27 Mar Fentanyl Abuse Statistics
With the massive increase of fentanyl hitting the streets, many people are interested in learning more about the synthetic opiate and associated fentanyl abuse statistics. Because the rise in fentanyl is a fairly new phenomenon, fentanyl is often misunderstood.
Most people know that fentanyl is a synthetic opiate painkiller responsible for an increase in recent overdose deaths, but not many people know about fentanyl’s history as a painkiller designed to treat terminal patients and those with chronic pain disorders.
In this article, our Georgia drug rehab experts will explain what fentanyl is, why it’s so dangerous to individuals and society, and some fentanyl statistics that will keep you safe and informed. Whether you need fentanyl rehab yourself or you’re looking for a loved one, this article is for you.
What is Fentanyl?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine.” NIDA goes on to say that though similar to morphine, fentanyl is much stronger and has some particular characteristics that make it more dangerous to users.
Though legally prescribed by medical doctors, fentanyl is easily made in illegal labs and distributed on the black market. Though there isn’t a huge market for fentanyl itself, it’s popular among drug dealers as a substitute for other opiates and as a cutting agent in other drugs.
A cutting agent is a substance used to either dilute a drug or, in this case, make it stronger with a cheaper drug. For example, drug dealers often add fentanyl to heroin as fentanyl is cheaper and stronger.
The danger is that fentanyl has an extremely high overdose potential because of its potency. This is only made more dangerous by the fact that the end user doesn’t know they’re taking a fentanyl laced drug.
How is Fentanyl Used?
This pain medication is used similarly to other opiates. When prescribed by a doctor, it can be used as a shot, a patch worn on the skin, or as a lozenge. The administration method is chosen by the doctor depending on the specifics of the patients’ condition.
When fentanyl is used illegally, it can come in many potent forms. It can be placed on paper that is absorbed by the tongue, dissolved in eye droppers or nasal sprays, pressed into pills that often look like other prescription medications, or sold as a powder.
As mentioned, a lot of fentanyl makes its way into other drugs. So fentanyl is taken (often unknowingly) with drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA.
Why Worry About Fentanyl Abuse?
Fentanyl abuse in Georgia and across the US is steeply on the rise. You’ll learn the specifics in the statistics section below, but to give you an idea of just how bad fentanyl abuse is becoming, it’s acknowledged that the recent rise in drug overdoses driven largely by the introduction of synthetic opiates like fentanyl is responsible for the decrease in the US’s life expectancy.
Here are some of the side effects of fentanyl abuse:
- Extreme drowsiness or fatigue
- Confusion or foggy thinking
- Stiff, rigid muscles and trouble moving
- Physical weakness
- Extreme itching and scratching
- Shallow, irregular, and constricted breathing
- Slow or irregular heartbeat
- Dry mouth
- Nausea or vomiting
- Addiction and withdrawal
- Overdose, serious medical complications, or death
As you can see, some of the side effects are minor while some are extreme and can include death or other serious medical complications. These effects mostly focus on the user, but as most people know, addiction is a disease that truly affects those close to the user and the surrounding community.
Some of the social effects of fentanyl abuse include:
- Withdrawn behavior leading to estrangement from loved ones
- Lying to loved ones or stealing from loved ones
- Neglecting social obligations in favor of obtaining, using, or recovering from fentanyl
- The inability to fulfill major and minor life responsibilities
- Giving up activities that were once very important to them
- Change in behavior resulting in further estrangement
The scary thing about the social side effects of fentanyl abuse is that it’s known that overcoming an addiction is much easier with the support of a community. Many users fall into the trap of estranging their friends and family and replacing them with other users who support and enable their habit.
This is one reason why attending a drug detox center is so important when going through withdrawal. At a drug detox center like Georgia Drug Detox, you’ll have trained professionals there to keep you accountable when the cravings start to really hit. Plus, they can give you medications and other forms of therapy that will reduce cravings and increase your comfort. The fentanyl withdrawal timeline will range in symptoms and severity depending on the individual. However, having a supportive team guiding you through the process can set you up for long-term recovery.
Fentanyl’s Effects on the Brain
There are many short and long-term effects of fentanyl on the brain. Fentanyl interacts with the brain like other opioid drugs. This means fentanyl works by binding to brain receptors called opioid receptors. These opioid receptors are found in the part of the brain responsible for controlling pain, emotions, reward, and motivation.
After taking fentanyl or other opioids regularly, the brain adapts to the drug and the user builds what is called a tolerance. Tolerance makes it so the user requires more of the drug to feel the same effects.
But because fentanyl is changing the part of the brain that seeks reward and motivation, use of fentanyl can also diminish sensitivity and make it hard for users to feel pleasure from anything besides taking the drug.
This is why one of the signs of addiction is when a user no longer finds joy or pleasure in things they used to love. It also creates a vicious cycle in which drug addiction only worsens.
Fentanyl Abuse Statistics
The following is a list of fentanyl abuse statistics. Some of these are startling while others are extremely scary and disturbing. For more fentanyl statistics and information, scroll to the bottom of the page for fentanyl resources.
- As mentioned fentanyl is very similar to morphine, though much stronger and more potent. In fact, fentanyl is known to be 80-100 times stronger than its morphine counterpart. It’s also 50 times stronger than the non-synthetic opiate heroin. This is one of the reasons for its toxicity and the prevalence of overdose. Just two to three milligrams of fentanyl is enough to cause an overdose in most people.
- According to the DEA, reports on fentanyl increased from nearly 5,400 in 2014 to over 14,600 in 2015. In 2016, this number jumped again by 141 percent bringing the yearly reports up to 37,158. This is a huge increase leading some people to call this an unprecedented opiate crisis in the United States. Health and law enforcement officials are still struggling to try to figure out the appropriate response to this crisis. Though some have predicted a plateauing of fentanyl and other opioid-related deaths, Vice Dean at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the former secretary of health and mental hygiene in Maryland said, “The concept of a plateau doesn’t fill me with a lot of optimism, given how high the numbers are. The numbers are so staggering.”
- There are dozens of types of fentanyl and fentanyl-related chemicals (alpha-methylthiofentanyl, thiofentanyl, beta-hydroxyfentanyl, para- uorofentanyl, and 3-methylfentanyl just to name a few). This creates variations in potency and absorption rate, making it even more dangerous for those using the drug.
- Fentanyl-related chemicals have been trafficked in the US since the 1970s. It wasn’t until 2013, when law enforcement officials noticed a large resurgence in the prevalence of fentanyl and other synthetic-opiates, that it became a huge problem.
- Since 2013, when law enforcement officials saw a large increase in the amount of fentanyl on the streets, fentanyl-related deaths have increased from 3,000 to 28,000 a year. That’s over a 900% increase in less than a decade.
- Due to the increase in fentanyl and other drug overdose deaths, the US’s life expectancy has fallen for the last three years. That’s the first time it’s fallen since World War II. In fact, drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of death for adults under 50. This is a huge concern for public officials and anyone with children. Slowing down and ultimately stopping fentanyl use would save tens of thousands of lives every year.
- According to the DEA, fentanyl is “widely available throughout the United States, with all DEA FDs [field divisions] reporting accessibility.” Fentanyl is also known to affect every socioeconomic class. This means that every community is at risk of the ravages of fentanyl abuse.
- Though available throughout the US, some states have been hit harder by fentanyl than others. For example, in New Hampshire, over 80% of all overdose deaths were caused by fentanyl between 2015 and 2017. In other states, such as New Mexico, fentanyl was only responsible for around 15% of the overdose deaths. The Northeast, Midwest, and mid-Atlantic are the areas that have been most severely affected. Learn more.
- Fentanyl availability is increasing, both in total amount and geographical diversity. According to the DEA, “Eleven out of 21 DEA FDs surveyed indicated fentanyl availability was “high” during the first half of 2017, meaning fentanyl was easily obtained at any time… The other ten FDs were split evenly between reporting fentanyl as having either “moderate” or “low” availability.” The FDs that reported “high” availability are Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New England, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, St. Lous, and Washington.
- Fentanyl is considered the most dangerous drug in America. In fact, in 2018, the CDC stated that fentanyl was the drug most commonly associated with overdose deaths in the US. While shocking, it’s important to note that most overdose deaths involve more than one drug. For example, nearly one-third of all fentanyl-related deaths involved heroin and two out of five cocaine-related deaths involved fentanyl. Many of these deaths occur because the user doesn’t know they’re taking fentanyl in the first place.
- In 2017, the DEA seized 66 kilograms of fentanyl from an apartment in Queens, New York. Fentanyl is known to be lethal in doses under 3 milligrams. That means that the 66 kilograms seized are more than enough to kill all 20 million people living in the state of New York.
Recovering From Fentanyl Addiction
The road to recovery isn’t always easy, but with the help of trained medical professionals, most users can detox safely and effectively. Fentanyl detox is often performed as a two-phase process.
Phase one is spent at a qualified drug detox center, such as Georgia Detox. During this phase, the user will stop using fentanyl and undergo withdrawal symptoms. Generally, the user is weaned off fentanyl with the aid of medications designed to reduce cravings and other withdrawal symptoms.
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can include extreme mood swings, anxiety, paranoia, confusion, spasms, extreme itching, fatigue, vomiting, and more. Being at a drug detox center ensures the patient will be safe during their recovery. It also greatly boosts their chance of recovering without relapse. Detoxing and undergoing withdrawal alone is dangerous and generally unsuccessful. It’s often too easy for a user to find and use drugs to end their withdrawal pain.
Phase two is spent at a drug treatment center where daily group and individual therapies are designed to address the underlying psychological conditions and habits that influence an individual’s drug use and abuse.
This time is spent learning how to live a drug-free life in a structured, drug-free environment. Though Phase one withdrawal and detox is the most intense part of the recovery process, phase two involves a lot of hard work of changing habits that often go back to a person’s childhood or adolescence.
During Phase two, a patient may be required to take medication alongside their therapy. These medications generally help reduce craving and post withdrawal symptoms. Post withdrawal symptoms are much less intense than withdrawal symptoms, but can be difficult to manage and often drive a recovering addict to relapse.
If you need fentanyl rehab, Our Georgia Drug rehab center can help. Often, asking for help is the most difficult part of the journey. For more information on how to find a fentanyl treatment center in Georgia or to learn about the treatment options, contact our center today.
NIDA. “Fentanyl.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 28 Feb. 2019,
https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl. Accessed MAr. 2019.
DEA. Drugs of Abuse: A DEA Resource Guide. U.S. Department of Justice, 2017,
Katz, Josh, and Margot Sanger-katz. “’The Numbers Are So Staggering.’ Overdose Deaths Set a
Record Last Year.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 29 Nov. 2018, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/29/upshot/fentanyl-drug-overdose-deaths.html. Accessed Mar. 2019.
DEA. “2018 National Drug Threat Assessment.” U.S. Department of Justice, 2018,