torso may also be known as “wooden chest syndrome”.

To answer “what is fentanyl death pose?” you will have to know that it is due to overdose. The onset of an overdose caused by fentanyl can occur at a much quicker rate (sometimes within seconds) than heroin and may take multiple doses of naloxone to counteract due to the potency of fentanyl.  In the majority of cases, fentanyl overdoses appear very similar to other opioid overdoses. However, atypical overdose symptoms due to fentanyl have been reported, including:

  • Immediate blue or grey lips
  • Body stiffening/seizure like activity
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Confusion before becoming unresponsive

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What Schedule is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a Schedule II prescription drug, and it is typically used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery. It is also sometimes used to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids. In its prescription form, fentanyl is known by such names as Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze®.

Is Fentanyl an Opiate?

Some people carefully distinguish between these two groups of narcotic drugs when they speak about them. Other people use the two terms interchangeably or prefer one over the other. Our language is evolving; lately many people, especially journalists and politicians, are tending to refer to all of these drugs as “opioids.”

Yes. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients, applied in a patch on the skin. Because of its powerful opioid properties, Fentanyl is also diverted for abuse.

Both opiates and opioids are used medically. They may be prescribed for pain relief, anesthesia, cough suppression, diarrhea suppression, and for treatment of opiate/opioid use disorder. Both opiates and opioids may also be used illicitly by people with a substance use disorder.

The main difference is in how opiates and opioids are made.


Opiates are chemical compounds that are extracted or refined from natural plant matter (poppy sap and fibers). Examples of opiates:

  • Opium
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Heroin


Opioids are chemical compounds that generally are not derived from natural plant matter. Most opioids are “made in the lab” or “synthesized.”

What is the Half Life of Fentanyl?

The pharmacokinetics of fentanyl can be described as a three-compartment model, with a distribution time of 1.7 minutes, redistribution of 13 minutes and a terminal elimination half-life of 219 minutes. When taken intravenously, fentanyl has an elimination half-life of approximately 2 to 4 hours in adults, meaning it takes approximately 11 to 22 hours to completely leave your system.

The elimination half-life of fentanyl is subject to some variation based on the method by which it’s administered. If you use the patch or lozenge, fentanyl exhibits a half-life of approximately 7 to 17 hours, and it will take around 36 hours for the drug to completely leave your system after you stop using.

As fentanyl breaks down in your system, it leaves behind traces called metabolites. These metabolites stay in your system longer, meaning that a thorough drug test could detect fentanyl in your system even several days after you stop taking it.

Fentanyl Withdrawal 

Although fentanyl is used and prescribed in medical settings, it is also diverted for street use. When purchased on the streets, fentanyl may be called “china girl,” “china white,” “china town,” or “apache.” The effects of fentanyl are similar to those of other opioids, however, they are far more intense. It goes without saying that it is difficult to quit Fentanyl without proper help. 

Fentanyl produces euphoric effects, which is what pushes people to start abusing the drug in the first place. It makes the user feel good. That’s why many people take it recreationally, not knowing the risks. And if a person is already addicted, attempting to quit without proper treatment will result in fentanyl withdrawal.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone who suffers from an addiction to fentanyl suddenly stops using, withdrawal symptoms can occur. These can include:

  • Fentanyl cravings
  • Goose bumps
  • Runny nose
  • Increased tearing
  • Sweating
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Excessive yawning
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscles aches
  • Joint pain
  • Weakness
  • Stomach cramps
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation

Symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

On average, it takes seven to 10 days for the worst fentanyl withdrawal symptoms to pass. These are called post-acute withdrawal symptoms. Cravings for Fentanyl can last for years after the last dose, but users can relapse without understanding the emotional and physical stressors. 

  • The trouble with cognitive tasks
  •  Panic or anxiety
  •  Irritability
  •  Depressed moved
  •  Difficulty maintaining social relationships
  •  Increased sensitivity to stress
  •  Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
  •  Craving fentanyl
  •  Sleep pattern disturbances
  •  Apathy or pessimism

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What is Fentanyl in Hindi?

The below fact sheet provides the facts on fentanyl in Hindi. The immediate and long-term effects on your body and life, interaction with other drugs, alcohol use during pregnancy, tolerance and dependence, withdrawal, driving, the law, and telephone numbers for services in Australia.

Find Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction 

First and foremost, if you think that a loved one is abusing fentanyl, you should first research the drug and addiction associated with it so that you can better understand what your loved one needs. Next, you must plan an intervention to provide your loved ones with options to battle their addiction in a safe and supportive environment. During this intervention, make sure that you offer compassion and support instead of judgment. Lastly, offer your support throughout the entire treatment process.

Clearing fentanyl from the body and overcoming fentanyl withdrawal symptoms is the goal of detox, which is the first step of treatment for fentanyl addiction. Here at We Level Up NJ, a comprehensive team prescribing medications as part of our medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program, it aims to alleviate your withdrawal pains while monitoring your health 24 hours during the detox. We prioritize your safety and comfort because this is a fragile and challenging time for you.

Once detox is complete, a new doorway in treatment opens up, which is referred to as an inpatient drug rehab or residential level of care. Our residential care program slowly and effectively introduces the individual into an atmosphere of therapeutic growth, marked by master’s level therapists, clinicians, group counselors, psychiatrists, and a community of like-minded individuals with the same aim: to attain sobriety and live a great life.

Some of the many modalities applied and practiced within our residential treatment facility are:

Our treatment tailors the program to the individual and the individual to the program of recovery. We begin by assessing our client’s history of mental health, drugs, and substance abuse-related past. The needs of each individual are specific and personalized because we aim to provide comprehensive support for mental health, addiction, and dual diagnosis treatment. Our supportive environment is designed accordingly to give clients 24-hour care for sobriety. Most importantly, we hope to have our clients live comfortably within the facility during this crucial and fragile time.

Now that you’ve answered the question “what is fentanyl?” it is crucial to seek help avoid overdose. At We Level Up NJ, we prioritize removing the stigma and temptations for relapse and applying an air of recovery into every component of the treatment timeline. , We find that when clients are living in a supportive community, especially during their early recovery process, they can truly focus on what matters most: their recovery. 

What is Fentanyl
Fentanyl withdrawal can be very difficult. Do not try to quit on your own, especially if you have been taking Fentanyl for a long time. 

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Search for “What is Fentanyl?” & Other Resources

[1] Fentanyl – https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/fentanyl – Drug Enforcement Administration
[2] What is Fentanyl – https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a605043.htmlU.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health
[3-4] What is Fentanyl – https://www.cdc.gov/opioids/basics/fentanyl.html – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
[5] Ramos-Matos CF, Bistas KG, Lopez-Ojeda W. What is Fentanyl. [Updated 2022 May 30]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459275/
[6] NIDA. 2021, June 1. Fentanyl DrugFacts. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl on 2022, October 26