Understanding the Risk for Fentanyl Overdose

Editorial Team

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Understanding the Risk for Fentanyl Overdose

The Midwest Medical Examiner’s office cited the death of rock musician Prince in 2016 as an “accidental overdose of self-administered fentanyl.” While tragic, his passing represents only one of the 28,000 equally lamentable deaths from the synthetic opiate that occurred in the United States in 2017.

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection notes that doctors prescribe it for severe pain after surgery or terminal diseases. However, the production of illicitly manufactured fentanyl that users may buy illegally can contain heroin or cocaine that increases the risk for fentanyl overdose. There is also the concern that fentanyl has been found in opioid tablets, cocaine or heroin where the user isn’t aware of the fentanyl.


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Considering the Risk of Fentanyl Overdoses

The potency of fentanyl at about 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times more than heroine gives it a “high abuse potential.” Fentanyl use affects everyone differently, but some people have a greater risk of overdose than others. Addiction to opiates can make someone take a bigger dose and more frequently than prescribed in order to experience a euphoric high. In combinations of ingredients that include both heroin or cocaine, illegal fentanyl increases the likelihood of overdose from snorting, injecting or smoking it.

A desire to achieve a euphoric effect may lead recreational users to abuse fentanyl and risk overdose more easily than patients who have a prescription for it to control pain. Anyone who chooses to use fentanyl from illegal laboratories has no way to know the dosage or quality of fentanyl in the product. The uncertainty and lack of knowledge increase the likelihood of an overdose by people who have no way to know what to expect from a dose. By mixing fentanyl with other drugs, users can greatly increase the chance of an overdose occurring.

Opiates that include oxycodone, heroin and hydrocodone or stimulants such as methamphetamine and cocaine significantly enhance the power of fentanyl and the accompanying overdose risk. Benzodiazepines and other pharmaceutical drugs, as well as alcohol, can alter the composition of a dose and increase the risk of a potentially hazardous outcome.

Anyone who uses fentanyl enough to develop a tolerance for it runs a risk of taking larger and larger doses to get the desired effect, a potential path to overdosing. Similarly, a lack of tolerance can result when users take a break but later relapse. The lack of use can produce an inability to handle a dose that had not created a problem previously. As an escape from social, financial or health concerns, some people may increase an overdose risk by becoming compulsive users.

Reviewing the Facts about Use

The increase in the rate of opioid-related deaths poses considerable concerns to the medical community. In 2010, involvement with fentanyl accounted for 14.3 percent of opioid-related deaths, an alarming statistic that poses a great risk for anyone who uses illicit drugs. However, the situation became much more serious with the increase of opioid-related deaths to 59 percent in 2017.

The drug works faster and in smaller doses than either morphine or heroin, increasing the risk for fentanyl overdose. It best serves patients who need pain relief under medical supervision with a patch, in a lozenge or as an injection. Abuse of fentanyl presents a severe danger to anyone who has no tolerance for opioids. While anyone who uses it takes significant risks, the danger increases for those who cannot tolerate it. Symptoms that indicate abuse include these unpleasant reactions amid the feelings of euphoria:

  • headaches and dizziness
  • slow breathing
  • seizures
  • nausea
  • constipation
  • vomiting

Some illegal labs produce the drug as illicit powders that users can smoke, inject or snort to absorb. Legitimate manufacturers provide transdermal patches, tablets and intravenous liquids for injections in a medical environment.

Finding Help

Springboard Recovery can provide the guidance that you need when you face a tough struggle with addiction or fentanyl use. Our compassionate approach accepts you as a unique individual who will benefit from our personal approach to addiction recovery. You deserve our understanding and ability to help you conquer your addiction once and for all.

Our supervised treatment can prevent the risk of overdosing as you achieve sobriety with safe detox and holistic healing. Call Springboard Recovery today to find a path out of the dangers that threaten your well-being.


  1. USA Today: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2018/04/20/princes-death-new-photos-video-show-singer-day-before-he-died/535971002/
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/fentanyl
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine
  6. United States Drug Enforcement Administration: https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/fentanyl
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/fentanyl.html
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/index.html
  9. Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/drug-tolerance
  10. Verywell mind: https://www.verywellmind.com/why-did-i-relapse-21900

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MAY 26, 2019

Robert Castan is a member of the Executive Leadership Team at SpringBoard Recovery. Robert started his professional career as a house manager and has become an industry leader and trusted voice in the treatment world. He brings extensive knowledge of organizational growth, industry-leading outcomes, and comprehensive marketing to SpringBoard Recovery. Robert has been walking his own path of recovery for over 10 years. This path has truly driven his ambition to help make treatment available to others who are struggling with addiction. Robert finds great joy in traveling and keeping physically active, with an emphasis on biking. Robert resides in Arizona with his husband and two four-legged children.   The U.S. Alcohol Crisis, Still Deadlier Than the Opioid Epidemic   Zombies and Other Future Threats to the Health of American Youth Dire Mental Health: A Catalyst for Post-Pandemic Drug Addiction The Benefits of Rehab Center Staff Working Their Own Recovery Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Robert Castan on Successful Addiction Treatment and Entrepreneurship Castan: The road less traveled of addiction & recovery in Scottsdale Opioids & COVID Driving Phoenix’s Rising Fatal Drug Overdoses Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Successful Addiction Treatment Programs & Entrepreneurship

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