fentanyl side effects

Fentanyl is all over the news, and for understandable reasons. It is 100 times more potent than morphine, 50 times more potent than heroin, and contributed to over 44% of all drug overdose deaths in Texas in 2023. While some individuals using substances specifically seek out fentanyl, a lot of fentanyl use happens unintentionally. This is due to dealers mixing fentanyl into heroin, stimulants, and benzodiazepine supplies to heighten the effects and make their supply last longer for cheaper.

Mixing substances is even more dangerous than taking fentanyl by itself, making it even more important to know the side effects of fentanyl. Fentanyl also isn’t just an illicit substance; it’s a legal prescription medication. How do you know what to expect if you’ve been prescribed fentanyl? How do you know if your friend is using it? Being aware of fentanyl's side effects will help, and we’re very familiar with them at San Antonio Recovery Center, where we have the largest alumni in San Antonio. We’ll teach you all about them.

What Fentanyl is Prescribed for – More Than a Street Drug

Despite fentanyl often being used illicitly, that wasn’t what it was made for. It can be prescribed for extreme pain, such as after a serious surgery or advanced-stage cancer. Unfortunately, fentanyl is now frequently manufactured illegally.

The Many Side Effects of Fentanyl

The Many Side Effects of Fentanyl, and How It Affects the Body

Fentanyl is a powerful substance, and it can impact the body and brain in several ways.

What Are the Common and Rare Side Effects of Fentanyl?

Common side effects of fentanyl include euphoria, pain relief, relaxation, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, and respiratory depression. Some rare side effects of fentanyl are dry mouth, vertigo, weakness, and unusual dreams.

It’s important to remember that side effects vary depending on the individual. Side effects that aren’t listed here are also possible. If you’ve been prescribed fentanyl and notice any strange symptoms after taking it, it’s best to let your doctor know.

Short-term Effects

Fentanyl’s effects can kick in quickly. Pain relief, relaxation, and feelings of happiness are often felt most strongly, but pupil constriction, small pupils, and slowed breathing can happen just as fast. People can overdose quickly, too.

Long-term Effects

Long-term fentanyl use can cause the development of a fentanyl use disorder, so if you’ve been prescribed fentanyl, you likely won’t stay on it for a long time. Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can manifest even in people who take fentanyl as directed by their doctor, especially at higher doses. Other long-term effects of fentanyl may include:

  • Severe constipation, which can lead to bowel obstruction
  • Breathing problems
  • Heart complications
  • Immune system suppression
  • Reproductive issues
  • Anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts
  • Impulsiveness

How Fentanyl Affects the Brain: The "High" and the Lows

Fentanyl binds to the body’s natural opioid receptors in the brain, in areas responsible for pain and mood. It also activates the brain’s reward system, which releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure. This contributes to the feeling of euphoria that comes with fentanyl use. With long-term fentanyl use, the brain produces less natural opioids. It gets used to fentanyl being in the brain, and with such a strong opioid, natural opioids feel less necessary. Pain can become stronger when fentanyl isn’t in the body, and also interfere with mood and cause mental health concerns.

Additionally, fentanyl inhibits cells in your brain that are responsible for breathing, which slows down the respiratory process, sometimes to life-threatening levels. Fentanyl can interfere with breathing before people are even conscious of it, which is part of why fentanyl is so dangerous.

Fentanyl Hallucinations

While rare, fentanyl hallucinations sometimes occur. They occur most commonly in people with a history of mental health conditions or hallucinations in the past, though.

Large Danger of Potential Overdose in Small Amounts

The amount of fentanyl needed to kill most people is the equivalent of 10-15 grains of salt. Its extreme potency makes fentanyl the most lethal substance currently available. Over 70,000 overdoses due to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl were reported in the United States in 2021.

Using illicit fentanyl is incredibly risky, especially when it's mixed with other substances, and often, people don’t know when this is the case. Fentanyl is nearly impossible to differentiate from other substances without fentanyl testing strips.

While prescription fentanyl is safe when taken according to the directions of a doctor, it’s vital to adhere to the given guidelines.

If you notice any of the following symptoms of fentanyl overdose, get medical attention right away:

  • Choking or gurgling sounds
  • Very small pupils
  • Losing consciousness
  • Limp body
  • Cold, clammy, and/or discolored skin
  • Slow or weak breathing

Don’t hesitate to get help for someone overdosing. Most states, including Texas, have Good Samaritan Laws that ensure people trying to help in the event of an overdose won’t get in any trouble.

Naloxone, a medication that can be found over-the-counter in nasal spray form, can also reverse fentanyl overdose. That doesn’t mean the person overdosing doesn’t still need medical attention.

How to Cope With the Side Effects of Fentanyl: Don't Do It Alone

If you were prescribed fentanyl and are experiencing unpleasant side effects, the best thing to do is get in touch with your medical provider. They’ll be able to offer you advice based on your personal health history.

If you’re using fentanyl illicitly, you may be looking for ways to deal with side effects on your own. The truth is that the only real way to avoid side effects from fentanyl use is by seeking treatment.

treatment for fentanyl side effects

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction in San Antonio, TX

It can feel overwhelming to think about starting the journey away from fentanyl use, but you don’t have to do it alone. There are many others who understand what you are going through and are ready to help. A fentanyl recovery program can offer the help and support you deserve. Seek fentanyl use disorder rehab today.

San Antonio Recovery Center is here to support you every step of the way through your recovery from fentanyl use disorder. That means we’ll be here for you even after you leave us. We have an alumni app and extensive alumni programming to make sure you always stay connected and feel supported. To learn more, call us at 866-957-7885.

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