As mentioned above, many drug dealers mix the cheaper fentanyl with other drugs like heroin, cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamine to increase their profits, making it often difficult to know which drug is causing the overdose. Naloxone is a medicine that can treat a fentanyl overdose when given right away. It works by rapidly binding to opioid receptors and blocking the effects of opioid drugs. But fentanyl is stronger than other opioid drugs like morphine and might require multiple doses of naloxone.
Because of this, if you suspect someone has overdosed, the most important step to take is to call 911 so they can receive immediate medical attention. Once medical personnel arrive, they will administer naloxone if they suspect an opioid drug is involved.
Naloxone is available as an injectable (needle) solution and nasal sprays (NARCAN® and KLOXXADO®).
People who are given naloxone should be monitored for another two hours after the last dose of naloxone is given to make sure breathing does not slow or stop.
Some states have passed laws that allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a personal prescription. Friends, family, and others in the community can use the nasal spray versions of naloxone to save someone who is overdosing.
Read more in Naloxone DrugFacts.
Can fentanyl use lead to addiction?
Yes. Fentanyl is addictive because of its potency. A person taking prescription fentanyl as instructed by a doctor can experience dependence, which is characterized by withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped. A person can be dependent on a substance without being addicted, but dependence can sometimes lead to addiction.
Addiction is the most severe form of a substance use disorder (SUD). SUDs are characterized by compulsive drug seeking and drug use that can be difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. When someone is addicted to drugs, they continue to use them even though they cause health problems or issues at work, school, or home. An SUD can range from mild to severe.
People addicted to fentanyl who stop using it can have severe withdrawal symptoms that begin as early as a few hours after the drug was last taken. These symptoms include:
- muscle and bone pain
- sleep problems
- diarrhea and vomiting
- cold flashes with goose bumps
- uncontrollable leg movements
- severe cravings