By We Level Up NJ Treatment Center | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: February 16, 2023
What Is Fentanyl?
Many experts describe what’s occurring to drive the drug overdose scourge as the contamination of abused drugs. The availability of fentanyl, its potent effects, and how cheap it is to cut heroin, meth, cocaine, and possibly other drugs are likely the big culprits. We now know that fentanyl drug and the contamination it brings to other addictive drugs are made, sold, and shipped to Americans from China. What’s more dangerous is that China has seemingly allowed the proliferation of fentanyl. This is another reason experts do not see any possibility of radical change in fentanyl addiction and overdose deaths for the rest of the current year. 
Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more powerful. It is a prescription drug that is also made and used illegally. Like morphine, it is a medication typically used to treat patients with severe pain, particularly after surgery. However, it is also sometimes used to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids. Tolerance happens when you need a higher and/or more frequent drug to get the desired effects.
Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are now the most prevalent drugs involved in drug overdose deaths in the United States. In 2017, 59.8 percent of opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl compared to 14.3 percent in 2010. 
U.S. drug overdose deaths rose nearly 30% in 2020, driven by synthetic opioids. Again, it’s about isolation, interruption in life, and maybe worsening of mental disorders due to the spread of (primarily illicitly produced) fentanyl; along with lockdowns, job losses, and stress from the Covid-19 pandemic. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin, and it is now often mixed into other widely used illicit drugs, usually when the user is careless.
Fentanyl Street Names
- China Girl
- China Town
- China White
- Dance Fever
- Great Bear
- Poison and Tango & Cashc
The Spread Of Illicit Fentanyl Addiction
The illegally used fentanyl most often linked with recent overdoses is manufactured in labs. This synthetic fentanyl is sold unlawfully 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 combine 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 very risky when people taking drugs don’t realize they might contain fentanyl as a cheap but dangerous additive. They might be taking more powerful opioids than their bodies are used to and can be more likely to overdose. 
Fentanyl Addiction Symptoms
- Skipping social meetings to use Fentanyl
- Using Fentanyl to avoid withdrawal effects and negative symptoms
- Failing to quit when one wants to do so
- Tolerance or needing to use more to achieve the same high
- Be dependent
How Does Fentanyl Affect The Brain?
The legal status in the Federal Control Substances Act for fentanyl is a Schedule II narcotic under the United States Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Fentanyl addiction should not be taken lightly, because this drug is lethal when misused.
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- What is Fentanyl?
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Like heroin, morphine, and other opioid drugs, fentanyl works by binding to the body’s opioid receptors, which are found in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. After taking opioids many times, the brain adapts to the drug, reducing its sensitivity, and making it hard to feel pleasure from anything besides the drug. When people become addicted, drug-seeking and drug use take over their lives. 
Drugs that cause comparable effects include other opioids such as morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, methadone, and heroin.
What Does Fentanyl Look Like?
How does fentanyl make you feel? It is an opioid used as a prescription painkiller, usually in the form of a patch or a pill. It can also be used in anesthesia. However, similar to other opioid analgesics, it produces effects such as relaxation, euphoria, pain relief, sedation, confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, urinary retention, pupillary constriction, and respiratory depression.
This opioid may cause a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. 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 narcotic or use it more often than your doctor tells you to. This can be life-threatening. Symptoms of an overdose include extreme dizziness or weakness, slow heartbeat or breathing, seizures, trouble breathing, and cold, clammy skin. Call your doctor right away if you notice these symptoms.
Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor for fentanyl interactions. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.
There is no way to tell exactly or 100% how long does fentanyl stay in your system and how long fentanyl will be detectable in drug tests. The only way to pass a drug test is to stop using drugs. Treatment can help.
Facts About Fentanyl
Fentanyl Pronunciation: fen · tuh · nuhl
Fentanyl in Spanish: Fentanilo
Fentanyl Street Names: Apace, China Girl, China Town, China White, Dance Fever, Goodfellas, Great Bear, He-Man, Poison, and Tango & Cash
How strong is fentanyl? It is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It is a major contributor to fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the U.S.
To define fentanyl, there are two types of this drug:
- Pharmaceutical fentanyl and
- Illicitly manufactured fentanyl
Both are considered synthetic opioids. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain, especially after surgery and for advanced-stage cancer.
However, most recent cases of fentanyl-related overdose are linked to illicitly manufactured opioids, which are distributed through illegal drug markets for their heroin-like effect. It is often added to other drugs because of its extreme potency, which makes drugs cheaper, more powerful, more addictive, and more dangerous.  Learn more about “What does fentanyl feel like?” and opioid fentanyl addiction-related topics below:
DEA Counterfeit Pills Fact Sheet Publicly Made Available for Substance Use Disorder Awareness
How to make fentanyl? Illicitly manufactured fentanyl has been specially designed to be more powerful than other opioids like heroin. This makes it a popular choice for drug dealers who want to dilute their product without their customers realizing it.
Fentanyl Overdose Statistics
In the 12 months ending in January 2022, 107,375 Americans died from drug overdoses and drug poisonings, according to the DEA. Incredibly, 67% of those deaths from fentanyl are expected in 2022.  You should carry naloxone and have it at home if you or someone you know is more likely to overdose on opioids, especially if they are suffering from an OUD. When administered in time, the life-saving drug naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose caused by heroin, fentanyl (short- or long-acting), or prescription opioid drugs.
People who use heroin or other illicit opioids should all carry naloxone, as should those who take high-dose opioid prescriptions (more or equal to 50 morphine milligram equivalents per day) prescribed by a doctor. Tell them you have naloxone on hand in case you experience an opioid overdose because you cannot use it on yourself.
Rainbow fentanyl pills: what are they? Drug enforcement agency (DEA) announced a rainbow fentanyl drug bust that exemplifies how drug dealers use the newest advertising strategies to draw in customers while misleading them about the potentially fatal ingredients of street-sold pills. There are stories concerning “fentanyl in Halloween candy warning” and “rainbow fentanyl Halloween candy” as well as fentanyl busts. These instances of fentanyl discovered in sweets have been recorded. The fentanyl issue is an epidemic that increasingly affects both children and adults.
Every year on the first week of May, there is a discussion about the number of fentanyl overdose deaths. A highly addictive synthetic opioid that continues to fuel the overdose epidemic, fentanyl, is the focus of this day’s national campaign to raise awareness and reduce demand for it.
The new data show overdose deaths involving opioids increased from an estimated 70,029 in 2020 to 80,816 in 2021.
Source: CDC, Fentanyl Deaths 2021
The fentanyl category of opioids accounted for 53,480 preventable deaths in 2020, representing a 59% increase over the 33,725 total in 2019.
In nearly 40% of fentanyl overdose deaths in 2021, someone else was present. Having naloxone available allows bystanders to help with a fatal overdose and save lives.
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Fentanyl, like other commonly used opioid analgesics (e.g., morphine), produces effects  such as:
Fentanyl Addiction, Exposure & Overdose
A person can overdose on fentanyl. An overdose happens when a drug produces severe adverse effects and life-threatening symptoms. When people overdose on fentanyl, their breathing can slow or stop. This can reduce 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.
Overdose May Result In:
- Changes in Pupillary Size
- Cold and Clammy Skin
- Respiratory Failure leading to death
Thus, a triad of symptoms such as coma, pinpoint pupils, and respiratory depression strongly suggests opioid poisoning.
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Fentanyl Overdose Death Avoidance With The Help Of Naloxone “Narcan”
Naloxone is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) meant to reverse opioid overdose quickly. In addition, it is an opioid antagonist—meaning that it binds to opioid receptors and can change and block the effects of other opioids, such as heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. When a user signifies an opioid or fentanyl overdose, naloxone is a temporary treatment, and its effects do not last long. Therefore, it is crucial to obtain medical intervention as soon as possible after administering/receiving naloxone.
As mentioned above, many drug dealers mix the cheaper fentanyl with other drugs like heroin, cocaine, MDMA, and methamphetamine to increase their profits, making it often tough to know which drug is causing the overdose. Naloxone is a medication that can treat a fentanyl overdose when given right away. But fentanyl is more potent than other opioid drugs like morphine and might need multiple doses of naloxone.
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Because of this, if you suspect someone has overdosed, an essential step to take is to call 911 so they can receive immediate medical attention. Once medical personnel arrives, they will administer naloxone if they suspect an opioid drug is involved. Naloxone is available as an injectable (needle) solution and nasal sprays (NARCAN® and KLOXXADO®).
People given naloxone should be observed for another two hours after the last dose of naloxone is given to make sure breathing does not slow or stop. Some states have passed laws that allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a personal prescription. 
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment Options
Like other opioid addictions, medication with behavioral therapies is efficient in treating people with fentanyl addiction. 
- Medications: Buprenorphine and methadone work by binding to the same opioid receptors in the brain as fentanyl, decreasing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Another medication, Naltrexone, blocks opioid receptors and prevents fentanyl from having an effect. People can review treatment options with their health provider.
- Counseling: Behavioral therapies for addiction to opioids like fentanyl can improve people’s attitudes and behaviors associated with drug use, develop healthy life skills, and help them stick with their medication. Some examples include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This helps adjust the client’s drug use expectations and behaviors and efficiently handle triggers and stress
- Contingency Management: This uses a voucher-based system giving clients “points” based on negative drug tests. They can use the points to earn items that promote healthy living
- Motivational Interviewing: This is a client-centered counseling style that addresses a person’s mixed feelings to change
These behavioral treatment approaches have proven useful, mainly when used along with medications.
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Most Popular Fentanyl Addiction FAQs
Is Fentanyl addictive?
Yes. Fentanyl’s potency makes it addictive. When using fentanyl on a prescription as directed by a doctor, a person may develop dependence, which is marked by withdrawal symptoms after stopping the medicine.
How to know if you are addicted to Fentanyl?
Some side effects of Fentanyl addiction include bone and muscle discomfort, issues with sleep, constipation and vomiting, shivering and goosebumps, involuntary leg movements, and powerful cravings.
How addictive is Fentanyl?
Because of its potency, fentanyl is addictive. A person may become dependent on fentanyl when using it as prescribed by a doctor, which is characterized by withdrawal symptoms after quitting the drug.
What do Fentanyl addicts look like?
Most people also imagine the typical Fentanyl user as having apparent physical and mental health issues. But today, even Fentanyl addicts who aren’t dependent on other drugs could look entirely different from what you picture or see in movies.
How long does it take to get addicted to Fentanyl?
Fentanyl in injectable form begins to work after around 60 seconds and reaches its peak after 2 to 5 minutes. Between 30 and 1 hour will pass before the effects wear off completely. This speed can soon result in an overdose.
Why is Fentanyl so addictive?
The strength of fentanyl makes it addictive. When using fentanyl as directed by a doctor, a person may develop a dependence on it, which is marked by withdrawal symptoms after stopping use.
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment And Detox At We Level Up NJ
Clearing drugs from the body and overcoming withdrawal symptoms is the goal of detox, which is the first step of treatment for fentanyl addiction.
Firstly, you need to detox to obtain recovery in a safe and medically supervised setting. We Level Up NJ treatment center medically assist clients in clearing their systems of addictive substances.
For anyone who suffers from fentanyl addiction, just the thought of having to stop using can cause severe mental distress. But, with the help of a medical detox center, the medical detox process is managed. In addition, a comprehensive team prescribing medications can alleviate your withdrawal pains while monitoring your health 24 hours. Thus, assuring both your safety and comfort.
Moreover, after the detox, our residential care program will slowly and effectively introduce 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.
If you or a loved one is struggling with fentanyl addiction, you may reach out to us. Our counselors are always ready to answer any of your possible questions.
“This Was Not How I Wanted To Live”, Ryan’s Recovery From Fentanyl, Heroin, & Oxycontin Addiction Video
Ryan’s Addiction Recovery Story and Testimonial
“My name is Ryan and I’m the transportation manager.
My clean date is September 14, 2016. My addiction was in and out of meetings for ten years, in and out of jail for eight, in and out of rehabs for six years.
Before I came down to Florida, I was homeless. I was sleeping on park benches when I couldn’t find a couch or a car to sleep in.
The main thing that brought me down was Fentanyl powder straight from China, Meth, Heroin, OxyContin, all of it.
I was just done.
I just I had a little bit of 78 days clean and I went home because I had $50,000 in warrants that I had to clear up used again, and was back in Florida a week later. And I looked in the mirror and I had a God moment and I realized that this was not how I wanted to live anymore. And that was the last. And I flushed it, flushed a half gram of dope down the toilet and that was it.
Got a home group while I was in treatment. Got a service commitment while I was in treatment. When I got out of treatment, I would walk to meetings. I would do everything that I was suggested to me. My first eight and a half months clean, I was going to twelve meetings a week minimum. I started working steps after I found the right sponsor. I had two home groups doing service. In both of those home groups, I started paneling H and I at 90 days and got a commitment at six months.
Today I am free from drugs. I live by myself in an apartment that I can afford. I can, ya know, My family talks to me when I go home for vacation. I’m welcomed and looked up to by all my friends back home who are still using or who want to be clean today. I get to do whatever I want, travel wherever I want, and not have to have something in my pocket to make sure that I can get through without being sick.”
Does Addiction Rehab Work?
Longer stays in treatment frequently result in better outcomes, however success can vary from person to person. Detox alone is rarely beneficial for long-term recovery. Does treatment work? Attending treatment increases a person’s chances of long-term recovery compared to not attending.
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[2,3,4,6] Fentanyl DrugFacts – National Institute On Drug Abuse
 Fentanyl – United States Drug Enforcement Administration
 Fentanyl Addiction – We Level Up
Volpe DA, Tobin GAM, Mellon RD, et al. Uniform assessment and ranking of opioid Mu receptor binding constants for selected opioid drugs. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2011;59(3):385-390. doi:10.1016/j.yrtph.2010.12.007
Higashikawa Y, Suzuki S. Studies on 1-(2-phenethyl)-4-(N-propionylanilino)piperidine (fentanyl) and its related compounds. VI. Structure-analgesic activity relationship for fentanyl, methyl-substituted fentanyls and other analogues. Forensic Toxicol. 2008;26(1):1-5. doi:10.1007/s11419-007-0039-1
Nelson L, Schwaner R. Transdermal fentanyl: Pharmacology and toxicology. J Med Toxicol. 2009;5(4):230-241. doi:10.1007/BF03178274