Fentanyl addiction

The word fentanyl has become synonymous with death and addiction since it first became popular among recreational drug users. An extremely potent synthetic opioid that is around fifty to one hundred times stronger than morphine, fentanyl’s potential for addiction and overdose is ever present. If you or a loved one is struggling with a fentanyl addiction, know that help is available and that Linwood House can help you on your road to recovery.

Fentanyl addiction - bottle of fentanyl

Fentanyl – what is it?

Fentanyl is an opioid that is medically used to treat chronic pain often brought on by physical injuries or major surgeries. Fentanyl works by binding to opioid receptors in the central nervous system and brain which helps to relieve pain while causing an increase in dopamine, causing feelings of intense pleasure and well-being.

While fentanyl addiction (and opioid addiction in general) has not yet reached the levels of North America, fentanyl is still categorised by the Misuse of Drugs as the most serious Class A controlled substance. Recreationally, the drug is abused because of the strong euphoric high that it induces but due to its potency, fentanyl must be carefully used in order to avoid overdose.

Fentanyl abuse and addiction

Fentanyl’s reputation of being highly addictive is largely due to two key reasons; its potency and high physical dependence liability. Fentanyl produces an extremely strong but short-lived high. This means that those recreationally seeking out this sedative and euphoric high may opt for fentanyl over other opioids, despite its known dangers, because of its intensity.

Addiction can develop very rapidly, even for those who have just taken the drug on a few occasions. It usually begins with a physical dependence which is where a person’s system becomes used to the presence of fentanyl and, over time, needs the drug to function ‘normally’. If a dependence has developed, when you attempt to stop taking the drug, a series of potentially dangerous and unpleasant symptoms will be experienced, also known as withdrawal syndrome.

There are a number of ways that someone who consumes the drug can go on to develop a fentanyl addiction. These include:

  • Being prescribed fentanyl but becoming addicted to it during the course of your treatment
  • Abusing other opioids until you have developed a tolerance to them and then turning to fentanyl because of its high potency or availability
  • Becoming addicted to fentanyl because another recreational drug was laced with it (this has become particularly common with heroin dealers cutting heroin with fentanyl as it is cheaper and more potent

Fentanyl addiction - bottle of fentanyl 2

Are you or a loved one addicted to fentanyl?

It can be difficult to identify whether a loved one is living with fentanyl addiction as the shame and stigma associated with addiction often drive people to keep their condition a secret. However, there are a number of signs and symptoms that could indicate someone is suffering from fentanyl addiction, including:

  • Being frequently intoxicated
  • Financial difficulties
  • Neglecting professional or personal responsibilities
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Constantly looking for or consuming fentanyl
  • Loss of interest in typical activities
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Development of different physical health issues
  • Altered behaviour

Some psychological or physical signs that may indicate a fentanyl addiction include:

  • Laboured breathing
  • Weakness
  • Shaking
  • Confusion
  • Stiff muscles
  • Hallucinations
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Scratching
  • Slurred speech

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these fentanyl addiction signs and symptoms, we advise you to seek professional medical advice:

The health risks of fentanyl abuse and addiction

If left untreated, fentanyl addiction can have catastrophic effects, from a potentially fatal overdose to a series of mental and physical health issues including addiction and overdose.

Other permanent physical health risks include neurological damage, liver damage and damage to the respiratory, digestive and cardiovascular systems.

Fentanyl overdose

Fentanyl addiction - respiratory depression

Fentanyl overdose is particularly dangerous because it can cause life-threatening symptoms. A fentanyl overdose is typically recognised by the ‘opioid overdose triad’ of three telltale signs:

  • Decreased consciousness
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Respiratory depression

Other symptoms include seizures or muscle spasms. If you recognise any of these symptoms in yourself or someone you know, it is important to call emergency services as soon as possible.

Help and support for fentanyl addiction

No matter how long you have been abusing fentanyl, help is always available. Every cloud has a silver lining, and the proliferation of opioid abuse has led to the development of multiple top-quality treatment centres in the UK offering fentanyl rehab. At Linwood House, our fentanyl addiction programmes incorporate medically assisted detox to help break your physical addiction and manage withdrawal symptoms and a range of therapies designed to get to the bottoms of your fentanyl addiction causes and address them one by one.

Taking the next steps

If you are worried about fentanyl addiction, know that you are not alone. Recognising that your fentanyl use is problematic is the first step in everyone’s recovery journey but making the decision to quit is only the beginning. Contact Linwood House today to find out how we can help you overcome fentanyl addiction and start your new life.

Frequently asked questions

Can I risk overdosing on fentanyl?
Due to its extreme potency, it only takes a small dosage of the drug to cause an overdose. Additionally, the drug is easy and cheap to manufacture, which means that dealers often cut the drug with other substances. This is extremely dangerous as most people will be unaware that their drugs even contain fentanyl.
Is fentanyl addiction a serious problem in the UK?
The UK has certainly not experienced the shocking wave of fentanyl abuse and related deaths that have been seen in the United States. However, the recreational use of the drug is slowly growing, as well as the number of overdose deaths. In 2020 4,561 people died from drugs, which is around 79.5 deaths per million people, the highest number of drug-related deaths since 1993. Around half of the drug poisoning deaths recorded in 2020 involved an opiate medication, such as fentanyl.
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Calls and contact requests are answered by admissions at

UK Addiction Treatment Group.

We look forward to helping you take your first step.

03301 736 751