Fentanyl Overdose: What to Do and How to Recognize It

Learn the symptoms of fentanyl overdose. Essence Healthcare provides treatment for fentanyl addiction.

Understanding Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug that is commonly prescribed for pain management. It is very potent and can be highly addictive. This article will explore the signs and symptoms of fentanyl overdose. We will learn what fentanyl is, addiction risk factors, symptoms of using fentanyl, and overdose symptoms. Finally, we will cover treatment options for people who have experienced fentanyl overdose.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that has a similar chemical structure to other opioid drugs such as heroin and morphine. It is used medically for severe pain relief, such as during cancer treatment, surgery, or palliative care. 

Fentanyl is also used illegally. It is sometimes used to lace other drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, to increase their potency.

Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl is more powerful than other opioids. It is highly addictive and can cause physical dependence. Fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). 

The drug’s medical use is heavily regulated to prevent misuse and abuse. Despite these regulations, fentanyl misuse is a significant public health concern.

Risk Factors

Individuals are more likely to become addicted to fentanyl if they have:
Knowing the risks of addiction and fentanyl overdose can help people make better choices about their health and seek out help.1

Fentanyl Overdose

Fentanyl overdose is a serious and life-threatening event. The risk of overdosing on fentanyl is high, particularly when it is used recreationally or with other drugs or alcohol. The amount of fentanyl needed to cause an overdose can vary depending on a person’s tolerance, the purity of the drug, and other factors.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States in 2020 more than 69,000 people died from overdoses of synthetic drugs like fentanyl. That is more than half of all overdose deaths that year. Deaths from fentanyl overdose rose by nearly 64% from 2019 to 2020, according to the same data.2

Fentanyl Overdose Symptoms

If someone takes too much fentanyl, it can cause different symptoms. Fentanyl overdose can result in death if the person does not receive care in time. 

Here are some ways to recognize fentanyl overdose:2

  • Small, pinpoint pupils
  • Lips and nails turning blue or purple
  • Cold and sweaty skin
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Feeling sleepy or unable to wake up
  • Passing out

What to Do in Case of Fentanyl Overdose

Naloxone is a drug that can undo the dangerous effects of opioids. If you or someone you know uses opioids like fentanyl or heroin recreationally, keeping naloxone nearby can save a life. 

If you witness someone experiencing fentanyl overdose, here is what you should do:2

  1. Call 911
  2. If possible, administer naloxone
  3. Help the person to stay awake and breathing
  4. Lay the person on their side to prevent choking
  5. Stay with the person until help arrives

If you or a loved one are struggling with fentanyl addiction, don’t wait to get help. There are different treatment options available

Professionals help patients to safely stop taking fentanyl in inpatient or outpatient treatment. Talking to a therapist can also help. Even after treatment, it’s important to continue getting support for recovery.

Laced Drugs and Fentanyl Overdose

Laced drugs, particularly drugs laced with fentanyl, are a significant public health concern. Laced drugs are mixed or “cut” with other substances without the user’s knowledge. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is often added to heroin, cocaine, and other drugs to increase their potency.3

Fentanyl is incredibly potent and can be deadly even in small amounts. The risk of overdose increases significantly when fentanyl is present in another drug. The symptoms of a fentanyl-laced drug overdose can be difficult to diagnose and treat since they can vary depending on the drug and the amount of fentanyl present.
People who use illegal drugs should be cautious about where they get them from. It’s important to avoid using drugs alone. Make sure naloxone is available in case of fentanyl overdose.


It’s important to note that lacing is not limited to illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Prescription drugs have also been found to be laced with fentanyl. Make sure you purchase prescription medication from reliable sources.

To avoid the risk of fentanyl overdose, it’s best not to use drugs at all without a prescription. If you or someone you know is having a hard time stopping, it’s important to get help. Treatment for addiction can reduce the chances of overdosing and lead to a healthy recovery.

Treatment and Recovery

It’s important to get help and support after surviving a fentanyl overdose. Here are some of the treatment options that may be recommended:4
  • Medical detox: It is often the first step in the treatment process and involves removing the drug from the person’s system while managing withdrawal symptoms.
  • Inpatient treatment: This type of treatment provides 24-hour care in a residential setting and may include individual therapy, group therapy, and medication-assisted treatment.
  • Outpatient treatment: This type of treatment allows individuals to receive care while continuing to live at home. It may involve counseling, medication management, and support groups.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of therapy that helps individuals identify and change negative thinking and behavior patterns. It can be effective in treating addiction and preventing relapse.
  • Support groups: Groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or SMART Recovery offer support and encouragement to individuals in recovery.
  • Aftercare: Aftercare is a critical component of recovery and may include ongoing therapy, support groups, and medication management.
fentanyl overdose

Find Help at Essence Healthcare

If you or someone you love has survived a fentanyl overdose, it is important to get professional help so it never happens again. Essence Healthcare is a great option for your journey to recovery.

Our team of medical professionals is experienced and trained in treating fentanyl addiction and overdose. We provide personalized care and support to all individuals in a safe and compassionate environment.

Personalized, Sustainable Healing

At Essence Healthcare, we offer a range of treatment options so you can make the best choice for your particular situation. We provide medical detox, inpatient and outpatient treatment, therapy, and aftercare. We do everything possible to ensure our clients receive the support they need to recover from addiction.

We understand that recovery is a long-term process. We promise to provide ongoing support to individuals on their journey to sobriety. At Essence Healthcare, we are committed to helping people overcome addiction and live a healthy, fulfilling life.

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.