Fentanyl Overdose Symptoms and Treatment

  1. Article SummaryPrint
  2. Signs of Fentanyl Use
  3. Overdose Symptoms
  4. Overdose Treatment

Fentanyl is a prescription synthetic opiate analgesic used for the treatment of severe pain. As an opioid, fentanyl binds with the opiate receptors of the brain when used, creating a sense of euphoria and relaxation in the user. With repeated use, those around the user may notice fentanyl overdose symptoms as the result of the user having taken too large a dose. Overdoses from narcotic painkillers like fentanyl can be extremely serious with long-lasting, if not fatal, consequences. As such, knowing how to recognize the signs of fentanyl use as well as the symptoms of an overdose can help those around the user realize the danger early and seek treatment before serious consequences of an overdose can occur.

Signs of Fentanyl Use

FentanylThe National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that most overdose instances resulting from fentanyl use occur because of the mixture of fentanyl with heroin in a powdered form. Unmixed fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, but with the addition of heroin, its effects are even greater. The mixture can increase overdose chances as well as the severity of fentanyl overdose symptoms. This makes it even more important that those who associate with fentanyl users be able to recognize the signs of use as a way to attempt to get the user help before an overdose results in serious long-term damage. Some signs of fentanyl use include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • False sense of well-being
  • Fainting upon quick movements
  • Lack of alertness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Although some signs of addiction are difficult to recognize immediately, multiple signs of fentanyl use can point to illicit use of the drug. With continued use, overdose can occur, leading to a variety of fentanyl overdose symptoms. Further information on how to recognize signs of fentanyl use can be found by calling us at 1-800-928-9139.

Overdose Symptoms

When used as prescribed, fentanyl can be a dangerous pain reliever. Doctors who prescribe the medication often suggest that patients be checked regularly while using the medication for proper breathing and heartbeat. In recreational doses, fentanyl use can lead easily to an overdose. Knowing the signs of an overdose on fentanyl can help anyone witnessing these overdose symptoms to make quick decisions that will result in getting the overdose victim help.

"Fentanyl is a slow-release administered by patch or lozenge."Fentanyl is a slow-release prescription drug administered by patch or lozenge. The faster the drug is released into a user's system, the more pleasurable the resultant effects. This causes recreational users to turn to the powdered and usually illegally manufactured version of the drug for a fast-acting version. With an increase in the absorption rate comes an increase in the overdose rate. According to the FDA, excessive heat may cause prescription patches to release increased levels of fentanyl as well, possibly resulting in overdose.

The symptoms of a fentanyl overdose are physical in nature and thus easy to note by those looking for them. These symptoms can include:

  • Clammy skin
  • Seizures
  • Severe drowsiness or inability to be awakened
  • Low blood pressure
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Respiratory reduction

Once the fentanyl overdose symptoms begin, it's important to get the user help as soon as possible in an emergency room.

Overdose Treatment

Fentanyl overdose treatment should occur immediately upon recognizing that an overdose is in progress. If the overdose is caused by a patch or lozenge then the first part of the treatment is to remove the remaining fentanyl to avoid reinforcing the amount already absorbed in the user's system. From there, the fentanyl is treated as a poison.

overdoseIf the drug dose was a recent one and there is a chance that the drug can be found within the user's stomach, medical personnel may give the user activated charcoal or pump the user's stomach to remove as much of the drug from his or her system as possible before absorption into the blood stream. While this will not stop the fentanyl overdose symptoms already being experienced, it will help prevent further damage from the drug.

A narcotic antidote exists for use with fentanyl overdoses. Narcan, the brand name for the drug naloxone, is commonly used to counter opiate overdoses from drugs like fentanyl. Given intravenously, Narcan can have an effect on the patient within a minute, reducing the depression of the central nervous system that results from a Fentanyl overdose. The effect of the Narcan is shorter than the usual length of an overdose so Narcan is often given repeatedly to help against fentanyl overdose symptoms.

Fentanyl overdose treatment also includes supportive treatment of the individual symptoms of the overdose. For instance, slowed respiration is usually treated with an application of mechanical ventilation to assist with breathing.

Factoids:

  • Fentanyl is often mixed with heroin or cocaine to increase the effect of the drugs.
  • Most fentanyl involved in overdoses is manufactured by illegal laboratories and combined with heroin or sold as heroin.
  • Naloxone, used to treat fentanyl overdoses, is sometimes given out freely in kits provided to heroin users for use in reducing fatal heroin overdoses.

Treatment for fentanyl overdose symptoms is provided throughout the overdose episode, up to as long as 24 hours. After treatment, further aftercare may be necessary under medical observation to ensure that all related issues are dealt with. Call 1-800-928-9139 for further information on the treatment or long-term effects of fentanyl overdoses.