Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid comparable in effect to heroin but can be up to 50 times more powerful. Urine tests can detect the drug between 1-3 days of use. Blood tests can identify it’s presence for up to 48 hours, and it can be found using hair follicle tests for as long as three months.
Other than the test used, several factors determine how long fentanyl will remain in a person’s system, the principal one being the method of administration. For instance, when injected, fentanyl has a half-life of around 2-4 hours, meaning it takes this amount of time for half of the drug to be eliminated from a person’s system. By 11-22 hours, fentanyl is no longer active in an individual’s body.
However, due to its incredibly high potency, as a prescription drug, it is usually only found in the form of a transdermal patch or lozenge—methods of administration that deliver the drug slowly. In these cases, fentanyl’s half-life is up to about seven hours and may take as long as three days to clear a person’s system.
It is important to realize, however, that as fentanyl is broken down in the body, it leaves behind temporary byproducts known as metabolites. These products can remain in the system for much longer and be detected on some drug tests many days following the last use.
Several other factors can affect precisely how long fentanyl and its metabolites remain in an individual’s body system. These include the following:
- Body fat content
- Food consumption
- Liver function
- Metabolic rate
- Average dosage amount
- Duration of use
- Overall health
- Use of other substances
Facts About Fentanyl
Fentanyl is an extremely powerful painkiller and sedative, and when administered in a hospital setting, it is typically for the treatment of severe pain or general anesthesia. As a prescription medication, it is indicated for moderate to severe pain, cancer, or end-of-life care. As noted above, in these instances is delivered gradually through the skin via transdermal patch or ingested orally as a lozenge/lollipop or sublingual film.
Most fentanyl bought and sold on the street, however, is not diverted from pain patients or hospitals. Instead, it is manufactured abroad in China or Mexico and illicitly-obtained from dealers or the Dark Web. Frequently, fentanyl can also be found laced with heroin, cocaine, and other drugs, and the user is often unaware.
Fentanyl works by boosting dopamine, a feel-good neurochemical in the brain and central nervous system (CNS). It induces feelings of relaxation, sedation, and euphoria. For this reason, fentanyl, like heroin, has a high potential for abuse and addiction, and its potency places users at a high risk of experiencing a life-threatening overdose or death.
Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction
Due to its potency and limited medical use, when compared to other opioids, fentanyl addiction is relatively rare. However, instances of dependency on prescription fentanyl certainly do occur. Because it’s so often combined with or used to replace heroin or other substances in illicit drug products, it is commonly ingested by people who abuse these other substances, whether they know it or not.
Effects related to fentanyl abuse are very similar to those of heroin and other powerful opioids, albeit perhaps more intense and dangerous. They include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Anxiety and depression
- Impaired coordination
- Muscle stiffness and weakness
- Slowed heart rate
- Slow or difficult breathing
- Dizziness and fainting
- Profound sedation
- Slurred speech
- Nausea and vomiting
Risk of Fentanyl Overdose
At the time of writing, fentanyl use has been found related to thousands of deaths in the United States each year. Also, by some estimates, it may be involved in as many as half of all lethal overdoses nationwide.
According to a recent report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) found that drug submissions that tested positive for fentanyl increased more than twofold from 14,440 to 34,119. Similar trends continued into 2017, 2018, and 2019, showing few signs of slowing down.
Symptoms of a fentanyl overdose include:
- Impaired thinking
- Difficulty speaking or walking
- Cold, clammy or pale skin
- Bluish lips or fingernails
- Choking sounds (death rattle)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low blood pressure
- Slowed heart rate
- Fainting and unresponsiveness
- Labored or stopped breathing
- Respiratory arrest
- Coma or death
Getting Treatment for Fentanyl Abuse or Addiction
Treatment for the abuse of fentanyl or other opioids begins with a medically-assisted detox that consists of 24/7 clinical supervision. This process helps to ease withdrawal symptoms and keep the individual as safe and comfortable as possible.
Just Believe Recovery offers detox services as well as residential and partial hospitalization programs, which include the following evidence-based services:
- Individual and family counseling
- Yoga, music, and art therapy
- 12-step meetings
- Relapse prevention
- Health and wellness education
- Aftercare planning and support
If you or your loved one is suffering from substance abuse, we urge you to seek treatment as soon as possible before it’s too late! You can reclaim your life, and we can help you every step of the way!