Fentanyl addiction

Fentanyl has gained recognition as one of the most notorious and dreaded drugs worldwide. This synthetic opioid is up to one hundred times more potent than morphine and its popularity among drug users has surged due to its wide availability and affordability. As one of the most potent synthetic drugs, fentanyl is highly addictive and can quickly lead to dependency and overdose. From students to celebrities, no one is immune to the grip of fentanyl addiction; with its widespread availability to obtain through prescriptions and illegal means, fentanyl addiction has become a national crisis in many countries.

Fentanyl addiction - bottle of fentanyl

What is fentanyl?

Initially developed in the 1960s as an anaesthetic medication, fentanyl’s pain-relieving properties led to its prescription in the 1990s for managing chronic pain conditions. Unfortunately, medical professionals underestimated its potential for addiction and abuse.

Tragically, fentanyl has become one of the most widely misused substances worldwide in recent years. In North America, in particular, the impact of fentanyl addiction and abuse on communities has been enormous with 70,601 fentanyl overdose deaths reported in 2021.

Due to its high potential for abuse and addiction, fentanyl is only available in the UK on prescription as lozenges, patches, or oral soluble films.

Why has fentanyl become such a popular recreational drug?

Fentanyl has become a popular recreational drug due to a variety of reasons such as:

  • Strong potency – Even a tiny amount of fentanyl, as little as 1mg, can produce effects that are comparable to much larger quantities of other painkillers.
  • Availability – It is widely available on the streets in large quantities which are then “cut” into smaller quantities to sell to users.
  • Cost-effectiveness – Compared to other drugs Fentanyl is much cheaper on the street.
  • Ease of combination with other drugs – It is often compounded with other drugs such as MDMA, heroin and cocaine. This can intensify the desired effect.

How do you become addicted to fentanyl?

The more you consume fentanyl, the greater the likelihood of developing tolerance to it, meaning you feel compelled to take larger doses for the equivalent effect. With prolonged use, your body may become so accustomed to the drug that discontinuation can cause withdrawal symptoms. Dependence frequently leads to complete physical and psychological reliance, requiring professional assistance and support to conquer.

Fentanyl addiction can develop through legal means, such as following a doctor’s prescription, or through illegal drug use. Due to the potency of fentanyl and the high risk of addiction, prescription fentanyl use carries a significant risk of addiction. It is crucial to take fentanyl only as directed by a qualified medical professional and to schedule regular check-ups to monitor any changes or issues that may arise while taking the drug. Occasionally, addiction to other prescription drugs can lead some individuals to turn to illegal fentanyl when they are no longer able to obtain their prescribed medication, leading to fentanyl abuse.

In other cases, people become addicted to fentanyl through illicit means. Some may intentionally use fentanyl. Others may mistakenly believe they are using an alternative drug, as substances are “cut” or mixed with fentanyl due to its low cost and higher profit margin for drug dealers.

Regardless of how one initiates the use of fentanyl, the possibility of addiction should not be underestimated.

Who has the highest risk of developing fentanyl addiction?

While anyone who takes fentanyl is at risk of developing an addiction, there are certain groups that have a higher likelihood of becoming addicted. These groups include:

  • People who are prescribed fentanyl for pain management: Prescription fentanyl users have a higher risk of addiction because of the drug’s potency and the potential for dependence.
  • Individuals with a history of substance abuse: People who have struggled with opiate addiction or addictions to other substances in the past are at a higher risk of developing a fentanyl addiction.
  • Individuals who use other drugs: People who use other drugs are at a higher risk of developing fentanyl addiction.
  • Individuals who live in areas where fentanyl use is prevalent: People who live in areas where drug and fentanyl use is more common.
  • People who use fentanyl recreationally: Individuals who use fentanyl for recreational purposes, whether knowingly or unknowingly, are at a higher risk of addiction.

How can I tell if I am addicted to fentanyl?

Here are some key signs and symptoms to look out for if you suspect you or a loved one may be addicted to Fentanyl:

    • Are you taking more fentanyl than prescribed or using it in a way other than prescribed?


    • Do you experience intense cravings for fentanyl and spend a significant amount of time thinking about it?


    • Have you tried unsuccessfully to cut back or quit using fentanyl? Do you continue to use fentanyl despite negative consequences, such as relationship problems, financial difficulties, or health issues?


    • Are you experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop using fentanyl?


    Have you given up activities you once enjoyed in favour of using fentanyl?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, it is possible that you may be addicted to fentanyl and should seek professional help.

What are the health effects of fentanyl abuse and addiction?

Physical health effects of fentanyl addiction

  • Vomiting, nausea and constipation
  • Serious respiratory issues
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • An increased risk of HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases due to sharing needles with others
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma
  • Death

Mental health effects of fentanyl addiction

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis

Fentanyl addiction - man feeling depressed

Additional issues of fentanyl addiction

Apart from the health implications associated with fentanyl addiction, it’s crucial to understand that there are other hazards to consider. These may include:

  • Legal issues related to the possession and/or distribution of fentanyl
  • Financial strain as a result of paying for fentanyl
  • Relationship issues due to dishonesty, secretive behaviour or mood/emotional swings
  • Problems at school or at work
  • Social isolation
  • Negative alterations in lifestyle due to drug use
  • Homelessness

Is there a cure for Fentanyl addiction?

Fentanyl addiction is a complex condition which requires a comprehensive approach to recovery. The first stage is fentanyl detox where you will be gradually weaned off the drug under the care of medical professionals. In addition to this, you will also undergo fentanyl rehab where you will receive a combination of therapies and other support services to identify and address the underlying causes of your crack cocaine addiction. Banbury Lodge offers both of these stages in our world-class inpatient recovery clinic so get in touch with us to find out more.

Fentanyl addiction in the UK

Although fentanyl has become the leading cause of death for individuals aged 18 to 45 in the US, it has not yet caused the same level of devastation in the UK. Nevertheless, it is crucial to recognise that fentanyl is an exceedingly hazardous drug and the number of fentanyl-related deaths in the UK continues to rise. It is imperative for the UK to remain cautious and sustain efforts to educate people about the hazards of fentanyl.

Getting help for fentanyl addiction

If you or a loved one is battling fentanyl addiction in the UK, it is crucial to seek assistance as soon as possible. Banbury Lodge offers a complete treatment program that can aid in reclaiming your life and starting anew. Contact us today and our admissions team will guide you through the process and address any questions or concerns you may have.

Frequently asked questions

Does fentanyl use always end up in addiction?
Although not everyone who uses fentanyl may develop an addiction, there is a possibility for anyone who tries to become addicted. Furthermore, addiction can develop swiftly, making it imperative to avoid fentanyl altogether as the safest course of action.
Are fentanyl and heroin the same?
Fentanyl and heroin are not the same substances. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is substantially more potent than heroin. Nevertheless, drugs often marketed as heroin contain a combination of fentanyl and heroin or even pure fentanyl. This makes it exceedingly challenging to determine the actual composition of drugs bought from illicit sources.
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