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Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

After losing your husband, you checked out. With your son away at college, the days became blurry as your depression and grief took the hours away. You didn’t see the signs, you didn’t notice the changes happening in your son. The phone calls and letters from his college went unnoticed as you couldn’t find the strength to get out of bed. But slowly, you found support in a weekly group and surrounded yourself with people who cared.

signs of fentanyl addiction

When you started opening the letters from your son’s school, you found that he was put on academic probation, and was actually kicked out of school. He hadn’t called in weeks, and guilt and worry overwhelmed you. You know his phone is on, so you call him panicked. When he answers, you don’t recognize his voice. He explains to you how he started going to parties, making new “friends” and trying new things. He tried to reach out to you, he was scared of what was happening and how he couldn’t control his grief from losing his father. Now, he is using fentanyl daily, and is living in a local park because he was too embarrassed to come home. Tears stream down your face, but you are determined. It is not too late to help now, and you know the signs of fentanyl use disorder your son is showing can be mended.

In 2021, 250 deaths from fentanyl occurred in the Sarasota and Manatee County areas. Clean Recovery Centers aims to educate the Suncoast communities on the latest news and trends surrounding substance use. Our locations offer housing that is certified by the Florida Association of Recovery Residences (FARR) so having a place to stay is never a concern when it comes to receiving treatment. Our blog is a resource for families, friends, and anyone wanting to learn more about addiction. Today, we take a look at the signs of fentanyl addiction, and what to look for in a loved one.

Signs of Fentanyl Use Disorder on the Body and Mind

Over the years, fentanyl use has been on the rise. This is not always done intentionally, as fentanyl is used to cut other substances due to its potency and cost-effectiveness. Fentanyl is one of the strongest, synthetic opioids and can cause different side effects on the body and mind. Some signs of fentanyl use include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Itchiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Euphoria
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Over time, fentanyl can cause more severe side effects and lead to dependence. Fentanyl works in the body by attaching to opioid receptors. As these receptors learn to expect fentanyl, adverse effects can occur when it is not present.

Behavioral Signs of Fentanyl Misuse

recognizing fentanyl dependency symptomsFentanyl can cause changes in behaviors that are not considered normal for the person using it. The drowsiness associated with fentanyl use can cause nodding, where the person drifts in and out of consciousness. They may not remember doing, saying, or being in certain situations. This can lead to risky behaviors such as driving while impaired, having unprotected sex, and using multiple substances at the same time.

Psychological Changes

Using substances such as fentanyl can wreak havoc on the mind and psychological being. While the initial effects of fentanyl may seem relaxing, anxiety, depression, irritability, and mood swings can increase between uses. When friends and family do not support your fentanyl use, you may lash out and cut ties with them. Fentanyl becomes the main focus, and work or school performance also takes a back seat to use. Hobbies that you once loved can also no longer be a focus as fentanyl takes over your life.

Physical Changes

As fentanyl use progresses, physical changes can happen. For those who inject fentanyl, scars, abscesses, and infections can cause permanent damage to the skin and internal organs. There is an increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and hepatitis for those who inject fentanyl as well. Smoking and snorting fentanyl can cause breathing problems that can lead to chronic lung infections. Those that have experienced a fentanyl overdose not only could have damage to the brain and organs, but also may have impairments such as difficulty speaking or walking. Long-term fentanyl use also weakens the immune system, and infections, wounds, and illnesses can take longer to heal from.

Drug-Seeking Behaviors Related to Fentanyl Use

Drug-seeking behaviors can be a tough area for loved ones to address. Fentanyl changes the way the brain functions, and initiates cravings when it is not in the system. These cravings can cause behavioral changes as the body signals a need for fentanyl. One of the most common fentanyl-seeking behaviors is stealing. Purchasing fentanyl has a cost, and money or objects of value can be used. The person using it is not thinking about their loved ones or the harm they may cause by taking money or valuables. All that matters at the moment is getting their next dose of fentanyl.

Other common forms of drug-seeking behaviors related to fentanyl use include:

  • Seeing doctors to get prescriptions to trade for fentanyl
  • Manipulating situations so their use is not the problem
  • Having different names and phones used to get fentanyl
  • Leaving work or school to use fentanyl
  • Withdrawing from family and friends to keep using fentanyl

Withdrawal Symptoms or Other Side Effects

Fentanyl withdrawal is unpleasant, and typically not life-threatening. However, physical discomfort can exacerbate mental health distress, leading to thoughts of self-harm or suicide. These symptoms should be considered a medical emergency and handled as such. Other withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Constipation
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint and bone pain

Causes and Risk Factors for Fentanyl Use Disorder

Not everyone who takes fentanyl will develop a disorder. However, the more often fentanyl is used, the more likely dependence is going to develop. Dependence is the main cause of a fentanyl use disorder, as the brain physically needs the substance to function the longer and more frequently it is used. There are also risk factors for developing a fentanyl use disorder. One risk factor is if a family member or friend uses fentanyl around you. Another is growing up in a chaotic environment or living in poverty. While having risk factors does not guarantee a fentanyl use disorder will develop, it is important to take precautions if you choose to use it.

Get Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction in Sarasota County

Seeing the signs of fentanyl addiction in a loved one can be scary, and you may be uncertain about what to do to help. Always remember that treatment for fentanyl addiction is possible, and treatment can help achieve that goal. With therapy, life and coping skill classes, and wellness, your loved one will be able to address their addiction and rediscover their passions and purpose. It is never too late, and seeking help today is the first step to leaving fentanyl use disorder behind.

If you or someone you love is managing a fentanyl use disorder, or even showing the beginning signs, it is time to reach out for help. Clean Recovery Centers has a full spectrum treatment program, consisting of a unique, three-phase approach that can address mental health conditions as well as fentanyl use. Our dedicated team treats you with the respect and care you deserve while working with you to find what path is best for you. Call us today at (888) 330-2532  to learn more about our program offerings.


What is one of the first signs of withdrawal?

One of the first signs of withdrawal is flu-like symptoms. These can include runny nose and eyes, fatigue, muscle aches, and nausea.

Why is fentanyl used for anesthesia?

Pharmaceutical fentanyl can be used for anesthesia for different reasons. The effects of fentanyl as anesthesia are a shorter duration and can be used for short procedures compared to morphine. Also, it can be used for surgeries where pain will be severe. The side effects and risks of using fentanyl as anesthesia are high, which is why it is not used very often.

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