Why is Fentanyl So Dangerous?

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl belongs to a class of drugs called opioids. Like other opioids, it has a legitimate medical use: easing pain. Opioids work by changing how the body responds to and deals with, pain. Fentanyl’s original purpose was to abate pain in cancer patients (1). Doctors will prescribe fentanyl to patients recovering from surgery, or to those experiencing chronic pain. Prescription fentanyl may appear under brand names such as Duragesic, Subsys, Ionsys, Actiq, and Sublimaze. These prescriptions may take the form of a dermal patch on the skin, an injection, or even lozenges.

Without A Prescription

On the street, fentanyl might be known as Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, Tango and Cash, or TNT (3). Since fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine (2), a little goes a long way. For this reason, dealers will mix fentanyl with other drugs. It’s not unusual to see it combined with ecstasy (MDMA), cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin. Buyers have no way to determine how much fentanyl is in their supply. Therefore, overdoses can be very common.

Where Is The Danger?

As with other opioids, fentanyl alters how our brains respond to pain. A person under the influence of fentanyl might feel relaxed and mellow. They could experience some drowsiness and be sluggish. Fainting, nausea, and seizures are frequent side effects. Users often experience shortness of breath and can stop breathing altogether. Subsequently, the blood is deprived of an adequate supply of oxygen, a condition known as “hypoxia” (3). If a person remains in this state for too long, they could become comatose. During the COVID-19 pandemic, opioids like fentanyl have caused a tremendous spike in overdose deaths (4).

Is Treatment Available?

Absolutely. No two recovery journeys are exactly the same. Different treatments provide different results for different people. But recovery is always possible.

One option, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), is a two-pronged approach to recovery. MAT combines the use of medication with counseling. In conjunction with medication, therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can provide a person with a holistic path to recovery (5). Another alternative might be partial hospitalization (PHP), a semi-structured method of recovery that allows for plenty of outside activities. However, a recovering person might require less regimented options. Intensive Outpatient (IOP) programs could involve extended group meetings, taking place either in the morning or evening. Recovering persons might opt for family therapy, or nonverbal therapies like art, music, or yoga. For a person interested in learning more about aftercare, resources on future relapse prevention are readily available.

Recovery Is A Lifestyle

Outpatient (OP) treatment might involve a once-a-week commitment to group meetings, individual meetings with a therapist, or life-skills training. Continuing support is available from aftercare options like Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous. Other alternatives include Rational Recovery and faith-based programs like Celebrate Recovery. Recovery doesn’t end with the completion of a program. Or even several programs. Recovery never ends; it’s a lifestyle.

What’s Next?

If you or someone you love is struggling with fentanyl addiction, contact Recovery By The Sea now. Hope is real, and recovery is possible. Call us at 877-207-5033 now.

Sources
(1) https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/fentanyl
(2) https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl#ref
(3) https://www.addictioncenter.com/drugs/drug-street-names/
(4) https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p1218-overdose-deaths-covid-19.html
(5) https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment

How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your System?

2-4 Hours (half-life) when taken by injection, meaning it takes just a few hours for half of the drug to leave a person’s system. From 11-22 hours, fentanyl is no longer active in the human body.

However, due to its potency, as a prescription drug, fentanyl is usually only found in the form of a transdermal or lozenge. In this case, fentanyl’s half-life is around seven hours and may take up to three days to leave a person’s body.

It is important to note, however, that as fentanyl is processed or broken down in the body, it leaves behind byproducts called metabolites. These remain in the system for much longer and can be detected on some drug tests several days after the last use. Some other factors are:


  • Age
  • Weight and height
  • Body fat and mass


  • Genetics
  • Food consumption
  • LIver functionality


  • Metabolic rate
  • Dosage amount
  • Duration of use


Some Facts About Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller, and when used In a hospital setting, it is often for the treatment of severe pain and general anesthesia.

As a prescription drug, it is indicated for moderate to severe pain, cancer, or palliative care. As noted above, it is only administered slowly through the skin by a transdermal patch or ingested orally as a lozenge/lollipop.

Most fentanyl found on the street, however, is not diverted from patients or hospitals. Rather, it is manufactured in China or Mexico and illicitly-obtained from dealers or the Internet. Frequently, fentanyl is found laced with heroin, cocaine, and other drugs, most often unbeknownst to the user.

Fentanyl works by increasing dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the brain. It invokes feelings of euphoria and relaxation and can result in complete sedation. Due to this fact, fentanyl, like heroin, has a high potential for addiction, and its potency puts users at a profound risk of overdose and death.

Common street names for fentanyl include china white, dance fever, apache, TNT, goodfella, murder 8, and tango.

Due to its potency and limited use medically, fentanyl dependency is relatively rare, although cases of addiction to prescription fentanyl do occur. However, because it’s so often found in heroin and other drugs, it is frequently abused by users whether they realize it or not.

One startling example was the sudden death of the artist Prince. He reportedly received tablets that were labeled as Vicodin – a prescription painkiller that contains hydrocodone and when used as prescribed is unlikely to result in an overdose.

The contents of the tablet, however, were later shown to be fentanyl, and indeed, the toxicology report from his autopsy later revealed that fentanyl was in his system at the time of his death.

Regardless, symptoms of fentanyl abuse are similar to that of heroin and other powerful opioids. They include, but are not limited to the following:


  • Confusion
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Difficulty walking
  • Muscle stiffness and weakness


  • Slowed heart rate
  • Slow, labored breathing
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Shakiness


  • Sleepiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Itchiness

Fentanyl Overdose

Currently, fentanyl is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in the United States each year, and by some estimates, may be involved in half of all overdose deaths nationwide.

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) estimated that drug submissions that tested positive for fentanyl more than doubled from 2015-2016, increasing from 14,440 to 34,119. This trend continued into 2017, with more than 25,000 reports in the first six months of 2017 alone.

Symptoms of a fentanyl overdose include:


  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Impairments in thinking, speaking or walking
  • Paleness
  • Blue or purple-colored lips, fingernails, or extremities


  • Choking sounds
  • Vomiting
  • Small pupils
  • Seizures
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed heart rate


  • Fainting
  • Limpness
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Labored breathing
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Death

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

heroin treatment support groups | Recovery By The Sea

Treatment for heroin and fentanyl addiction begins with a medical detox that includes opioid replacement therapy and around-the-clock clinical supervision. Detox is closely followed by long-term intensive therapy and counseling at our center.

We offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment, which includes the following services:

  • Psychotherapies such as behavioral therapy
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Individual and family counseling
  • Medical support and psychiatric services
  • Holistic practices such as yoga, music, and art therapy
  • 12-step meetings

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Our staff includes addiction specialists and other healthcare providers trained to enact individualized programs that treat the symptoms of addiction and withdrawal.

If you or your loved one is suffering from substance abuse such as meth, please seek help as soon as possible.

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