Fentanyl Addiction & Abuse in Ohio

Written by Erica Weiman

& Medically Reviewed by Danielle Boland

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Last Updated - 10/25/2022

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Updated 10/25/2022

Fentanyl is involved in more drug-related deaths than any other illicit substance — its potency combined with its accessibility makes fentanyl one of the strongest and most dangerous opiates. One of the most dangerous methods of fentanyl misuse is in combination with other opioids like heroin, leading to more overdoses and ultimately more deaths.

Fentanyl Abuse in Ohio

In Ohio, fentanyl is a significant problem:

  • Deaths due to opioids have majorly increased due to fentanyl’s rising popularity. 
  • The combination of fentanyl with other drugs caused 76% of overdose deaths in 2019, which is up from 73% in 2018, 71% in 2017, and 58% in 2016.
  • Fentanyl was found in 82% of all heroin-related overdose deaths, 77% of all cocaine-related overdose deaths, and 72% of all psychostimulant and methamphetamine-related overdose deaths.
  • The white non-Hispanic population accounted for 80% of unintentional fentanyl drug overdoses in 2020, which is significantly higher than other groups. 

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is an opiate, a class of drug that provides pain relief by blocking pain receptors in the body. Fentanyl is highly potent and is 50–100 times more powerful than morphine. In medical settings, fentanyl is used to treat severe cases of pain. It is often only prescribed after major surgery or to cancer patients. 

Fentanyl is considered a Schedule II narcotic and is prescribed under the brand names Duragesic, Actiq and Sublimaze, among others. Schedule II narcotics are at high risk of being abused and can cause severe psychological issues with overuse. 

Fentanyl is illegal to purchase and use without a prescription from a medical professional. Street names for fentanyl include China white, Apache and China girl. In many cases where fentanyl is sold illegally on the street, it is mixed with other powerful drugs, which can lead to a fentanyl overdose.

What Are Fentanyl Patches?

Fentanyl patches are provided in a medical setting to administer a specific amount of fentanyl to a patient. These patches are applied to the skin, and then the medicine is delivered in a time-released way. 

Fentanyl patches are just as addictive, as they can also produce a high feeling with the potential for developing a fentanyl use disorder. Some people abuse fentanyl patches by wearing more than one at a time or changing them out more frequently than they are supposed to. Some people even chew the patches or inject the gel from the patches.

Misusing fentanyl patches is incredibly dangerous. These patches stagger the medication’s release, so the risk of overdose is heightened when the entire dose is consumed at once.

Why Is Fentanyl Addictive?

Fentanyl binds to specific receptors in the brain and the central nervous system. It impacts the areas of the brain and body that regulate pain and emotions. When it binds to the brain’s opioid receptors, the resulting surge of dopamine causes a pleasurable euphoric high that many people who misuse fentanyl are trying to achieve.

Because the brain’s reward centers respond when fentanyl is taken, the brain begins to crave the substance. This is how addiction begins.

Fentanyl can also create a physical dependence, which is different from psychological addiction. When someone develops a physical dependence, the body is not able to function normally without using the substance. If someone stops taking fentanyl while in this stage, they will experience fentanyl withdrawal symptoms.

Causes of Fentanyl Addiction 

Fentanyl is a highly addictive substance. Continued unmonitored use can lead to an opioid use disorder. There are three types of factors that can contribute to fentanyl addiction: 

  • Genetic: Genetic factors such as a family history of opioid addiction may put someone at a higher risk of developing an opioid use disorder. 
  • Psychological: Having a mental health disorder like anxiety can make someone more likely to have a substance use disorder like fentanyl addiction. 
  • Environmental: Fentanyl is highly potent, readily available and often mixed into other illicit drugs without the user’s knowledge. Being prescribed opioid medication and becoming addicted to those substances may lead someone closer to trying fentanyl or unknowingly consuming it. 

Common Signs of Fentanyl Addiction & Withdrawal

Fentanyl can have unpleasant side effects, even when used as prescribed. When fentanyl is misused, however, these symptoms can become severe:

  • Euphoria
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Injection marks or skin irritation  

In addition to physical symptoms, there are emotional and social signs that someone may be misusing fentanyl, including:

  • Doctor shopping
  • Lying about or hiding fentanyl use
  • Stealing 
  • Depression
  • Mood fluctuation
  • Isolation

How To Help Someone Abusing Fentanyl

With any substance use disorder, including fentanyl, it’s important to remain supportive and encouraging when someone is misusing opioids and needs help. There are a few different ways that someone who is abusing fentanyl can be approached. 

An intervention is a meeting planned by people who care about the person with a substance use disorder. The goal of an intervention is to speak with the person suffering from addiction to try and convince them to attend treatment. Someone who doesn’t go to treatment immediately could check into a facility days or weeks after the intervention.

Anyone who isn’t comfortable staging an intervention can consult with healthcare professionals, such as addiction specialists. Addiction specialists help support the person who is suffering from a substance use disorder, and their family or loved ones. Addiction specialists help guide a patient through their treatment and recovery to help prevent relapse.

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment in Columbus, Ohio

There are many treatment programs and facilities in Ohio for fentanyl addiction. Choosing the right treatment level and facility depends on an individual’s unique needs. The Recovery Village Columbus offers multiple fentanyl addiction treatment services:

  • Medical detox
  • Residential
  • Outpatient
  • Teletherapy
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
  • Aftercare

View Sources

Bevilacqua, L., Goldman, D. “Genes and Addictions.” Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, April 2009. Accessed December 10, 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ”Fentanyl.” February 16, 2021. Accessed April 22, 2021.

U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “2019 Drug Enforcement Administration Nat[…]ug Threat Assessment.” December 2019. Accessed December 11, 2021.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. “What Are Opioids?” Accessed December 10, 2021.

Brown, G. “The Role of Addiction Counselors in Recovery.” InterCoast Colleges. Accessed December 10, 2021.

Mattson CL, Tanz LJ, Quinn K, Kariisa M, Patel P, Davis NL. “Trends and Geographic Patterns in Drug a[…]States, 2013–2019.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 12, 2021. Accessed December 11, 2021.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Fentanyl.” MedlinePlus, January 15, 2021. Accessed December 11, 2021.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Ohio: Opioid-Involved Deaths and Related Harms.” April 3, 2020. Accessed December 10, 2021.

Ohio Department of Health. “Drug Overdose.” Accessed December 10, 2021.

Ohio Department of Health. “Preliminary Data Summary: Ohio Unintenti[…]Drug Overdose Deaths.” August 31, 2021. Accessed December 10, 2021.


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