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Can You Smoke Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a prescription opioid that is incredibly potent. It is typically only prescribed to individuals with severe pain, most commonly after surgery. While fentanyl is approved for medicinal use by the FDA, it is also made and abused illegally.

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF) is highly potent and seriously unpredictable. Because it is not created in a regulated manner, there is no way to tell how potent the substance is. Even worse, IMF is often mixed into other substances and used as an adulterant to increase profit and widen a dealer’s customer base.

Because people often accidentally ingest fentanyl while taking other substances, this drug is responsible for thousands of overdose deaths. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (primarily fentanyl) continue to rise with 70,601 overdose deaths reported in 2021.”[1]

While it is more common for individuals to accidentally abuse fentanyl, some people may begin intentionally using the drug once they have built a tolerance to other opioids like heroin. Any form of fentanyl abuse is dangerous, however, smoking fentanyl will increase your risk of experiencing a fatal overdose.

The Effects of Fentanyl Abuse

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin.[2] However, the exact potency of illicitly manufactured fentanyl is unclear, as the individuals creating this substance are not adhering to guidelines.

The effects of fentanyl include:

  • Relaxation
  • Euphoria
  • Pain relief
  • Sedation
  • Drowsiness and dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Urinary retention
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Respiratory depression

Fentanyl is so potent that only 2mg can be a fatal dose depending on your body size, opioid tolerance, and history of substance abuse.[3] If you have been intentionally abusing fentanyl for some time, you may be able to abuse more than 2mg without overdosing. However, there is usually no way to determine how potent the fentanyl is unless you are receiving a prescription from a doctor.

How Do You Smoke Fentanyl?

If you are abusing fentanyl intentionally, you may begin to develop a tolerance. Oftentimes, people who develop a tolerance to a drug will change the method of administration to increase the potency of the substance. For example, if you become tolerant of swallowing fentanyl, you might begin to smoke it.

Illicitly-manufactured fentanyl comes in two forms: powder and counterfeit tablets. People who smoke fentanyl tablets crush the substance into a powder, place it on foil, light the substance with a lighter, and then inhale the smoke through a straw. The process is the same for powdered fentanyl, however, it does not need to be crushed as it’s already in powder form.

Why Is Smoking Fentanyl Dangerous?

When you smoke any substance, it enters your brain faster. According to the University of Utah, “Research has shown that the faster a drug reaches the brain, the more likely it is to be addicting.”[4]

Not only is fentanyl more addictive when you smoke it, but it’s also more potent. This means that the effects of the substance are substantially increased, making you more likely to experience an overdose.

Additionally, because smoking fentanyl requires you to crush up a pill to smoke the powder, it becomes more difficult to control the dosage you are ingesting. This could cause you to accidentally take too much fentanyl at once, increasing your likelihood of overdosing on fentanyl even further.

Not to mention, smoking any substance long-term can cause serious harm to your respiratory system. Even if you do not experience an overdose from smoking fentanyl, you will eventually develop lung damage that requires extensive treatment.

How to Spot a Fentanyl Overdose

Whether you are intentionally abusing the drug or come across a substance laced with fentanyl, your risk of overdosing is substantial. If you or a loved one frequently abuse any substance, it’s important to be aware of the signs of a fentanyl overdose.

The symptoms of a fentanyl overdose include:[3]

  • Stupor
  • Changes in pupillary size
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Cyanosis (blue discoloration of the skin)
  • Respiratory failure leading to death
  • Coma

If you believe someone is overdosing on fentanyl, you must immediately contact emergency medical services. Additionally, if you have access to Narcan (naloxone), you should administer the medication as quickly as possible. Naloxone is a life-saving opioid reversal medication that can prevent someone from dying when they experience a fentanyl overdose.

Find Help for Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction

If you or a loved one frequently abuse fentanyl, you are at a high risk of experiencing a fatal overdose. Because fentanyl is associated with severe symptoms of withdrawal, recovering from addiction on your own is nearly impossible. The best choice is always to seek assistance from a drug and alcohol rehab center near you.

To learn about our fentanyl addiction treatment program or to find help for yourself or a loved one, contact South Carolina Addiction Treatment Center today.

References:

  1. http://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
  2. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Fentanyl-2020_0.pdf
  3. https://www.dea.gov/resources/facts-about-fentanyl
  4. https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/addiction/delivery

Medically Reviewed: November 21, 2023

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

About

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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