In the past 10 years, rising rates of fentanyl abuse have fueled a dramatic increase in overdose deaths throughout the United States. While fentanyl abuse has become a significant public health crisis, many people are unaware of basic facts about this drug, such as how long does fentanyl stay in your system, what are the signs of fentanyl abuse, and is fentanyl addiction a treatable condition?
How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your System?
The answer to the question, How long does fentanyl stay in your system? isn’t as straightforward as you might think.
Several factors, including a person’s weight and metabolism as well as how much fentanyl they’ve used, can influence the length of time the drug remains in their system. The answer can also vary depending on what type of test is used to detect the drug.
With that in mind, if you’ve been wondering how long does fentanyl remain in your system, here are a few general estimates:
- The half-life of fentanyl is three to seven hours. It typically takes four to five half-lives for a drug to fall below detectable levels in a person’s system. Using this formula, fentanyl can stay in your system from 12 to 35 hours.
- Fentanyl can show up in a blood test for up to two days (48 hours) after the last time you ingested the drug.
- If you take a urine test that screens for fentanyl, the drug may be detectable for up to three days (or 72 hours). Even though the actual fentanyl may be out of your system by then, a urine test can detect a metabolite called norfentanyl, which is only present after a person has used fentanyl.
- A hair follicle test can detect evidence of fentanyl use up to 90 days after the last time you used the drug.
- Studies indicate that fentanyl is typically undetectable via a saliva test, regardless of how recently a person has used the drug.
Signs of Fentanyl Abuse
Since it is illegal to possess or use fentanyl without a prescription, people who abuse this drug often go to great lengths to hide what they’ve been doing. However, given fentanyl’s potency, it’s difficult to conceal its impact. For example, the following are among the more common signs that someone is under the influence of fentanyl:
- Dramatic elevation of mood
- Confusion and disorientation
- Weakness, exhaustion, and lethargy
- Slowed breathing and heart rate
- Difficulty staying awake
- Frequent scratching due to persistent itchiness
Please note that there is no such thing as safe fentanyl abuse. Even in a supervised medical environment, fentanyl use can be dangerous. Every time someone abuses this drug for recreational purposes, they put themselves at risk for catastrophic, potentially irreversible damage.
For example, in 2021 alone, more than 70,000 overdose deaths in the United States involved synthetic opioids other than methadone (a category that is composed primarily of fentanyl). This equates to more than 190 deaths every day.
Death isn’t the only danger associated with fentanyl abuse. For those who survive their fentanyl use, each time they repeat this behavior they risk becoming addicted to the drug.
Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction
It’s important to understand that fentanyl abuse and fentanyl addiction are not the same thing.
Fentanyl abuse refers to any use of this drug without a prescription and proper professional oversight. In other words, fentanyl abuse is a behavior.
If a person continues to engage in fentanyl abuse, they can develop an addiction. Fentanyl addiction is an illness that is characterized by a loss of control and an inability to stop using the drug.
When someone becomes addicted to fentanyl, they may begin to exhibit signs such as:
- Trying to buy, borrow, or steal fentanyl that was prescribed to someone else.
- Visiting several doctors and lying about symptoms in order to get multiple prescriptions for fentanyl.
- Spending significant amounts of time seeking, acquiring, using, and recovering from the effects of fentanyl.
- Becoming agitated or irritated when they’re not able to use fentanyl.
- Using fentanyl in exceedingly hazardous ways, such as by combining it with other drugs.
- Continuing to use fentanyl even after incurring physical, psychological, or social damage as a result of prior use.
- Prioritizing fentanyl use over their responsibilities at home, in school, or at work.
- Developing tolerance, which means they need to use larger amounts of fentanyl to achieve the effects they are seeking.
- Going through withdrawal, which can include experiencing painful physical and psychological symptoms, when they try to stop using fentanyl or they are incapable of acquiring more of the drug.
It’s no exaggeration to describe fentanyl addiction as a life-threatening condition. Anyone who has become addicted to this drug needs immediate professional help. With the right type and level of care, people can end their fentanyl use and build a healthier life in recovery.
Begin Fentanyl Addiction Treatment in Massachusetts
When you are trapped in the downward spiral of compulsive fentanyl abuse, it can feel like there’s no possible escape. Please know that this is not the case. If you have become dependent on fentanyl or any other substance, Lake Avenue Recovery can help you find your path toward a drug-free future.
Located in Worcester, Massachusetts, Lake Avenue Recovery is a trusted provider of personalized outpatient care for adults whose lives have been disrupted by addictions and certain co-occurring mental illnesses. When you choose our center, you can expect to receive customized, evidence-based services from skilled professionals who embody the principles of CURE: Compassion, Understanding, Respect, and Empathy.
To learn more about how we can help you or someone that you care about, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact Us page or call us today.