Fentanyl Addiction What it is and why it’s dangerous

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Due to its high potency, fentanyl users face a high risk of fentanyl addiction, as well as fentanyl overdose.

In recent years, deaths caused by fentanyl addiction have skyrocketed. In fact, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pegged the powerful opioid as the leading cause of death among Americans aged 18 to 45 years in 2021—killing more people than car accidents, gun violence, or suicide.

Fentanyl can elicit strong feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and pain relief and causes strong symptoms of withdrawal in users who quit taking the drug, making it hard for users to overcome fentanyl addiction.

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What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a potent and highly addictive synthetic opioid that’s available as a pharmaceutical drug and is also illegally manufactured for use as an illicit street drug.

What is fentanyl used for?

You’ve likely heard of fentanyl, but you may be wondering: What is fentanyl used for? Fentanyl is a powerful opioid painkiller that’s commonly used in the hospital setting to treat severe pain. In some cases, fentanyl is prescribed to treat chronic pain in patients who have developed a tolerance to other prescription painkillers. Legally, fentanyl has been approved by the FDA for use as an analgesic and anesthetic.

Fentanyl is also manufactured and used illegally as a street drug. When used recreationally, fentanyl creates a euphoric high that may include feelings of extreme happiness, pain relief, and relaxation.

How Does Fentanyl Work?

Fentanyl is part of a class of drugs called opioids. Opioids work by binding to receptors in the brain that control the body’s sensations of pain and emotions. Some opioids, like heroin, are developed using natural compounds found in opium poppy plants, while synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, are made in a lab by scientists. While they produce similar effects, fentanyl is extremely potent, increasing the risk of addiction and overdose.

How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your System?

The answer to the question “how long does fentanyl stay in your system” is that fentanyl and its metabolites can be detectable in urine for around 1-2 days after use. However, this detection window can vary depending on factors like the dosage, frequency of use, individual metabolism, and the specific drug test being employed.

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Is Fentanyl Addictive?

Yes, fentanyl is addictive. Over time, people who use opioids become less sensitive to the effects of the drug, which can lead to misuse and, eventually, opioid addiction. This effect is heightened among fentanyl users because of the drug’s high potency.

Potency: Fentanyl vs. Common Opioids

icon depiction of heroin addiction


50x more potent

Icon for syringe of morphine


Up to 100x more potent

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Fentanyl has become one of the most deadly drugs in the United States. Deaths caused by synthetic opioid overdose, primarily fentanyl, jumped from 57,834 in 2020 to 71,238 in 2021. In 2021, the number of fentanyl-related deaths in the United States outnumbered gun- and auto-related deaths combined.

Why is fentanyl dangerous? Here are three reasons fentanyl is a threat:

Abuse Potential

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), fentanyl is a Schedule II narcotic. These drugs, which include cocaine, methamphetamine, & oxycodone, have a high potential for abuse, which can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Stealth Spiking

Fentanyl is often added to other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, & MDMA, and is the synthetic opioid most commonly found in counterfeit pills. Users typically don’t know the drugs they’re taking have been spiked, putting them at risk of consuming fatal amounts of the drug.

Lethal Doses

Fentanyl is lethal in extremely small amounts—just 2 milligrams, which equals the small amount that fits on the tip of a pencil. Six out of 10 fentanyl-spiked counterfeit drugs examined by the DEA in 2022 contained a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.

Why Are Drugs Laced With Fentanyl?

Because of its high potency, it takes much less to produce a high with fentanyl compared to other drugs. It’s also relatively inexpensive to make. That means dealers can create drugs that are more powerful and more addictive—for less money.

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In a medical setting, fentanyl can be administered as a patch that’s applied to the skin, as a shot, as a nasal or sublingual spray, or as lozenges that dissolve in the mouth.

Fentanyl can be purchased illegally as a powder, in eye droppers or nasal sprays, dropped onto blotter paper, or as pills that are made to mimic prescription drugs. In some cases, fentanyl users will abuse prescription patches by removing the gel from the patch and injecting it, or by freezing, cutting and placing the patches under the tongue or inside the cheek.

Common street names for fentanyl include: Crazy One, Dance Fever, and Fire, among others.

What Does Fentanyl Look Like?

patch icon a highly addictive opioid

Prescription Patch

icon of a syringe and injectable opioid thats addictive

Prescription Injection

icon depiction of the nasal spray for addiction

Prescription Nasal Spray

icon depiction of a lozenge

Prescription Lozenge

pile of powder that is addictive

Illicit Powder

icon of eye drop addiction

Illicit Eye Dropper

icon depicting of addiction in blotter paper form

Illicit Blotter Paper

icon for pills

Illicit Counterfeit Pills

Have you seen your loved one with Fentanyl?

Finding treatment for fentanyl addiction can be overwhelming. There are several different types of treatment that can help with opioid addiction, including fentanyl addiction, but the type of treatment that you or your loved one may need will depend on their specific situation.

The Hope House is a comprehensive addiction rehab in Arizona that offers effective therapies and treatment options for opioid addiction, along with comprehensive support and resources to help you succeed in recovery.

The Hope House’s two luxury rehabs are located in the desert mountains of north Scottsdale. During your stay you will receive the highest quality of care as our masters-level clinicians work to treat your addiction.

  • Over 150 people die from overdoses caused by synthetic opioids like fentanyl every day in the U.S.
  • More than 68,000 people died of an overdose involving synthetic opioids, excluding methadone, in 2021
  • 59.8% of opioid-related deaths in 2017 involved fentanyl

Get help today. Call The Hope House addiction specialists.