Fentanyl Withdrawal and Detox Treatment

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid prescribed to treat severe and chronic pain. Like similar drugs in its class, fentanyl’s pain-inhibiting and euphoric effects make it highly addictive. Once a person has developed a physical addiction to fentanyl, they will experience symptoms of withdrawal upon reducing or eliminating its use.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic analgesic that is part of the opioid class of drugs. It is so potent that it is considered up to 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, another well-known opioid. Opioids work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system, which can change the way neurotransmitters function over time. This mechanism is what underlies its pain-relieving properties and what creates the potential for abuse and addiction. Fentanyl is considered a Schedule II drug by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which means that it has a high potential for misuse despite its effective medical use.

Fentanyl Addiction

Though it can be safely prescribed and used to treat severe pain, such as for individuals recovering from surgery or undergoing cancer treatment, fentanyl has a high potential for misuse. Even patients that were prescribed fentanyl legitimately might begin to slowly increase their own dosage or take it more frequently than prescribed.

In addition to prescription fentanyl misuse, illicit manufacturing has flooded the streets with illegally made fentanyl, which accounts for the majority of fentanyl-related overdose or death according to the CDC. Illicit fentanyl is often cut with other dangerous substances like heroin, MDMA, or cocaine, increasing its potential for harm.

Fentanyl addiction can develop even when it is used as prescribed through the mechanisms of tolerance and withdrawal. Tolerance develops over time, occurring when a person needs greater amounts of the substance to achieve the same effects. Unpleasant withdrawal symptoms occur when the user discontinues or cuts down their use of fentanyl. These two mechanisms form the basis of physical dependence and addiction, making it difficult for an individual to quit using once they have developed.

Side Effects and Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction

Like all medications, fentanyl use can create unwanted or unexpected side effects, particularly when it is taken against medical recommendations. These side effects may include:

  • Drowsiness or tiredness
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Dry mouth
  • Weakness
  • Memory problems
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Sensation of tingling

Addiction and improper use can additionally lead to more severe side effects including:

  • Stupor or oversedation
  • Depressed respiration
  • Unconsciousness
  • Confusion
  • Extreme sense of euphoria

Though the physical side effects of fentanyl use can vary according to the individual, behavioral signs of addiction can follow a similar path. These troubling signs include:

  • Needing higher doses to achieve the same effect
  • Increased time spent using or trying to obtain fentanyl including doctor shopping for multiple prescriptions
  • Neglect of personal and professional responsibilities
  • Inability to stop using fentanyl despite negative consequences brought on by its use
Fentanyl Withdrawal

Fentanyl withdrawal can be very painful and uncomfortable, often serving to deter attempts to quit. Symptoms typically begin 12-24 hours after the last dose depending on whether it was taken in short-release or extended-release form. Symptoms tend to peak within one to two days, but the overall withdrawal period can last as long as several days to weeks. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Depression
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chills
  • Irritability
  • Stomach cramps
  • Backache
  • Pain in joints and muscles
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Body tremors
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Pupil dilation
  • Hypertension
How Long Does Fentanyl Withdrawal Last?

The process of withdrawal can vary according to individual factors including amount and length of time used. The type of fentanyl used also affects when withdrawal effects are felt. For instance, when fentanyl is used in extended-release form such as a patch, withdrawal symptoms may take longer to develop but may last longer.

On average, most symptoms will resolve about a week after peaking, but this timeline can be extended for individuals who have been dependent on fentanyl for longer periods. Psychological side effects such as anxiety and depression can also persist after physical side effects have subsided. Other factors that can complicate the withdrawal period include co-occurring disorders and other substances abused concurrently.

Quitting Fentanyl Cold Turkey Vs. Weaning

Quitting cold turkey refers to the abrupt discontinuation of fentanyl use whereas weaning off the drug involves slowly reducing dosage over time. There are many advantages to tapering off use instead of quitting cold turkey.

For one, withdrawal symptoms are worse when a substance that one is chemically dependent on is suddenly eliminated. When tapering off, the body slowly adjusts to less and less of the substance until no fentanyl is used at all. This can be safer because severe withdrawal symptoms can be potentially hazardous to one’s health.

In addition, weaning off fentanyl can increase the likelihood that a person will be able to successfully quit using. Since it reduces the likelihood of severe withdrawal, it is a safer alternative that makes it easier for the nervous system to adjust to the change. The safest way to wean off fentanyl is in medically supervised detox.

Medically Assisted Fentanyl Detox
Medically assisted fentanyl detox is typically handled in an inpatient addiction treatment facility. This way, the individual is in a safe environment and has round-the-clock medical care available to manage withdrawal symptoms. During medical detox, doctors may prescribe an opioid alternative like Buprenorphine or Naltrexone that will lessen the severity and duration of withdrawal. These drugs also act on opioid receptors but in a much less powerful way than fentanyl. Doctors may also prescribe medication to treat gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, and other withdrawal symptoms in order to make withdrawal less painful and more comfortable.
Is fentanyl withdrawal the same as withdrawal from other opioids?
Fentanyl acts on the same neurotransmitters in the nervous system as other opioids, so withdrawal symptoms can be very similar. However, unlike other opioids, fentanyl also exists in extended-release patches, which can affect the timing of detox. When using fentanyl patches, withdrawal may take longer to come on and resolve.
What individual factors affect fentanyl withdrawal?
Since metabolism is unique to an individual and can affect how quickly a person eliminates a substance, factors related to metabolism can affect withdrawal. These include age, weight, and other health factors.
How long is medical detox for fentanyl abuse?
An intake assessment can help doctors determine how long medically supervised detox is. Though this can vary by individual, the process usually takes about a week. Continual assessment can determine if the timeline needs adjusting once detox has started.
Is it safe to detox alone?
Withdrawal from fentanyl can produce severe side effects including those that affect crucial bodily functions such as heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. Because of this, it is safest to detox in a facility so key vitals can be monitored for dangerous changes. Medically supervised detox can also involve the use of supplementary medications to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.
Fentanyl Withdrawal Treatment at Riverwalk Ranch
A Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Area Addiction Treatment Center

At Riverwalk Ranch, we can assist you in managing fentanyl withdrawal as part of our comprehensive addiction treatment services. Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, our professionals use only scientifically-supported interventions to help you safely and comfortably eliminate fentanyl from your system and begin your journey toward recovery. Our facilities can serve as an encouraging and safe haven to detox, surrounded by addiction specialists and other like-minded individuals all working toward a healthier addiction-free life.

If you or a loved one is suffering from fentanyl addiction and needs help navigating withdrawal, don’t wait to contact our addiction treatment center today at (877) 863-3869. In the fight against opioids, timely intervention could mean the difference between life and death. Whether you live in Texas or you want a refreshing change of scenery, Riverwalk Ranch can provide a therapeutic and supportive home for you. Everyone deserves a happy and healthy life free from addiction, and we are committed to helping you overcome fentanyl withdrawal in order to get you there.

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