January 3, 2024

​​Fentanyl Overdose: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

A stethoscope, depicting the medical assistance needed if Fentanyl overdose symptoms are detected

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid employed for severe pain management in clinical contexts, is also frequently abused illicitly. In the United States, there was a 22% increase in fatal overdoses involving synthetic opioids like illicitly produced fentanyl from 2020 to 2021. Fentanyl overdose statistics for 2021 show that over 71,000 U.S. adults lost their lives to this deadly drug. Read on to learn why fentanyl overdose is such a pressing health concern in the United States. 

What Is Fentanyl Poisoning?

Fentanyl poisoning refers to the toxic effects resulting from an overdose on fentanyl, or excessive exposure to the substance.

As a powerful central nervous system depressant, fentanyl can lead to life-threatening respiratory depression, sedation, and, in severe cases, cardiac arrest. Recognizing the signs of fentanyl poisoning, such as extreme drowsiness, slowed breathing, or loss of consciousness, can help inform timely intervention and enable the engagement of emergency medical assistance. 

The following factors may contribute to accidental fentanyl overdose:

  • Consuming fentanyl with illicit substances: Mixing fentanyl with substances like alcohol, benzodiazepines, cocaine, and methamphetamine increases the risk of overdose.
  • Ingesting fentanyl with prescribed drugs: Combining fentanyl with certain prescribed medications, including other opioids, can heighten the likelihood of overdose.
  • Ingesting fentanyl after abstinence: Resuming fentanyl use after a period of abstinence or having a low tolerance for opioids can elevate the risk of overdose.
  • Non-prescribed use of fentanyl: Taking fentanyl in ways not prescribed, such as using higher doses or more frequent administration than advised, can lead to overdose, especially in cases of pharmaceutical use.
  • Consuming illicitly manufactured fentanyl: The use of fentanyl obtained from illicit sources significantly increases the risk of overdose due to variations in potency and composition.
  • History of overdose: Individuals with a prior history of overdose, regardless of the substance involved, are at an increased risk of experiencing a fentanyl overdose.
  • Using fentanyl alone: The act of using fentanyl or consuming a substance that may contain fentanyl is dangerous due to the potency of this synthetic opioid – just a few grains is considered a lethal dose.
An emergency room, depicting the urgent nature of seeking medical assistance in the event of a fentanyl overdose

Fentanyl Overdose Signs

The following are common indicators that someone may be experiencing a fentanyl overdose:

  • Excessive lethargy or difficulty staying awake is a red flag for fentanyl overdose.
  • Respiratory depression, characterized by abnormally slow or shallow breathing, is a serious indication of fentanyl toxicity.
  • Individuals experiencing a fentanyl overdose may display confusion, disorientation, or an inability to respond appropriately.
  • Constricted or pinpoint pupils, known as miosis, is a distinctive sign associated with opioid overdose, including fentanyl.

Fentanyl Overdose Symptoms

Understanding the symptoms of fentanyl overdose helps in identifying the severity of the situation and providing appropriate medical intervention. The symptoms may include:

  • Loss of consciousness: A person overdosing on fentanyl may lose consciousness, becoming unresponsive and unable to be awakened.
  • Pale or clammy skin: Skin changes, such as pallor or clamminess, can indicate a lack of oxygen circulation and other physiological disturbances.
  • Weak pulse: A weak or irregular pulse is a concerning symptom, reflecting the impact of fentanyl on cardiovascular function.
  • Blue or purple lips and nails: Cyanosis, characterized by blue or purple discoloration of the lips and nails, signals inadequate oxygenation and is a severe symptom of fentanyl overdose.
  • Inability to wake up: Despite attempts to rouse the person, an individual experiencing a fentanyl overdose may remain unresponsive and unable to wake up.

Recognizing these signs and symptoms is crucial for individuals, bystanders, and healthcare providers. If someone is suspected of a fentanyl overdose, seeking immediate medical attention and contacting emergency services is essential for their well-being.

FAQs

Can you overdose on fentanyl?

Yes, fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid, and overdose is a significant risk. Its potency makes even small amounts potentially lethal, leading to respiratory depression and other life-threatening complications.

What can I do if someone is overdosing on fentanyl?

If you suspect someone is overdosing on fentanyl, it’s crucial to call emergency services immediately. Administering naloxone, an opioid antagonist, can reverse the effects of the overdose and is a critical intervention until professional help arrives.

How can someone prevent a fentanyl overdose?

To prevent a fentanyl overdose, individuals should adhere strictly to prescribed doses, avoid combining fentanyl with other substances, and be aware of the signs of opioid overdose. Additionally, having access to naloxone and knowing how to use it can be a vital preventive measure in emergency situations.

How do you overdose on fentanyl?

Overdosing on fentanyl typically occurs when the drug is ingested, inhaled, or injected in excessive amounts, leading to respiratory depression and fentanyl overdose death. Handle fentanyl with extreme caution and strictly adhere to prescribed doses to avoid overdose.

Can you overdose from touching fentanyl?

It is highly unlikely to overdose from touching fentanyl alone, as the drug is not efficiently absorbed through the skin. However, exposure to fentanyl powder can be dangerous, and proper protective measures, such as wearing gloves, should be taken to prevent accidental contact and minimize any potential risks.

A living room at Gratitude Lodge where addiction recovery treatment is available

Get Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

Fentanyl poses a serious threat, yet all opioid dependencies can be effectively addressed through a combination of medications and therapeutic interventions. At Gratitude Lodge in Southern California, our supervised detox services offer a way to navigate fentanyl withdrawal symptoms with minimal discomfort. Benefit from clinical care and FDA-approved medications to ensure a more comfortable withdrawal experience.

As you progress through our inpatient treatment programs at our Long Beach or Newport Beach facilities, you’ll have access to a comprehensive range of therapies, including:

We can help you overcome fentanyl dependence and addiction with effective and compassionate treatment here at Gratitude Lodge. For immediate assistance, call 888-861-1658 and speak to admissions in confidence.

Want to learn more?

Recent Articles

February 23, 2024

What is Blue Xanax?

February 23, 2024

What is White Kratom and Is It Addictive?

February 23, 2024

What Is Adderall Paranoia?

Begin your journey
to recovery.

Get evidence-based treatment in a peaceful location, with a
team of dedicated, expert staff. 
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkedin
Share on Email
Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Holistic Therapy

Our holistic therapy treatments offer a full-scope approach to recovery, addressing your mind, body, and emotions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This therapy is designed to help address underlying issues and integrate alternative therapies to promote overall health and well-being.
people sit in treatment session representing 90 day alcohol rehab

Psychotherapy

An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.

Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is a highly effective addiction treatment that addresses substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Often co-occurring, these disorders are best managed when treated together with specific and targeted therapy.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.

Sober Living

Sober living provides a supportive and substance-free living environment for your ongoing recovery. We partner with a number of upscale and carefully vetted sober living homes that are available to our clients after inpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment.

Outpatient Treatment

Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.

Inpatient
Treatment

Inpatient treatment provides an intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment program in a structured environment. You will receive 24/7 expert care, therapy, and support as you build your foundation for long-term recovery.

Drug & Alcohol Detox

A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.

Use Our 24 Hour text line. You can ask questions about our program, the admissions process, and more.