Drug and Alcohol - Opioid Addiction

Fentanyl: How Long Does Fentanyl Stay In Your System?

How long does fentanyl stay in your system? For many people, long enough to kill them. Learn more about fentanyl and drug tests in our blog.

Fentanyl: How Long Does Fentanyl Stay In Your System?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

June 10, 2023

The Forge Recovery Center

Opioids like fentanyl have become a major reason behind the drug overdose deaths of tens of thousands of Americans. Vastly more powerful than morphine and heroin, fentanyl has all but taken over most drug markets.

More alarmingly, fentanyl is often found contaminating other drugs. Many people who overdose on fentanyl may not have realized they were taking the drug in the first place. If you or a loved one are caught up in fentanyl addiction, let us be clear: this drug is incredibly dangerous.

If you’re thinking about seeking help for fentanyl, knowing how long fentanyl stays in your system can help you understand your addiction, drug tests, and even how long fentanyl withdrawal symptoms take to come on.

Stats About Fentanyl

The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS) states that in the United States of America alone, more than 50,000 people lose their lives every year due to opioid overdoses driven by synthetic opioids like fentanyl. They also mention that as many as 10 million people misuse opioid drugs like fentanyl yearly.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid painkiller and one of the strongest drugs on the planet. Before we go on, it’s important to note that there are two basic types of fentanyl.

Pharmaceutical Fentanyl

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is used to treat chronic pain due to surgery, injuries, or chronic diseases like cancer. There are several different forms of pharmaceutical fentanyl used legitimately:

  • Abstral: These are fentanyl tablets placed under the tongue.

  • Actiq: This is a lozenge form of fentanyl that resembles a lollipop. It’s placed under the tongue.

  • Duragesic: This is a skin patch containing fentanyl that is slowly absorbed into the skin.

  • Fentora: These are tablets placed between the gum line and the cheek.

  • Lazanda: This is a nasal spray form of fentanyl.

  • Subsys: This is a fentanyl spray that is sprayed under a patient’s tongue.

Pharmaceutical fentanyl can also be injected.

However, most of the fentanyl on the street – and which drives the overdose crisis – is not pharmaceutical fentanyl.

Illicit Fentanyl

Most of the fentanyl on the street is produced in underground labs outside the US. It’s then smuggled into the country and distributed among drug dealers. Illicit fentanyl is often sold as other drugs too – there are many reports of fentanyl being sold as other drugs, being used in counterfeit pills, or being used as a cutting agent for cocaine and heroin.

Many people who overdose on fentanyl aren’t even aware that’s the drug they’re taking. All forms of opioid abuse have become much more dangerous in the last couple of decades.

Illicit Fentanyl is distributed through illegal manufacturers. They often contaminate the drug using cheap ingredients and sometimes add other drugs to increase the potency. This makes it even more addictive, cheaper, and very dangerous. Even a single dose can develop into fentanyl addiction.

A Short History of Fentanyl

Fentanyl was first synthesized in 1960 by a Belgian chemist, Dr. Paul Janssen, founder of Janssen Pharmaceutical. Jansen’s team created a drug fifty times more potent than heroin and a hundred times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) around 1968 and became available for public use in 1972.

Fentanyl was widely used in the 70s and 80s for cardiac and vascular surgeries. Since then, some incidents of overdose and misuse have started getting reported. By 1979 fentanyl started to get illegally synthesized in illegal laboratories. From the 2000s, fentanyl's primary use became an analgesic to manage severe pain-related conditions.

However, despite helping thousands of patients with their problems, Fentanyl has become a significant cause of concern. 

The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics states that fentanyl was the cause of death by overdose in nearly 53% of overdose cases. More than 42,700 fentanyl overdose deaths in the country were reported in 2020 alone.

A Short History of Opioids

The words opioid and opiate come from the term opium, from which they are derived (or chemically based). Opium, also known as poppy tears, is a natural source obtained from a flowering plant known as the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). Opium is dried-up latex extracted from the plant's seed capsule.

Opium cultivation can be dated back to 2400 BC. People in Mesopotamia used to cultivate opium, and Sumerians used to call it the “joy plant.” The Father of Medicine, aka Hippocrates, thought that opium could be useful as a narcotic drug. He even prescribed drinking a beverage or juice made with white poppy and nettle seed in the years around 460-357 BC.

It has also been said that the king of Macedonia, Alexander the Great, also made use of opium as he went on to conquer and expand his empire. Many other ethnicities, including Arabs, Romans, and Greeks, used opium as a sedative. 

There are various types of opioids, including fentanyl, codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and more.

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What are Street Names for Fentanyl?

Fentanyl has many street names. They include:

  • Apache

  • China Girl

  • Dance Fever

  • Goodfellas

  • Murder 8

  • Tango & Cash

How Does Fentanyl Work?

Fentanyl works the same way other opioids do. It binds with areas on nerve cells called opioid receptors. When this happens, it changes the way the body sends messages, which is why fentanyl works as a painkiller. However, this reaction also causes the body to release a neurotransmitter called dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical used in the body’s reward system. When we do things that further our existence, like eating, reproducing, and exercising, we feel good because our nervous system is releasing small amounts of dopamine into our system. Fentanyl turns that small release into a flood, meaning a person on fentanyl can feel euphoric.

Again, this is how all opioids work. Fentanyl is dangerous because of its strength. Opioids slow down certain body processes when they’re used, like breathing. Fentanyl is so strong, even a small amount of it can slow down a person’s breathing so much that they suffocate.

This is even more likely if a person mixes fentanyl with other drugs, like alcohol.

How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your System?

Fentanyl is a Schedule II-controlled substance that can leave traces in the system for a long time. Many variables are involved to properly estimate the time fentanyl will take to flush out the system. Most of these factors are mentioned below.

Factors that influence when fentanyl will be removed from the system are:

  • Age

  • Weight

  • Gender

  • How long a person has been using fentanyl

  • The method by which they’ve been taking fentanyl

  • Organ health and other individual physiology

The half-life of Fentanyl also helps in estimating the time it will take to flush Fentanyl out of the system.

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What is Fentanyl’s Half-Life?

The half-life of any drug is essential in finding how much time it will take to be eliminated from the system. The half-life of a drug is how long it takes for half of a dose to be metabolized by the body. This half-life can change from one body to another because elimination and bodily processes will differ in every person. It has been noticed that a shorter half-life generally leads to more withdrawal symptoms.

This is the case with Fentanyl too. Fentanyl's half-life is around three to seven hours, shorter than many other drug substances.

So, an individual may experience more withdrawal effects.  

How Long Does Fentanyl Take to Be Effective?

This question largely depends on how a person uses fentanyl. Fentanyl in the form of nasal sprays, tablets, and lozenges can take fifteen to thirty minutes for the effects to kick in. Fentanyl will stay in the body for around four to six hours, but traces can remain. The fentanyl patch has a slow-release mechanism, so the effects can take one or two days to appear. They naturally last for a longer time.

The shortest and quickest way fentanyl becomes active is through injections. It takes around sixty seconds to kick in and peaks around two to four minutes after use. 

How Long Can Drug Tests Detect Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a powerful drug that can show up in drug tests even months after its last dose. Knowing how long fentanyl can be detected in a drug test can be critical in helping someone get treated for fentanyl addiction.

Many factors also determine how long drug tests can detect fentanyl. The following times are just estimations:

Fentanyl Blood Test

A blood test can detect fentanyl for five to 48 hours after it was last used.

Fentanyl Urine Test

Urine tests can detect fentanyl for up to three days after it was last used.

Fentanyl Saliva Test

Saliva tests really can’t detect fentanyl at all.

Fentanyl Hair Follicle Test

Hair follicle drug tests can detect fentanyl for up to three months.

Recovery from Fentanyl Addiction

Addiction to a potent substance like fentanyl requires proper treatment. The signs and symptoms of it cannot be ignored. Overlooking them won’t just damage a person’s mental and physical health – fentanyl addiction is often lethal. It is essential to get yourself or a loved one treated. If you or someone you care about are struggling with Fentanyl or any form of addiction, seeking help is vital.

Fentanyl addiction, like any other form of addiction, is a treatable condition. There is a standard form of treatment available throughout the country. Yes, most rehabs practice individualized treatment, but there is still uniformity in the whole process.

One of the first steps in the treatment is medical drug detox. This is a procedure in which a patient is taken off the drug slowly and steadily with the help of medication. 

Going “cold turkey” can do more harm than good because an individual may experience severe withdrawal symptoms. This is why most drug rehabs use drug detox. This will be followed by a comprehensive treatment program that can be provided in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

Then, the main treatment follows up with aftercare programs. These plans are generally voluntary but can be essential for long-term recovery.

In addition, they can help strengthen the overall process so that an individual can stay strong, motivated, and determined on their mission of sobriety. 

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Fentanyl Addiction is Treatable at The Forge Recovery Center

Drug addiction is a chronic health condition characterized by brain dysfunction and relapsing nature. It is now considered a major threat to public safety due to the growing number of users in the country. As many as half of the population has at least once used illicit drugs.

Even the toughest of tough addiction cases can be overcome with structured programs and determination. Drug rehab centers are institutions that help recovering addicts gain freedom from drug dependency and live drug-free lives.

The Forge Recovery Center provides expert, evidence-based treatment for fentanyl addiction. With us, we’ll be in your corner for the entire recovery process. Our facility is ideal for both recovering from fentanyl abuse as well as treating any underlying conditions which may be driving fentanyl abuse.

Left untreated, fentanyl addiction can be lethal. We’ll help you keep fentanyl out of your system for good. Reach out today to The Forge Recovery Center to learn more.

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