Fentanyl dependence

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is 50 to 200 times more potent than morphine. It is used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery. Fentanyl is also used to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids.

Why do people use it?

Similar to opioids and heroin, fentanyl makes user to feel calm and relaxed. It also helps them to feel less pain.

In recent years, most individuals with opioid dependence, have consumed fentanyl indirectly though drugs such as heroin, cocaine, amphetamines or even cannabis. In such cases, users are unaware that their drug is contaminated with fentnayl, which could increase the risk of overdose and death.

What are the health effects of fentanyl?

Mental effects

The main mental effects on users may include feeling:

  • dizziness
  • sleepiness
  • euphoria

Physical effects

The main physical effects of fentanyl use may include:

  • shortness of breath
  • constipation
  • feeling tired
  • poor appetite
  • low energy

Is fentanyl addictive?

Regular use of fentanyl would lead to physical dependence and addiction. If fentanyl use is suddenly stopped (withdrawn), the person can experience withdrawal symptoms such as body pain, runny nose, sneezing, agitation, diarrhea and cravings.

What are symptoms of fentanyl use?

Fentanyl use presents with symptoms similar to using any opioids. Some common symptoms of fentanyl use are:

  • sleepiness
  • looking tired
  • slow breathing
  • difficulty breathing
  • euphoria
  • dizziness

What are withdrawal symptoms from fentanyl?

Withdrawal symptoms from fentanil is similar to those of other opioids, such as:

  • body pain
  • runny nose
  • Yawning
  • diarrhea
  • sneezing
  • sweatiness
  • dilated pupils
  • agitation

Can fentanyl cause overdose and death?

Yes. Fentanyl is very potent respiratory and cardiovascular suppressant. Small dose of fentanyl could cause overdose and death even in individuals with high tolerance to opioids such as heroin. Fentanyl has been linked to the opioids-related overdoses crisis in Canada and the United States.

Is there any treatment for fentanyl dependence?

Treatment of fentanyl dependence is similar to dependence to other opioids and consists of a variety of approaches such as:

  • detoxification: the intention is to safely stop fentanyl and in the mean time initiate opioid replacement therapy such as methadone or suboxone.
  • opioid antagonist therapy with naltrexone
  • Counseling
  • relapse prevention
  • treatment of underlying pain or mental disorders
  • attendance to Narcotic Anonymous


  1. 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.
  2. Nelson L, Schwaner R. Transdermal fentanyl: Pharmacology and toxicology. J Med Toxicol. 2009;5(4):230-241. doi:10.1007/BF03178274.

Important note:

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