Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction

Fentanyl is a potent opioid intended for use only in highly-supervised medical settings. However, many people abuse and become addicted to this powerful painkiller, and tens of thousands experience life-threatening fentanyl overdoses.

Fentanyl is lethal in tiny doses. Abusing fentanyl can quickly spiral into addiction. Using fentanyl recreationally has both short and long-term effects, including the risk of addiction and overdose, as well as other severe health, social, and mental health complications.

This article will explore the long-term effects of fentanyl abuse and addiction, how to recognize the need for fentanyl abuse treatment, and where to get life-saving treatment. Reach out to the team at Arise Treatment Center now to learn about our high-quality rehab programs or to find support at any stage of addiction recovery.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is one of the most potent opioids available for abuse. It was developed as a powerful pain reliever to be used during surgeries and medical procedures and is intended primarily for medical use under supervision from an anesthesiologist. Fentanyl is potent and effective in small doses. Taking larger doses than intended can lead to life-threatening respiratory depression, lack of oxygen to the brain, coma, and death.

Fentanyl is available as a prescription to help people manage moderate to severe pain. It is available in several routes of administration, including:

  • Transdermal patch
  • Lozenges
  • Dissolvable tablets
  • Sublingual film
  • Oral spray
  • Nasal spray

Fentanyl is commonly sold in the following forms and brads:

  • Fentanyl Citrate (Actiq, Fentora, Lazanda) – Used to relieve breakthrough cancer pain and is available in the form of lozenges, tablets, and nasal sprays.
  • Fentanyl Transdermal (Duragesic) – Used to manage chronic pain and is available in the form of a patch that is applied to the skin.
  • Fentanyl Buccal (Onsolis) – Used to manage breakthrough cancer pain and is available in the form of a film that is placed inside the cheek.
  • Fentanyl Sublingual (Abstral) – Used to treat breakthrough cancer pain and is available in the form of a tablet that is dissolved under the tongue.
  • Fentanyl Subcutaneous (Subsys) – Used to manage breakthrough cancer pain and is available in the form of a spray that is administered under the tongue.

People may steal prescription fentanyl and sell it for recreational use, but most recreational fentanyl use comes from dealers who manufacture it in illicit laboratories for sale on the streets. Illicit fentanyl comes in the form of a fine white powder or a colorless liquid.

The widespread availability of illegally-produced fentanyl has made the drug popular throughout the United States–and with deadly results. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl was responsible for about 22 deaths per 100,000 in 2021.

The Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction

Fentanyl abuse and addiction can cause lingering effects throughout the brain and body. Generally, abusing fentanyl can cause organ and tissue damage that causes severe, often permanent harm.

People who abuse fentanyl are at increased risk of a lethal overdose and engaging in risky behaviors. They are more likely to be the victim of sexual and physical assault, exposure to infectious bodily fluids, and severe brain and cardiovascular damage.

The long-term effects of fentanyl use depend in part on how a person uses it.

Long-term effects of injecting fentanyl

Injecting fentanyl can cause quicker, more intense effects, which makes it appealing to people who abuse the drug. However, injecting fentanyl increases the risk of:

  • HIV exposure
  • Collapsed veins or vein damage
  • Liver cancer and cirrhosis
  • Skin abscesses that can become infected
  • Significant weight loss and malnutrition
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Brain damage
  • Coma

Veins may become so severely damaged that people may begin injecting into the muscle, which puts people at risk for tetanus, gangrene, necrotizing fasciitis, and other life-threatening complications.

Long-term effects of snorting fentanyl

Snorting fentanyl is one of the most common methods of ingesting the drug, but it can cause significant long-term problems, like:

  • Severe, chronic nasal congestion
  • Chronic bloody nose
  • Trouble with swallowing
  • Perforated septum or palate
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Facial swelling
  • Infected nasal membranes

The severe facial and respiratory damage caused by snorting fentanyl can be permanent, even after people recover from using the drug.

Long-term effects of smoking fentanyl

Although smoking fentanyl is one of the least common ways to use the drug, users who do smoke it may experience:

  • Lung damage
  • Breathing problems
  • Organ damage
  • Damage to teeth and gums
  • Oral infections
  • System-wide toxicity from chemical additives in fentanyl

Smoking fentanyl puts users at increased risk for severe complications because the drug was not designed to be ingested in this way. The effects of smoking fentanyl can be life-threatening and permanent.

Long-term mental health effects of fentanyl abuse and addiction

Fentanyl impacts chemicals in the brain and can affect users’ mental health. Fentanyl abuse has been linked to mental health conditions, including:

  • Increased risk for depression
  • Increased anxiety
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Inability to regulate emotions
  • Increased risk for suicide
  • Psychosis
  • Poor decision-making

Fentanyl use has also been associated with memory and cognitive problems that have not been associated with other forms of opioid abuse.

Find Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction Treatment Now

If you or someone you love struggles with fentanyl abuse or addiction, you are not alone. Contact the Arise Treatment Center team as soon as possible to get help for these dangerous conditions. Our specialists can quickly get you evaluated and into a program to help you overcome fentanyl abuse and addiction. Don’t wait for the help you need. Call today to get started in one of our supportive, effective fentanyl addiction treatment programs.


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