Nirvana Recovery

Recognizing Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

Recognizing Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

Did you know that over 100,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses in May 2022-May 2023? That’s not all: 84% of teen overdoses during that period involved fentanyl. The US Centers for Disease Control also estimated that in just five years (2015-2021), fentanyl-related deaths rose by more than 200%. Despite these statistics, fentanyl use is still popular, both in the teen and adult populations.

One of the best ways of preventing fentanyl addiction is early intervention. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of fentanyl addiction and seeking professional help in the beginning stages can keep its negative long-term effects at bay, leading to lasting wellness and an enhanced quality of life. Let’s explore a few basics about fentanyl before delving into its associated addiction signs and symptoms.

Understanding Fentanyl

Although fentanyl is often abused, it has medical benefits. This prescription medication belongs to a class of drugs known as opioid agonists, which alter how the body responds to pain. It is considered 50 to 100 times more powerful than other pain medications, including morphine.

Owing to its powerful pain-relief properties, fentanyl is prescribed to help patients manage chronic or intense pain, common in severe injuries and terminal illnesses. Medically-prescribed fentanyl only comes in the following forms:

  • A transdermal patch placed under the skin
  • A buccal tablet dissolved between the cheeks and gums
  • A sublingual spray was applied under the tongue
  • A sublingual tablet dissolved under the tongue
  • An oral lozenge that must be sucked on to dissolve
  • An injectable only administered by a healthcare provider

The fentanyl variation bought from street dealers is manufactured in private labs, making it illegal and dangerous. It is sold as a powder, made into prescription-like pills, put in nasal sprays and eye droppers, or wrapped in blotter papers to resemble candies.

What is Fentanyl Addiction?

Fentanyl addiction is the compulsive urge to use, seek, or maintain using synthetic fentanyl despite understanding the risks and negative consequences. It is the last stage of fentanyl dependency, signified by intense cravings, impaired functioning, and withdrawal symptoms.

Why Are More People Getting Addicted to Fentanyl?

Fentanyl addiction is an ongoing crisis. However, why does the number of fentanyl users keep growing? Here is a possible explanation: most drug users begin with less potent drugs but build tolerance over time, prompting them to seek an easily accessible way to get high, such as using fentanyl. 

Lab-made fentanyl is also cheaper and easier to make than heroin and other similarly powerful pharmaceutical pills, which is a major contributing factor to its widespread use.

Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl addiction can manifest behaviorally, physically, and psychologically. Here is an in-depth exploration:

Recognizing Behavioral Changes

Has someone you love become withdrawn, secretive, or lost interest in activities they used to enjoy? These could be signs of fentanyl addiction, a serious issue affecting many families. Early intervention is crucial. The following key behavioral changes linked to fentanyl addiction empower you to recognize the signs and offer the support your loved one needs on the road to recovery.

A Shift in Mood and Personality

Fentanyl users may become extremely irritable and agitated, with some choosing to isolate themselves from family and friends. It’s not uncommon for users to become sad, withdrawn, and nonchalant.

Changes in Academic or Occupational Performance

Significant changes in academic or occupational performance may also signify fentanyl abuse or addiction. Regular fentanyl users may lack time to focus on their studies or jobs by spending several hours hiding their habits, chasing their next high, or battling severe withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, be wary of your loved one if you notice a steep decline in work performance, frequent absenteeism, or a lack of interest in work.

Besides mood, personality, and performance changes, fentanyl abuse is also associated with 

  • Reckless behaviors
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Secretiveness
  • Increased lying

Physical Signs of Fentanyl Use

Are you concerned about physical changes in a loved one? Noticeable weight loss, chronic fatigue, or changes in sleep patterns could be signs of fentanyl addiction. This powerful synthetic opioid can have a significant impact on the body.  By recognizing these physical changes, you can take the right steps to intervene.

Drowsiness and Nodding Off

Feeling tired and dozing off after a long, tiresome day is normal. However, frequently nodding off without engaging in significant physical activity or regard for one’s environment is a tell-tale sign of a much bigger issue.

Changes in Appearance

People addicted to fentanyl may get so engrossed in their drug habit that they forget to take care of themselves. Therefore, besides unexplained fatigue and frequent napping, look out for significant weight loss and neglect of personal hygiene.

Other common physical symptoms associated with fentanyl abuse include dilated pupils, frequent sweating, and poor coordination.

Psychological Indicators of Fentanyl Use

Early intervention for psychological symptoms of fentanyl addiction focuses on creating a safe, supportive environment and encouraging professional help. Here are the following psychological indicators are also common in fentanyl users:

Mood Swings

Fentanyl abuse symptoms can mimic symptoms of mood disorders such as depression and mania. Hence, a family member addicted to fentanyl may experience extreme highs and lows or increased anxiety and paranoia in some cases. The lows, anxiety, and paranoia are also common dangers during fentanyl withdrawal.

Signs of Dependency

Drug dependency can be defined as a chronic, progressive illness associated with frequent, excessive, and unregulated use of a psychoactive substance. It causes significant impairments, whether psychological, physical, or social. Common psychological signs of fentanyl dependency include obsession with acquiring fentanyl and an inability to function normally without its use.

Talking to a Loved One About Fentanyl Addiction: Best Intervention Strategy

Recognizing the signs of fentanyl addiction is crucial, but the real challenge lies in initiating a conversation for early intervention. This often involves addressing two key hurdles: breaking the ice, also known as “bringing up the elephant in the room,” and building trust with your loved one.

Initiating Difficult Conversations

Discussions about drugs and mental health issues can be difficult. Without the right approach, the other party may refuse to open up out of fear of judgment or ridicule. You must create a non-judgmental environment before the conversation and employ active listening techniques.

Creating a Non-Judgmental Environment

  • The best way to create a non-judgmental environment when talking about addiction is to Cultivate an attitude of genuineness, acceptance, and empathy. 
  • Validate your loved one’s feelings and experiences,
  • Try to envision what they are potentially experiencing. 
  • Do not criticize them; instead, show your willingness to help.

Active Listening Techniques

Using active listening techniques shows you are genuinely interested in what your loved one has to say. 

  • Avoid interrupting them as they express their thoughts and feelings,
  • Listen to their tone of voice and non-verbal cues, and ask questions where necessary. 
  • Feel free to use minimal verbal prompts such as “ah” and “I see” to show active involvement.

Building Trust

Building trust fosters smooth conversations with loved ones. It eliminates the fear of judgment and ridicule, making it easier for them to open up and find help. 

  • To build trust, focus on establishing or reinforcing open lines of communication.
  • This requires creating a judgment-free space, initiating conversations casually, using open-ended questions, and sharing accurate information instead of threats and fabricated stories. 
  • Additionally, do not impose opinions on your loved one, but allow them to express their feelings, thoughts, and concerns freely.
  • You can also consider seeking professional help to address trust barriers before engaging in such a conversation.

Importance of a Timely Intervention in Addiction

Here are the benefits associated with seeking help promptly upon noticing the signs of fentanyl addiction:

  • Timely and appropriate treatment promotes better outcomes and lasting recovery from addiction.
  • It addresses the root cause of the addiction, preventing it from worsening. This can help deter several addiction-related cognitive, social, and economic challenges.
  • It makes it easier to identify and address underlying mental health conditions.
  • It can enhance the patient’s quality of life.

Note that early intervention can take different forms depending on an individual’s needs and condition severity, i.e.

  • Screening and assessment
  • Education and awareness
  • Brief intervention
  • Treatment referral 
  • Follow-up and support

Treatment Available for Fentanyl Addiction In Arizona

Fentanyl addiction is treatable and manageable in Arizona. We offer inpatient and outpatient treatment at Nirvana Recovery to help patients manage and overcome substance abuse, addiction, and co-occurring mental health disorders. Let’s look into our fentanyl addiction programs and interventions.

Treatment Programs for Fentanyl Addiction

Our treatment programs are usually tailored to individual needs, goals, and the severity of the condition. Here’s what to know about our inpatient, outpatient, and dual-diagnosis treatment programs for fentanyl addiction:

Inpatient Treatment: This type of treatment targets severe cases of fentanyl addiction and offers a structured, supportive, and distraction-free environment for enhanced treatment outcomes. Patients stay with us during treatment, allowing our therapists to monitor and care for them 24/7.

Outpatient Treatment: Our outpatient treatment programs is less intensive than inpatient treatment and are mostly used to address less severe cases of fentanyl dependency or addiction.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment: Most individuals addicted to fentanyl have co-occurring mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression. Because we understand the interplay between mental health and substance use disorders, we offer dual diagnosis treatment in our facilities to address them simultaneously. This promotes improved treatment outcomes and a more comprehensive recovery approach.

Treatment Modalities and Interventions for Fentanyl Addiction

Our addiction and mental health specialists use the following treatment modalities and interventions to help patients overcome fentanyl addiction:

  • Individual Therapy Individual therapy allows patients to have closed discussions with therapists about their fentanyl use and any other issues they may be facing.
  • Group Therapy Group therapy offers much-needed support and guidance by bringing people with similar challenges together, allowing them to share experiences and learn from one another.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a trusted, evidence-based treatment for substance abuse, mental health, and behavioral issues. It help individuals addicted to fentanyl learn how to deal with difficult situations, manage their emotions, and develop healthier coping skills.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can replace negative thought patterns, improve self-esteem, enhance communication skills, prevent relapse, promote long-term well-being, and improve quality of life if tailored to the patient’s specific needs and goals.
  • Trauma-Informed Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Trauma can push individuals into substance abuse, subsequently leading to an addiction. At Nirvana Recovery, we offer trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients overcome any repressed traumatic memories that may be directly or indirectly contributing to their fentanyl use.
  • Family Therapy Family involvement in substance abuse treatment encourages support for improved treatment and recovery outcomes. We allow family members of individuals addicted to fentanyl to participate in treatment through family therapy.
  • Holistic Therapies We use therapeutic techniques focusing on the patient’s mind, body, and spirit for stress relief, enhanced emotional regulation, and improved treatment and recovery outcomes. Our holistic therapies for fentanyl addiction include art, music therapy, meditation, and yoga.


Fentanyl addiction can have severe health, academic, occupational, and social repercussions if not addressed promptly. Owing to this opioid’s increasing popularity in different populations, we have discussed some of the tell-tale signs of its use to employ early intervention. Contact us if you need help overcoming fentanyl addiction or notice any of these signs in a  loved one. At Nirvana Recovery, we offer tailored treatment programs and aftercare support for enhanced treatment and recovery outcomes.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Yes. Family-focused addiction support groups offer a sense of community and necessary resources for families dealing with substance abuse challenges. Examples of support groups for families with loved ones addicted to fentanyl include the Partnership to End Addiction and the NAMI Family Support Group.

If left untreated, fentanyl addiction can lead to the following effects: 

  • Immune system suppression 
  • Sleep-related breathing problems 
  • Chronic, severe constipation 
  • Heart attack or cardiovascular failure 
  • Hormonal and reproductive issues
  • Mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression

Fentanyl is a huge player in the United State’s opioid crisis; therefore, illegal possession often attracts serious consequences, including state jail felony charges. If prosecuted, fentanyl possession can lead to long jail terms and hefty fines.

You can use the following strategies to improve your community’s awareness of fentanyl and its related effects:

  • Hosting or promoting community workshops on fentanyl risks and prevention 
  • Leveraging social media to share educational content on fentanyl risks and consequences
  • Partnering with schools to incorporate fentanyl education into the curricula 
  • Creating and distributing relevant informational pamphlets on fentanyl and its associated risks
  • Asking community leaders to discuss the effects of fentanyl in public forums and events 
  • Encouraging local media stations and news channels to sensitize the community on fentanyl
  • Supporting community-based drug abuse prevention initiatives

The following prevention strategies can help curb the rising cases of fentanyl use:

  • Properly disposing of unused prescription opioids
  • Organizing and implementing community-wide campaigns and initiatives on the risks and consequences of fentanyl use
  • Making substance abuse and mental health treatment more accessible
  • Providing naloxone kits and offering training on administration for effective overdose management
  • Curbing illegal fentanyl distribution by strengthening collaboration between law enforcement, healthcare providers, and communities

Fentanyl addiction is so popular because of its rapid onset.  It causes intense euphoria within a short duration, then heightens cravings, compelling users to seek it compulsively. It carries an elevated risk of physical dependence, increased tolerance, and severe withdrawals.

Yes. Mental health issues can lead to fentanyl use and vice versa. Individuals may turn to fentanyl to cope with symptoms of mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression. Conversely, frequent and compulsive fentanyl use can lead to or exacerbate symptoms of anxiety, self-harm, depression,  suicidal thoughts, and other mental health disorders.

Traditional medications such as behavioral therapies and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) form an integral part of fentanyl addiction treatment. However, alternative treatments such as mindfulness-based interventions, nutritional support, and art and music therapy can be incorporated into treatment plans to promote holistic well-being.

Fentanyl is considered more dangerous than other opioids, including heroin and morphine, because of its extremely high potency and elevated overdose risks. Unlike other prescription medications, a small amount of fentanyl can induce respiratory depression and possibly death. Lab-manufactured fentanyl also contains several impurities that compound its risks.

Factors that increase the risks of teen fentanyl addiction include childhood trauma, negative peer pressure, mental health issues, a family history of substance abuse, early exposure to drug use, and lack of parental care and supervision. Adolescents with a tendency to engage in risk-taking behaviors are also likely to use fentanyl.

Yes. Individuals addicted to fentanyl may be forced to engage in criminal activities such as theft, robbery, and burglary to fund their drug habit. Like most drugs, fentanyl also impairs judgment, increasing the risks of engaging in criminal behaviors.

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Nirvana Recovery