How Addictive is Fentanyl?

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Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid with similarities to morphine, but NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) cautions that it is 50 to 100 times more potent and remarkably addictive. Its chemical structure differs slightly from heroin. Originally developed as a potent pain reliever, fentanyl is still used medically for severe pain, especially post-surgery or to treat chronic pain in opioid-tolerant patients.

Unlike heroin, fentanyl has recognized medical applications, leading to its classification as a Schedule II controlled substance by the DEA. That said, drugs like fentanyl have a significant potential for abuse and addiction despite their legitimate medical uses.

If you have concerns about the fentanyl drug, read on to learn more about these issues:

  • What does fentanyl do to you?
  • Why do people take fentanyl?
  • Is fentanyl addictive?
  • How addictive is fentanyl?
  • Addicted to fentanyl: how to engage with evidence-based treatment in Ohio.

Why is Fentanyl so Addictive?

Fentanyl’s extreme potency and rapid onset of effects contribute to its highly addictive nature. Several factors make fentanyl particularly addictive:

  • Potency: Fentanyl is extraordinarily powerful, surpassing other opioids in potency. Its strength leads to intense and immediate euphoria, but it also accelerates the development of tolerance, prompting many people to seek higher doses for the same effects.
  • Intense high: The rapid onset of fentanyl’s effects creates a powerful and immediate high, making it appealing to those seeking instant gratification.
  • Short duration: Despite its potency, fentanyl’s effects diminish relatively quickly, compelling individuals to use the drug more frequently to sustain the desired sensations.
  • Physical dependence: Regular fentanyl use triggers the development of physical dependence, where the body adapts to the drug’s presence. This dependence drives continued use to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
  • Psychological cravings: Fentanyl’s intense effects can create strong psychological cravings, causing many people to compulsively seek the drug to replicate the pleasurable sensations.
  • Chemical changes in the brain: Fentanyl affects brain regions associated with reward and pleasure, leading to neurochemical changes that reinforce addiction.
  • Escalating use: As tolerance builds, individuals require larger amounts of fentanyl to achieve the same effects, increasing the risk of addiction and overdose.
  • Social and environmental factors: Environmental cues, social pressures, and availability can contribute to the development of addiction.
  • Mental health connection: People with co-occurring mental health issues may be more susceptible to fentanyl addiction as they seek relief from emotional pain.

The combination of these factors makes fentanyl a highly addictive substance, highlighting the importance of prevention, early intervention, and effective treatment for those struggling with fentanyl addiction.

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What Does Fentanyl Do to Your Body?

Fentanyl has significant effects on the body due to its interaction with mu-opioid receptors in the CNS (central nervous system). When consumed, fentanyl triggers various physiological and psychological effects. These include:

Pain relief

Fentanyl is prescribed medically for its powerful pain-relieving properties. It binds to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, blocking pain signals and reducing sensations of discomfort.


Fentanyl triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger in the brain associated with pleasure and reward. This leads to intense feelings of euphoria, reinforcing its potential for misuse.

Depression of the central nervous system

Like other opioids, fentanyl depresses the CNS, slowing down vital functions such as heart rate and respiration. This effect contributes to its calming and sedative properties.

Respiratory depression

One of the most dangerous effects of fentanyl is respiratory depression, where breathing becomes slow and shallow. In cases of overdose, this can lead to hypoxia (insufficient oxygen supply), coma, and death.


Fentanyl induces a state of relaxation and drowsiness, often resulting in sedation or even unconsciousness.

Nausea and vomiting

Fentanyl use can cause nausea and vomiting as a side effect, especially during the initial stages of its effects.


Like other opioids, fentanyl can lead to constipation due to its impact on the digestive system.

Tolerance and dependence

With repeated use, individuals may develop tolerance, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effects. This can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.

Cognitive effects

Fentanyl can impair cognitive functions, including memory, attention, and decision-making abilities.

Mood changes

While fentanyl initially induces euphoria, it can also lead to mood swings, anxiety, and irritability as its effects wear off.

Cardiovascular effects

Fentanyl can affect heart rate and blood pressure, potentially causing fluctuations in these vital parameters.

Hormonal effects

Prolonged fentanyl use can impact the body’s endocrine system, leading to hormonal imbalances.

Risk of overdose

Due to its potency, even a small miscalculation in dosage can lead to overdose, resulting in potentially life-threatening consequences.


How strong is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is up to 100 times stronger than morphine.

Is fentanyl an opiate?

No, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid not a naturally occurring opiate.

How is fentanyl used?

Fentanyl is used medically for severe pain relief through various forms including intravenous injection, transdermal patches, and transmucosal products. Illicitly, fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs or sold on the black market in forms such as powders, pills, or patches, contributing to a significant risk of overdose and death.

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl addiction requires comprehensive treatment to address the physical, psychological, and emotional aspects of the disorder. Effective treatment strategies for fentanyl addiction may include:

  • Medical detoxification: Under medical supervision, individuals can safely manage fentanyl withdrawal symptoms. Medications may be used to ease discomfort and reduce cravings.
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment): FDA-approved medications like methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone may be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan to help manage cravings and withdrawal.
  • Behavioral therapies: Therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), CM (contingency management), or MET (motivational enhancement therapy) can help address underlying triggers and develop healthier coping strategies.
  • Counseling: Individual and group counseling provide support and guidance in addressing psychological factors contributing to addiction.
  • Dual diagnosis treatment: Treating co-occurring mental health disorders alongside addiction is vital for long-term recovery from dual diagnosis.
  • Support groups: Participating in support groups or 12-step programs offers a sense of community and shared experiences.
  • Relapse prevention: Learning strategies to recognize triggers, manage cravings, and prevent relapse is a key component of sustained recovery.
  • Aftercare planning: Transitioning from formal treatment to daily life requires a well-structured aftercare plan involving ongoing therapy, support groups, and monitoring.
  • Family involvement: Engaging family members in therapy and education can aid in repairing relationships and building a supportive environment.
  • Holistic approaches: Incorporating mindfulness, yoga, art therapy, and meditation can complement traditional treatments and promote overall well-being.
  • Long-term support: Ongoing engagement in therapy, support groups, and positive lifestyle changes can help with long-term recovery.

Fentanyl addiction treatment is a complex process that demands commitment, patience, and a personalized approach. Seeking guidance from addiction specialists and medical professionals is essential to design a treatment plan tailored to individual needs and circumstances.

A woman sits looking out at a sunset to represent fentanyl addiction treatment in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Get Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction at Ohio Recovery Centers

When you are ready to initiate your recovery from fentanyl addiction, we can help you from detox to discharge and beyond at Ohio Recovery Centers. We specialize in the outpatient treatment of all types of opioid addictions.

We provide traditional outpatient programs and IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) for those with milder addictions. Most people with fentanyl addiction would likely benefit from our PHP (partial hospitalization program), a full-time outpatient program that bridges the gap between outpatient and inpatient rehab.

All treatment programs at our Cincinnati rehab combine holistic, behavioral, and pharmacological therapies, as well as a comprehensive aftercare component.

Call 877-679-2132 when you are ready to leave fentanyl addiction behind.

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn