How Is Fentanyl Addiction Treated?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on March 22, 2023

Fentanyl is a painkiller that is often sold illegally and abused. It’s a highly addictive drug, but treatment options are available. These options include detox, inpatient care, and outpatient care.

Treating Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl is a narcotic drug prescribed for severe pain, including post-surgical pain and breakthrough cancer pain.

Fentanyl is more powerful than other opioids, which makes it dangerous to people who have not developed a tolerance for this kind of medication.

Furthermore, fentanyl has a high potential for drug abuse. Here you’ll find information on fentanyl addiction and how it is treated.

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Legitimate And Illegitimate Uses Of Fentanyl

Fentanyl is used in both legitimate and illegitimate ways. While this synthetic opioid is prescribed for pain relief, it is easily replicated and often used as a street drug.

In many cases, fentanyl can be found in other street drugs, often without the buyer’s knowledge.

When this happens, the person who uses these drugs faces a high risk of a fentanyl overdose, as they may unknowingly consume more fentanyl than their body can tolerate.

Pharmaceutical Applications

Doctors rarely prescribe fentanyl as one of the first options for pain relief. However, providers may prescribe fentanyl under specific circumstances.

Most often, it is prescribed for people experiencing advanced cancer pain who have developed a tolerance to daily opioid use.

Routes Of Administration

Legitimate fentanyl has three routes of administration.

These routes are:

When used as a street drug, fentanyl is usually found in powder form or pressed into pills.

The Physiological Causes Of Fentanyl Addiction

Drug addiction is a mental health disorder. However, addiction may sometimes begin with chemical dependence.

In the case of fentanyl use and opioid addiction, chemical dependence occurs due to the drug’s interaction with opioid receptors.

When an opioid drug reaches the body’s opioid receptors, this process interrupts pain signals and can also create euphoria.

Over time, the body adjusts to drug use and begins to compensate for it. When this happens, the body may not be able to achieve relaxation or relief without opioids.

Recognizing Fentanyl Addiction

Every person who deals with addiction is different. However, there are several common signs that may indicate a fentanyl addiction.

Addiction Symptoms

A substance use disorder is a condition that causes people to use drugs, even when they experience negative consequences for doing so.

Some common signs of fentanyl addiction include:

  • using excessive amounts of fentanyl
  • consistently thinking about fentanyl when not using it
  • high tolerance for fentanyl
  • secrecy and hiding fentanyl use
  • social, emotional, physical, and financial difficulties due to fentanyl

Withdrawal Symptoms

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can be powerful, often preventing people from quitting the drug even though they would like to do so.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • fentanyl cravings
  • anxiety and depression
  • cognitive difficulties
  • muscle aches and cramps
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • watery eyes
  • yawning
  • agitation
  • runny nose
  • nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • pupil dilation
  • goosebumps

Overdose Symptoms

Fentanyl overdose occurs when a person knowingly or accidentally consumes more fentanyl than they are physically able to tolerate.

Fentanyl overdose symptoms are similar to the symptoms of any other opioid overdose.

These symptoms include:

  • cold or clammy skin
  • skin with a bluish tint
  • difficult, slowed, or stopped breathing
  • extreme drowsiness
  • unresponsiveness
  • coma

Fentanyl abuse can easily result in permanent brain damage and raise the risk of overdose death.

If you know somebody with a fentanyl addiction, consider asking a pharmacist about naloxone nasal sprays, an emergency drug that can reverse the effects of fentanyl overdose.

Targeted Treatments For Fentanyl Addiction

People with fentanyl addiction have several treatment options available when they’re ready to begin the recovery process.

Treatment for fentanyl abuse should be tailored to each person’s individual needs.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Often, people with a prescription drug addiction also deal with a dual diagnosis.

Addiction commonly occurs alongside other mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

Many treatment programs offer dual diagnosis treatment, which helps people understand their addiction triggers and address all of their mental health needs.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) uses medications to aid the recovery process.

Types of medications may include:

  • mental health medications
  • prescription opioids for a gradual tapering process
  • opioid antagonists such as naltrexone for relapse prevention
  • medications for withdrawal symptom management
  • buprenorphine or methadone maintenance

Levels Of Care For Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

Many treatment centers use a multi-level approach to addiction care. Levels of care include detox, inpatient, and outpatient rehab programs, as well as aftercare services.


Detoxification (detox) occurs when a person stops using drugs and those drugs begin to leave the body.

Some fentanyl rehab centers provide fentanyl detox services to support people during this process. These programs often offer MAT.

During medical detox, for example, a person with an opioid addiction may be given an opioid such as methadone.

On-site medical providers can taper the methadone dosage over time, reducing the pain and discomfort that often results from quitting cold turkey.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient fentanyl addiction treatment includes room and board as part of the rehabilitation process.

People can stay at a treatment facility for a period of time, usually up to 90 days.

Substance abuse treatment generally includes individual and group therapy sessions as well as time for meals and recreation.

Some inpatient treatment facilities also offer therapy for family members.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient rehab programs, similar to residential treatment programs, provide therapy and MAT in a supportive setting.

The difference is that participants commute to their rehab program rather than staying on campus.

Sober Living Programs

Sober living programs are housing accommodations for people in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse.

These programs are generally communal in nature, and they allow people to minimize or eliminate their exposure to drugs and alcohol.

Aftercare Services And Relapse Prevention

Many rehab centers offer aftercare services for people who participate in their programs.

During aftercare, a person receives long-term treatment that is less intensive than the treatment they received in a rehab center.

For example, a person might return to the program once a week for cognitive behavioral therapy.

Aftercare programs often focus on relapse prevention. Some support groups, for instance, may build step-by-step plans for responding to relapse triggers.

FAQs For Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

Many people have questions about fentanyl addiction and how this condition is treated. Here, you’ll find answers to some of the most common questions.

Counseling and behavioral therapies are some of the most commonly used types of treatment for substance abuse.

These therapies are often used in inpatient and outpatient programs.

Addiction recovery looks different for everybody, and not every treatment plan is a linear process.

Often, providers must make adjustments based on individual needs, especially when a person has been taking fentanyl or another highly addictive drug.

However, many sources describe five distinct stages of addiction recovery.

These five stages are:

  • Precontemplation: the stage before a person is ready to seek treatment
  • Contemplation: when a person understands the benefits of becoming sober and begins thinking about quitting drugs in the future
  • Preparation: taking initial steps toward recovery such as researching counselors
  • Action: taking major steps toward addiction recovery such as attending a treatment center
  • Maintenance: using the strategies learned in treatment to prolong sobriety and prevent relapse

Addiction research shows that 85% of people in recovery experience relapse within one year of treatment.

Some of the most common reasons for relapse include:

  • stress
  • addiction triggers
  • the presence of drugs or alcohol
  • anxiety
  • lack of support

The side effects of fentanyl abuse may include both physical and psychological symptoms.

These symptoms may include euphoria, confusion, memory loss, nausea, sweating, constipation, muscle pain, chills, insomnia, and more.

Find Substance Use Treatment Today

Fentanyl addiction treatment options can seem overwhelming, as you and your loved ones have different needs. provides free and confidential support, connecting people to addiction treatment centers that address their needs. Call our helpline today for more information.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on March 22, 2023
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