What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a powerful, synthetic opioid similar to morphine but more efficacious in its relief from pain. Fentanyl is classified as Schedule II by the DEA: it has a high potential for addiction and abuse, but does possess medicinal properties.

Like morphine, it is used in a clinical setting for short and medium-term pain relief. It is more fat-soluble than organically-derived opiates; therefore, its onset and subsequent offset are rapid.

Fentanyl is a narcotic (opioid) with a high potential for addiction, abuse, and the possibility of overdose. One 100 microgram dose provides pain relief equal to roughly 10 milligrams of morphine.

In 2018, more than 31,000 synthetic narcotics-related deaths happened in the United States, more than from any other opioid. The synthetic narcotic death rate increased by 10% from 2017 to 2018 and accounted for 67% of narcotics-related deaths in 2018.

What are some common fentanyl side effects?

Like all narcotics, fentanyl is associated with side effects. These include:

  • Euphoria
  • Confusion
  • Respiratory depression
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Visual disturbances
  • Spasms or muscle rigidity
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Constipation
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Addiction
  • Loss of consciousness or coma
  • Hypotension

What does fentanyl look like?

Fentanyl comes in many forms, fabricated for medicinal use and otherwise.

  • In its prescription form, it will look like lozenges, tablets, nasal or oral sprays, injectables, or transdermal patches.
  • Like other morphine-derivatives such as heroin, it can be manufactured and distributed illicitly for non-medicinal purposes. Illicit forms can be similar to prescription forms, but can also be distributed as a white powder.
colorful round pills, benzodiazepines

What is it used for?

Beyond pain treatment, fentanyl has medicinal applications. It can be used as an anesthetic and sedative. It can also be administered during an epidural.

How long can it stay in your body? Will it show on a drug test?

Because fentanyl is more fat-soluble than other opioids, its onset is rapid and the duration of action brief at only 30 minutes. Compare this to morphine, which will take 30 to 60 minutes to reach peak effect and will last for 3 to 4 hours.

Fentanyl has a half life of roughly 3.5 hours, meaning that it will remain visible on a urine-based drug test for 1 to 3 days.

The effects of fentanyl vs other drugs

The brain and body possess receptors for opiates, many of which are located in areas of the brain which control and modulate emotion, pain, and the reward-response system. Opioids such as fentanyl bind to these receptors, subsequently inducing pain-relief. Fentanyl has a mechanism of action similar to opiates and morphine-analogues such as carfentanil.

What medications are used to detox from fentanyl?

Many of the medications available for easing opioid withdrawal involve acting on the same receptors to which fentanyl binds – in other words, addressing the problem at the source. Methadone is one such medication: it is an opiate receptor agonist without the same side effects as fentanyl. It may be prescribed to allow the body to “taper” and cycle off its reliance on the opioid. Other drugs work in a similar fashion, including Kratom, Naltrexone, and Buprenorphine.

Beyond medications which treat withdrawal at its source, others treat its symptoms. Anticonvulsants, including Gabapentin (Neurontin) and Topiramate, may be prescribed to treat seizures. Anxiety may be treated with benzodiazepines like Lorazepam, Diazepam, and Ativan.

Note that the efficacy of these medications in treating opioid withdrawal is variable and should only be pursued via professional oversight.

Recover From Addiction At Home With Elite Home Detox

There are several treatment options available for fentanyl detox and recovery. Ultimately, there are so many variables at play that determine one’s best path to recovery that one-size-fits all plans may not work for everyone.

Here at Elite Home Detox, we have a team of licensed clinicians and health care professionals who tailor treatment plans to the individual. Let us oversee an otherwise complicated detox and recovery with individualized, in-home care. Our services include drug and alcohol counseling, in home sober companionship, aftercare management, IV therapy, and more. We make recovery possible.


Experience Care with Elite Home Detox