Fentanyl was never meant to be smoked, but a recent study suggests that more and more people are making the switch from injecting fentanyl to smoking it. Some physicians are saying that smoking fentanyl might fall under the umbrella of “harm reduction”. After all, injecting any substance (illegally) comes with the risk of needle sharing, and eventually, infectious diseases. But is smoking fentanyl really less dangerous than injecting or swallowing it?
At ReVIDA® Recovery, we support many harm reduction treatment methods for opioid use disorder, and we’ve looked into this so you don’t have to. Let’s discuss the act of smoking fentanyl, its potential side effects, and whether or not it’s safe.
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When someone crushes fentanyl pills (or other opioid pills that have been laced with fentanyl), they can either snort it or melt it down on aluminum foil and smoke it. Those who choose to smoke fentanyl usually do it because it is said to increase the duration of the high. Some even say it’s felt “more intensely” when it’s smoked vs. when it’s injected or snorted. Others may smoke it because they believe it’s less dangerous than injecting it. Unfortunately, smoking fentanyl can lead to a whole host of problems that don’t always occur with other methods of use.
The Side Effects of Smoking Fentanyl
One of the biggest downsides of smoking fentanyl is the side effects that come with it. Smoking this substance comes with both short-term and long-term issues.
Here are some of the common short-term side effects of smoking fentanyl:
- Intense itching
- Gastrointestinal distress, like nausea or vomiting
- Chronic dry mouth that doesn’t go away after discontinuation of use
- Hot flashes
Some of the common long-term side effects of smoking fentanyl include:
- The development or worsening of mood disorders (depression, anxiety)
- Hormonal imbalance
- Loss of sex drive
- Chronic constipation
Arguably one of the most severe long-term effects of smoking fentanyl is lung issues. Respiratory depression is something that’s common with any kind of fentanyl use because opioids are depressants. They depress the nervous system, which causes issues with breathing. But when fentanyl is smoked long-term, you’re also risking various types of lung cancer along with emphysema. Chronic cough and the development of asthma can also happen. If someone already has asthma, it can worsen the condition by leaps and bounds. Pneumonia and tuberculosis are also more likely to occur in those who smoke fentanyl.
The Dangers of Smoking Fentanyl
Many people who smoke fentanyl aren’t even aware that they’re smoking it. It’s often laced into other drugs like cocaine or heroin. This is dangerous because fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than heroin or cocaine. Someone may believe they’re smoking their usual dose of heroin and be surprised by the intense side effects of fentanyl. This can cause overdoses and even death if not treated in time. It’s never worth the risk.
Is it “safer” than injection? For some, it might be. But for others, they’re heading down a potentially lethal road. While smoking fentanyl decreases the chances of bloodborne diseases, it increases the chances of respiratory depression and various types of lung cancer.
The Effects Fentanyl Has on the Body and Brain
Over time, fentanyl changes the way the brain works and the way it’s wired. People who regularly use fentanyl can become dependent on it, and withdrawal symptoms can happen with discontinued use. Fentanyl withdrawals are brutal, and many feel like they need to keep using fentanyl just to avoid them. Regular use can also cause mood swings, irritability, mental health disorders, and suicidality.
Over time, fentanyl also begins to impact the body. It’s particularly hard on the liver, which is the body’s waste disposal system. When the liver stops working correctly and the body is unable to quickly dispose of substances, drugs like fentanyl can build up in the system causing organs to struggle or fail. Additionally, fentanyl use can impact someone’s ability to function at work or in their relationships. If you or someone you care about is managing a fentanyl addiction, your body and mind can heal over time in treatment.
Getting Treatment for Fentanyl Use Disorder
At ReVIDA® Recovery, we have seen firsthand how effective evidence-based fentanyl addiction treatment can be. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been taking fentanyl or how impossible it feels to stop right now – recovery is always possible. Let’s talk about some of the treatment options we offer here that could be right for you.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
While you’re here for MAT, you’ll be closely monitored by a compassionate and knowledgeable staff. Medications are available that can help in alleviating fentanyl withdrawals and guiding you safely into recovery. You’ll also have access to resources that can help you on your journey moving forward, including individual counseling, group counseling, and support groups. In an MAT program, we use medications alongside traditional therapy to guide you away from opioids and into a healthy life of recovery.
You’ll also have the option to move forward with our outpatient treatment program. If a higher level of care is warranted, we will provide referrals for a local inpatient or residential treatment program. Your clinician will go over all of your options to set you up for success.
Buprenorphine (Suboxone®) Treatment
Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is a safe and evidence-based way to treat OUD. At ReVIDA® Recovery, we support the use of buprenorphine (Suboxone®) because it has been proven to reduce cravings while working to prevent relapse. To receive buprenorphine (Suboxone®) treatment, you will have to be opioid-free for 24 hours.
Outpatient Rehab Services
We believe that both individual and group therapy are critical components in the treatment of OUD – especially if you’re looking for long-term recovery. This is a safe and supportive space where you will learn how to manage your triggers and create healthy coping mechanisms. Our behavioral healthcare team is composed of licensed therapists, certified counselors, care coordinators, and peer recovery specialists who are standing by and ready to help. If we can treat your addiction where it started, at its roots, your chance of recovery is greater than if we were to simply treat your withdrawal symptoms.
At ReVIDA® Recovery, we’re standing by to help you reclaim your life from fentanyl. Recovery is possible, and you can start your journey to wellness whenever you’re ready. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, please call us today at 423-631-0432.
Can you snort, inject, or smoke fentanyl?
Snorting, smoking, and self-injecting are all illicit methods of fentanyl use.
Is there a safe way to introduce fentanyl into the body?
A prescription from your treating physician is the only safe way to take fentanyl. It is often prescribed in the case of post-surgical or chronic pain, and anyone who takes it is closely monitored. Taking it outside of a clinician’s instructions or taking it illegally can be unsafe and potentially lethal. Remember that fentanyl is 50-100 times more powerful than other opioids. Without a doctor and a pharmacy, it’s never guaranteed that you’ll be taking a safe amount. It doesn’t take much fentanyl to cause an overdose. A dose one-sixth the size of a penny can cause you to lose your life.
Why would someone smoke fentanyl?
Some choose to smoke fentanyl because they believe it increases the duration and intensity of fentanyl’s euphoric effects.