Fentanyl: What Parents Should Know | Ambrosia Drug & Alcohol Addiction Treatment Center
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Fentanyl, the most widely used synthetic opioid in the medical field, has been spreading to the streets mixed with other illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine. Fentanyl is roughly 40-50 times more potent than heroin and is highly addictive. All it takes is a dose of fentanyl the size of three grains of sand to kill. Consequently, the number of fentanyl-related deaths across North America is rising sharply, especially in OH, MI and PA.

Sublimaze, Actiq, Durogesic, Fentora, Haldid & Abstral
Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, TNT, Tango & Cash
Powder, Blotter Paper, Mixed With Heroin/Cocaine & Tablets
Injected With Needles, Sucked like Candy & Placed On Skin With A Patch

Health Effects

Short-Term Effects

Signs and symptoms of using fentanyl, either medically or illicitly, including:

  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Dry mouth
  • Retention of urine
  • Suppression of breathing
  • Severe constipation
  • Itching or hives
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Headache
  • Difficulty seeing
  • Hallucinations
  • Shaking
  • Overdose

Long-Term Complications

Addiction happens over time. Full physical dependence to a drug requires repeated use, which results in deteriorating health, including:

  • Collapsed veins
  • Abscesses (swollen tissue with pus)
  • Infection of the lining & valves of the heart
  • Respiratory depression
  • Constipation & stomach cramps
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Death

Tolerance & Control

Like heroin, morphine and other opioid drugs, fentanyl works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain that control pain and emotions. Dopamine levels are increased in the reward areas of the brain, creating feelings of euphoria and relaxation.

However, fentanyl quickly creates a tolerance, requiring more of the drug to create that euphoric feeling. Once in the user’s system, the negative effects are extremely difficult to stop, leading to:

  • Cravings – Fentanyl addicted individuals are afflicted with both psychological and physiological dependence. Finding it hard to concentrate on anything but the drug, they may not be able to eat, sleep or perform daily activities unless high.
  • Compulsion to use – Over time, users develop a physical need that compels them to give into their compulsions and use fentanyl, despite all the havoc the drug wreaks on their lives. Stopping becomes impossible, despite a strong desire to get clean and sober.
  • Loss of control – Addicts use more and more each day. Their tolerance builds to the point where they are no longer even chasing the euphoria, but instead using just to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

cycle of addiction

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Laura E.
Treatment Center
The first time I tried fentanyl-laced heroin, I immediately knew something was different. My eyes wouldn’t stay open. My legs were wobbly. The second time I used, I woke up a few days later on the tile bathroom floor. It became progressively worse, it ended with my friend OD’ing next to me, but I was too out of it to save him. I entered treatment at Ambrosia shortly after, unwilling to change my life. But I had enough and committed to a 30-day program. I wish I would have known the things I learned in treatment while I was in active addiction, but I know I don't need to go back to that way of life. Ambrosia helped change my perspective and my manner of living.
March 11
5 5
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Anthony K.
Treatment Center
The night I overdosed, I had been given a concoction of heroin and fentanyl. I didn't realize how much stronger the dose was, so I kept taking more and more. I am lucky to have lived through the experience that finally got me sober. I entered treatment in Florida and my entire outlook upon life had changed. Ambrosia gave me the tools to be honest with myself and others. I'm just as dedicated to my recovery as I was to my addiction.
February 27
5 5
Ambrosia Treatment Center
Heather L.
Treatment Center
I was hooked on heroin for a few years until I was introduced to pure Fentanyl. It was a drastic change in my using and my life, it brought me to my knees. When I finally had enough of feeling miserable, I decided to get honest and clean. Best decision of my life came from the worst feeling I ever felt. The therapists at Ambrosia helped me look at the real reasons I began using drugs in the first place. Ambrosia took my crutches for using away, but in the end helped me walk on my own.
May 5
5 5

What Every Parent Needs to Know

Fentanyl is very dangerous.

Overdose is common.

Opioid receptors exist in the areas of the brain that that control breathing. High doses of any opioid can cause breathing to stop completely, which leads to death. The high potency of fentanyl substantially increases the risk of overdose. The drug is often sold mixed with heroin or cocaine, which can increase the danger of overdose as well, especially since the user is unaware if or how much fentanyl is included.

Addiction is likely.

Because fentanyl is so addictive, users will not be able to quit on their own and will often use more of the drug each time. As fentanyl is used more often and in more amounts, the likelihood of devastating consequences increase. Even if overdose is avoided, chronic users can suffer from consequences like liver disease or pneumonia.

Overdoses can be prevented with medication.

Naloxone is an opioid receptor antagonist that reverses opioid overdose and restores normal respiration. Overdoses of fentanyl should be treated immediately with naloxone and may require higher doses to successfully reverse the overdose.

The access to this medication varies by state. Because of the sad fact that emergency personnel often come too late, the recent legislative trend is to increase the access to everyone. In the states below, Naloxone is available without a prescription at pharmacies like CVS.

Arkansas • California • Florida • Massachusetts • Minnesota • Mississippi • Montana • New Jersey • North Dakota • Pennsylvania • Rhode Island • South Carolina • Tennessee • Utah • Wisconsin

Withdrawal requires medical attention.

Because of the dangerous complications (including death), stopping fentanyl should only be attempted in the care of medical professionals. With a safe drug detox, addicts are kept comfortable and cared for, so they want to continue the process of recovery. The supervision also prevents relapse, which would be much more likely to cause overdose since the drugs are no longer built-up in their system.

The symptoms usually start 12 hours after the last drug use and can last up to three days, including:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Intense cravings
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cramping in the limbs
  • Cold sweats
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Fever
  • Death

Addiction can occur for many reasons.

Addiction is a disease, not a choice. Several factors can make an individual more susceptible to a fenanyl addiction, including:


Individuals with a first-degree relative with addiction disorder are more prone to become addicted themselves, though genetics alone are not the only factor.

Use of Other Drugs

Repeated drug use changes the way the brain reacts and responds to stimuli. Opiates disrupt communication inside and between the brain’s cells. More drug is needed to compensate for lack of neurotransmitters, which leads to seeking a stronger drug like fentanyl.


Socioeconomic factors, as well as family beliefs and peer influence, affect an individual’s choices about drugs. Environmental factors may also include difficult circumstances or life events (trauma), where drugs are used as a way to cope.


Untreated or undiagnosed mental illness (including depression or anxiety) plays a role in drug use. This may lead to self-medicating with illegal drugs to tolerate or cope with symptoms of the disorder or illness.


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