Fentanyl Methods of Use
Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous drugs on the streets today. In fact, the synthetic opioid is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and is responsible for more than 70,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2021. You can smoke, snort, or inject fentanyl. Each method comes with its own unique risks. In this post, we’ll go over the dangers and side effects of fentanyl use and how you can get help today.
How Is Fentanyl Taken?
Compare the ways fentanyl is used in a medical setting versus as an illicit drug in a substance use disorder situation.
Ways Fentanyl is Used Medically
The ways medical use of fentanyl is typically administered is:
- intravenously (IV)
- intramuscularly (IM)
- transdermally (TD) as skin patches
- intranasally (IN) in the form of a volatile nasal spray
- intrathecally (IT)
Fentanyl pharmaceutical products are currently
available in the following forms:
- Oral transmucosal lozenges also referred to as
fentanyl “lollipops” (Actiq®)
- Effervescent buccal tablets (Fentora®)
- Sublingual tablets (Abstral®)
- Sublingual sprays (Subsys®)
- Nasal sprays (Lazanda®)
- Transdermal patches (Duragesic®)
- Injectable formulations
Doctors often prescribe fentanyl in the form of a transdermal patch that is worn on the skin.
Ways Illicit Fentanyl is Used
The ways Illicit use of fentanyl is typically administered by users is:
Illicit use of fentanyl that is made illegally in labs and has caused a recent uptick in overdose deaths is sold in the following forms:
- Nasal spray
Some drug dealers mix fentanyl with other drugs, most commonly heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Often, drug users are unaware that their drugs have fentanyl in them, which puts them at a high risk of a fentanyl overdose.
What Are The Main Differences In Effects And Dangers Between Smoking, Snorting, And Injecting Fentanyl
The main differences in effects and dangers between smoking, snorting, and injecting fentanyl are related to the method of administration, the speed of onset, and the specific health risks associated with each method.
- Smoking Fentanyl:
- Produces rapid onset of effects, which encourages continued use and increases the risk of addiction
- Adverse effects on the lungs due to inhaling powders, leading to lung damage, especially with prolonged use
- Increased risk of respiratory conditions, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other respiratory problems due to the presence of toxic substances in the smoke
- Potential for permanent damage to the brain and other parts of the body, resulting in long-term cognitive impairment and memory issues
- Snorting Fentanyl:
- Some of the drug hits the bloodstream immediately, while some is swallowed, causing the effects of the swallowed portion to occur later
- Irritation and damage to the delicate tissues lining the nasal passages, inflammation, nosebleeds, and even destruction of the nasal septum
- Infections due to the introduction of bacteria or fungi from contaminated drugs or unsanitary snorting equipment
- Intensified high compared to oral ingestion, leading to dangerous effects that can overwhelm the body and cause respiratory depression
- Injecting Fentanyl:
- 100% of the substance enters the bloodstream at once, increasing the risk of overdose
- Poor injection techniques, using dirty syringes, or sharing needles can lead to infections, abscesses, and transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis
- Increased risk of endocarditis (infection of the heart lining) and skin infections
All three methods of administration carry the risk of overdose, addiction, and other complications. However, oral consumption, such as in the form of prescription fentanyl patches or lollipops, produces a slower onset of effects and is generally considered safer than other methods.
It is important to note that fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid, and its misuse can lead to severe side effects, dependence, and even death.
Smoking fentanyl is extremely dangerous because it’s nearly impossible to control the dose.
Dr. Daniel Ciccarone, a professor of family community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, predicted in 2022 that smoking fentanyl will be the norm within a year among those who use the drug on its own
Can You Smoke Fentanyl?
Yes, people who have a fentanyl substance use disorder do smoke fentanyl. Fentanyl can be smoked by heating the drug on a piece of foil and inhaling the vapors through a straw or other device. Other ways it is made smokable is when drug users remove the gel or liquid from prescription fentanyl patches, warm it up, and inhale the smoke.
What Happens If You Smoke Fentanyl?
When you smoke fentanyl it will be the same as ingesting it in others ways; the difference is it will enter your bloodstream via your lungs to have its active effect on your system.
However, smoking fentanyl is a dangerous and potentially deadly method of abusing the drug. The risks and dangers associated with smoking fentanyl include developing a range of respiratory conditions to developing respiratory depression which can be fatal.
Common side effects of smoking fentanyl include:
- Lung damage
- Dental problems
- “Nodding off,” or being in and out of consciousness
- Dry mouth
- Brain fog
- Itchy skin
- Warm, flushed skin
- Heavy legs and arms
- Hormonal imbalances that lead to sexual dysfunction in men and irregular menstrual cycles in women
Some doctors may prescribe an injectable form of fentanyl to manage extreme pain. This type can safely help patients manage pain under medical supervision and correct dosing. However, injecting fentanyl is also a method used by users addicted to fentanyl.
Can You Inject Fentanyl?
Yes, people who have a fentanyl substance use disorder do inject a liquid form of fentanyl into their veins or muscles. Fentanyl drug users inject forms of fentanyl that are not intended for injection by removing the gel or liquid from fentanyl patches, melting it, and injecting it using a syringe and hypodermic needle into their veins.
What Happens If You Inject Fentanyl?
The dangers of ingesting fentanyl this way include:
- Permanent scarring at the injection site
- HIV and Hepatitis C from sharing injection materials and needles
- Difficulty breathing
- Extreme fatigue
- Loss of coordination
A powder form of fentanyl is common on the black market. Some people choose to snort fentanyl in order to get a quick high.
Can You Snort Snort Fentanyl?
Yes, people who have a fentanyl substance use disorder do snort a powder form of fentanyl up their noses. Fentanyl drug users snort or sniff forms of fentanyl that are not intended for that use by crushing fentanyl pills into a powder that they then can breath in via nasal insufflation to get high.
What Happens If You Snort Fentanyl?
Snorting fentanyl bypasses a time-release mechanism used with fentanyl pills and can lead to a more rapid and intense high.
Other side effects users experience when snorting fentanyl include:
- Impaired vision
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty sleeping
- Chest pain
- Back pain
Snorting fentanyl puts pressure on the nasal cavity, creating the following health risks:
- Loss of smell
- Frequent runny nose
Snorting fentanyl makes the high and effects of the drug much more intense than taking it orally. This method can overwhelm the brain and/or body, and the side effects can become life-threatening. For these reasons, you should never snort fentanyl.
Signs of Fentanyl Overdose
If you or a friend or loved one start experiencing any of the following signs of a fentanyl overdose, call 911 immediately:
- Small, constricted pupils
- Losing consciousness/being unable to stay awake
- Slow, weak, or stopped breathing
- Limp body
- Cold and clammy skin
- Discolored lips, nails, and other parts of the skin
Side Effects of Fentanyl
The most common side effects of fentanyl are:
- Pain relief
- Stomach pain
- A flushed face, neck, and/or upper chest
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Swollen hands, arms, feet, ankles, and/or lower legs
- Difficulty breathing
- Respiratory depression
If you experience any of these serious side effects, call your doctor immediately:
- Changes in heartbeat
If you experience any of these symptoms, stop using fentanyl immediately and seek emergency medical care:
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Decreased urge to breathe
- Difficulty swallowing
- Extreme dizziness
- Feeling extremely confused/disoriented
When people inject, smoke, or snort fentanyl, it’s very hard to control the dose, increasing your chances of overdose and dependency. When your body and brain become dependent on fentanyl, you will experience signs of withdrawal when you try to stop or cut back on using the drug. Symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal include:
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose
- Suddenly feeling too hot and then too cold
- Difficulty sleeping
- Body pain
Because fentanyl is so addictive, withdrawal can take a long time and be extremely uncomfortable. Often, the symptoms of withdrawal are so harsh that people feel as if they have no other choice but to continue using fentanyl to counter them. This is why seeking help at an addiction treatment facility is so important. Addiction specialists will administer other medications that can help with pain management during fentanyl withdrawal, allowing the client to comfortably come off the drug and acclimate to life without using it, greatly increasing their chances of recovery.
To learn more about Zinnia Health’s fentanyl addiction rehab programs,click here.
Zinnia Health Can Help
If you’re struggling to overcome a fentanyl addiction, it’s important to know that help is available. At Zinnia Health, our team of compassionate and caring addiction counselors is dedicated to giving our clients the treatment they need so they can get their lives back on track. We offer a customized approach to treatment at our facilities around the country.
Call our helpline 24/7 at (855) 430-9439 to get started, orreach out to us online.