According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 71,238 people died from synthetic opioid overdoses in 2021. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are made in a lab with the same chemical structure as other opioids. Doctors use them for clinical pain management post-surgery. Unfortunately, drugs like fentanyl have become widely available online or through street dealers. They bind to opioid receptors and produce feelings of euphoria, putting them in a high-risk category for dependency issues. Dealers often combine fentanyl with other drugs, like heroin to increase euphoria. However, the most dangerous thing about fentanyl is how easy it is to overdose while taking it.
At ReVIDA Recovery®, we see fentanyl as a national crisis. Deaths stemming from fentanyl are increasing every year. Most of the time, people aren’t even aware they’re taking it. They’ll get fentanyl in a batch of cocaine or heroin, and because they haven’t built a tolerance for it, they’ll overdose. Our goal is to increase awareness involving this opioid so that you’ll know what to look out for. Recognizing what fentanyl does to your body and how long it stays in your system is essential in keeping yourself safe.
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How Does Fentanyl Affect Your Body?
Fentanyl impacts the area of your brain that controls pain and regulates emotions. When you take fentanyl, it’s common to experience feelings of euphoria, extreme happiness, and pain relief. If taken under the supervision of a doctor, it helps by getting rid of your pain, so you can physically recover. It usually isn’t taken for very long, and when you’re taking it you’re being monitored for side effects. If you take fentanyl recreationally, however, you might start to notice how it’s negatively impacting you. Here are some common short-term effects of fentanyl use:
- Feelings of euphoria or “uncontrolled, extreme happiness”
- Trouble breathing
- Loss of consciousness
If you experience any of these side effects, consult your physician. Some of these might be simple side effects, but others could indicate a more serious problem.
If you’ve taken fentanyl for an extended period, you will likely build up a tolerance to it. Your body will require more of the substance to achieve the same feelings of euphoria or pain relief. This is a common reason people overdose on fentanyl – they take more to achieve the same results. Because of fentanyl’s potency, this becomes dangerous. Other long-term effects of fentanyl use include:
- Chronic stomach problems, including constipation and bowel obstructions
- Reproductive issues
- Mood disorders (anxiety, depression, and more)
- Suicidal thoughts
- Sleep apnea
- Heart failure or heart attack
- Weakening of the immune system
- And more
Along with long and short-term fentanyl side effects, people who recreationally take fentanyl also risk overdose. Fentanyl causes more incidents of overdose than any other opioid. At 50-100 times more powerful than its counterpart morphine, it’s nearly impossible to know how much fentanyl you’re ingesting. It’s also hard for dealers to dose fentanyl correctly when they cut it into cocaine or mix it into heroin. In addition, people who take it don’t always know how much of it they’re taking, and without a tolerance for it, their body is more likely to shut down.
Overdosing on fentanyl can be incredibly dangerous. If you suspect that you or someone you know is overdosing, get immediate help. Here are some of the signs that indicate an overdose of fentanyl:
- Blue lips
- Foaming mouth
- Loss of consciousness
- Confusion or odd behavior
- Gurgling breath sounds
People usually report experiencing overdose symptoms within seconds or minutes after taking fentanyl. Some medications can counteract a fentanyl overdose, so it’s vital to call 911. Explain the symptoms in detail so your clinicians or first responders know how to help.
How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your System?
The amount of time fentanyl stays in someone’s system depends on multiple factors:
- How it’s administered. Fentanyl is administered in 3 ways: transmucosal (oral), intravenous (injection), or transdermal (a skin patch). Each administration method gives fentanyl a different half-life. Transmucosal fentanyl has a half-life of 5-14 hours, intravenous fentanyl has a half-life of 2-4 hours, and transdermal fentanyl has a half-life of 17 hours.
- Age. Your age can affect how quickly your body can rid itself of fentanyl.
- Liver health. If your liver is healthy, it will metabolize fentanyl faster than if it were diseased or unhealthy.
- Food. How much you eat before taking fentanyl will affect fentanyl’s half-life.
- Dosage. A higher dose of fentanyl will stay in your system longer than a smaller dose.
- Duration of use. How often you use fentanyl will determine how much fentanyl has built up in your system.
- Other substance use. If you’re using fentanyl with alcohol or other drugs, this can affect your body’s ability to metabolize the drug properly.
If you or someone you love is taking fentanyl, remember that the longer fentanyl stays in your system, the easier it is to overdose the next time you take it. You may no longer feel the effects of fentanyl after a few days of using it, but it can stay in your body for up to 7 days. It will also show up in urine, blood, and hair follicle tests. Hair follicle tests can indicate fentanyl use for up to three months after your last dose.
How To Rid the Body of Fentanyl
There is no “quick fix” when it comes to getting rid of fentanyl in your body. You might hear others talk about things like juice cleanses or special diets, but none of it works, especially regarding hair follicle tests. What you can do is practice self-compassion, seek treatment, and discontinue your use of fentanyl.
If someone is suffering from a fentanyl overdose, Naloxone can be useful. This is a medication that counteracts the effects of opioid use. A clinician can administer naloxone. Depending on how much fentanyl is in someone’s system, multiple doses of Naloxone may be necessary.
How Can Someone Safely Stop Taking Fentanyl?
When someone stops taking fentanyl, withdrawal symptoms are likely. The body and mind have become accustomed to opioids, so it takes an adjustment. Unfortunately, withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly uncomfortable. While they’re rarely fatal, they’re still dangerous and can cause health complications. This is why treatment is recommended when someone wants to safely stop taking fentanyl. Withdrawals usually begin 12-24 hours after the last dose of fentanyl and they can last 4-10 days. They can look like:
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hot flashes
- Cold and clammy skin
- Muscle cramps
- Racing heart
On rare occasions, people experiencing opioid withdrawal might experience seizures, loss of consciousness, or psychosis. A treatment facility can help someone safely move past these symptoms and into recovery. Certain medications can also help manage symptoms and reduce relapse risk.
At ReVIDA Recovery®, we know how overwhelming it is to be dependent on a substance like fentanyl. We want you to know that recovery is possible, and you won’t have to feel this way forever. Treatment for fentanyl addiction can transform your life. For questions or to learn about our treatment programs, call us at (423) 631-0432 today!
FAQs About How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your System
Where does fentanyl come from?
Fentanyl is synthetic, which means it’s made in a lab. It’s made using the same chemical structure as other opioids.
What is fentanyl used for?
Fentanyl was originally made to be a potent pain reliever. It was for doctors to give their patients post-surgery. Unfortunately, over the years, it has become available on the streets and online. It’s often mixed with other illicit drugs to create a more potent high.