What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful lab-created opioid that doctors use to treat severe pain. In clinical settings doctors prescribe it in cases of advanced cancers, post-surgical pain management, and chronic pain management. In the case of chronic pain management, some individuals develop a tolerance to other opioids. Because it is 50-100 times more powerful than morphine, it is sometimes the only option for breakthrough pain or long term treatment.
In clinical settings doctors prescribe fentanyl in a number of different forms. These include:
- A shot or injectable solution
- A Transdermal Patch
- Nasal sprays
Fentanyl addiction and drug abuse are on the rise in the United States, with many cases coming from illegally manufactured forms of the opioid. Sometimes those involved in the illegal drug trade mix it with heroin or cocaine. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) it may go by the names of:
- China Girl
- China White
- China Town
- Dance Fever
- And many others
Although the goal is to boost the effects of the other drugs, users may or may not know their heroin/cocaine contains a mixture of illicit fentanyl. This can lead to accidental overdoses.
In the United States alone more than 56,000 people died of synthetic opioid overdoses in 2020. These were largely fentanyl overdoses. Deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl increased 56% from 2019 to 2020. Because fentanyl abuse is on the rise, it is important to identify symptoms in yourself or others.
In both legal and illegal forms, using fentanyl can lead to opioid addiction. Due to the chemical nature of the drug and how it binds to opioid receptors, users may develop a tolerance which can lead to dependence and addiction.
How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your Body?
Depending on how you consume fentanyl, it can stay in your system for varying amounts of time. This is know as the drug's half life or elimination half life: how long it takes for half of the drug to leave your system.
The elimination half life of various ingestion methods are:
- Injection: 2-4 hours
- patch or lozenge: 7-17 hours
After about 36 hours, the primary form of fentanyl leaves your body. Secondary forms of fentanyl, known as metabolites, may stay in your system much longer.
Fentanyl metabolites are created when the original chemical is broken down by your body. After ingesting the drug, it travels through your bloodstream until your liver breaks it down. This process creates metabolites called:
Drug tests often detect the presence of the metabolites that remain after your liver breaks down the fentanyl. These metabolites may be detectable for days or weeks depending on a person's system and frequency of use of opioids.
Metabolites are detectable in your hair the longest, up to about 90 days after use. In urine, it is normally detectable for about 2-4 days in a drug test but may be detectable in those with long-term opioid addiction for 14+ days.
Blood Test: How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your Blood?
Fentanyl stays in your blood for up to 48 hours. Labs typically prefer urine testing to blood tests to detect opioid presence, but will utilize blood testing in specific situations.
Blood tests cans determine specific information about the drug, such as its concentration and other interactions with the body.
Urine Test: How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your Urine?
Drug testing can detect fentanyl in your urine for up to 3 days, typically. Everyone’s body is different, so this may vary by a day depending on your height, weight, and other health factors. Frequency of use, dosage, and potency can also affect how long fentanyl stays in your urine.
Employers commonly employ urine testing as a condition of employment. Fentanyl and its metabolites may show up on a urine test within 2 to 3 hours after ingestion. Researchers are developing a device that could detect fentanyl as soon as 5 minutes after use.
Certain testing methods are able to detect fentanyl metabolites in urine 4 or 5 days after use. Fentanyl and its metabolites may stay in the urine of high-frequency users or those with opioid use disorder for 7-14 days or longer.
Saliva Test: How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your Saliva?
It isn’t clear how long fentanyl is detectable in your saliva. Drug testing usually uses urine to test for recent exposure, and hair to test for chronic or long-term use.
Saliva tests are performed by taking an oral swab or spit sample and sending them to a lab for analysis.
Hair Test: How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your Hair?
Your hair provides an excellent window into the history of your health. Fentanyl, along with other analgesics and psychoactives, tend to leave traces of their presence in your hair much longer than in your blood, urine, and saliva. A drug test can detect fentanyl in your hair up to 90 days after using it.
The chemicals from fentanyl do not immediately migrate into your hair. It may take days for this to happen. To detect it in your system days after using, it is best to use an alternate drug test such as urine tests.
Is Fentanyl Addictive?
The short answer is yes. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid designed to treat intense acute pain or manage chronic pain when someone develops a tolerance to other pain management drugs. It is considered especially addictive because it's extremely potent.
Opioids work by binding to special receptors in the brain, changing how the body reacts to pain. Over time, the body can develop a dependence to these chemicals. When someone then deprives their body of the chemicals, in this case fentanyl, they can experience negative withdrawal symptoms. This process may lead to addiction.
Because it is highly potent it can lead to addiction in clinical users as well those who use illicit fentanyl.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction?
The signs and symptoms are similar to those of other opioids. Because it is so much more potent than other substances (50-100 times more powerful than morphine) it is important to identify drug use symptoms early to prevent accidental overdose.
Identifying these symptoms early can be the difference between life and death for yourself or a loved one.
- Continuing to abuse fentanyl despite the onset of other symptoms or declining health
- Using the drug to cope with the withdrawal symptoms
- Social withdrawal
- Spending increasing amounts of time obtaining, using, and recovering from fentanyl
- Slurred speech
- Declined performance in work or at school
- Frequent absences from work or school
- No longer taking care of daily responsibilities
- Depression or aversion to socialization
- Euphoria followed by apathy
- Constricted pupils
- Flushed skin and/or sweating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slowness of movement
- Agitated movements
- Attention difficulties
- Concentration difficulties
- Confusion and disorientation
- Cravings for fentanyl
Because of fentanyl's potency, it can create a strong chemical dependency in the body which leads to withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped. Addiction can result from this cycle of dependence and withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms may include:
- muscle and bone pain
- sleep problems
- diarrhea and vomiting
- cold flashes with goose bumps
- uncontrollable leg movements
- severe cravings
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment & Medications
If you suspect that you or a loved one is addicted to fentanyl, it is essential that you seek addiction treatment. Early identification can mean the difference between life and death due to the powerful nature of fentanyl.
Addiction treatment is not a one-size-fits-all approach. You may feel like nothing can help you and that you are alone in your battle. That simply isn't true.
There are a wide range of tools we can use to help you combat your opioid addiction. These include:
- Behavioral therapies
- Group support
- Family therapy
- Medicinal therapies
- Wellness activities
- Lifestyle counseling and support
Sometimes that best way to combat substance use disorder is using medication combined with other clinical and behavioral therapies. Medications approved by the FDA include:
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) can be an extremely effective addiction treatment.
MAT works by targeting the same receptors in your brain that respond to fentanyl, except your body doesn't go through the same negative withdrawal effects of other opioids (including fentanyl).
What Can You Do?
The first step to healing is to take action. You may feel helpless, or you may not know what to do about a family member who is going through addiction. You are not alone.
Let us help you find the right solution to your very personal situation. At Cornerstone we don't focus on what brought you in, but getting you back out in the world a renewed person. We structure our treatment plans specifically for you, engaging a combination of medical detox services with therapeutic elements. Every step of the way you will have the support of our excellent specialists, therapists, and support groups. Fentanyl addiction is serious, but we are too when it comes to helping you.
Contact us today to reclaim the life you deserve.