Fentanyl is a powerful opioid painkiller with a high addiction potential. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. People who are struggling with fentanyl abuse or addiction may hesitate to quit using the drug even if they want to, because of a fear of intense withdrawal symptoms.
Discontinuing fentanyl or any other opioid abruptly after regular use can result in withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can also occur if a person suddenly dramatically decreases their dose or dosing frequency.
With proper help, people who are addicted to this drug can get through detox and develop their capacity to avoid using fentanyl and other addictive substances in the future, resulting in long-term recovery.
Difficulty Stopping Fentanyl Use
Fentanyl is a highly potent drug that is used to treat severe pain, postoperative pain, and sometimes chronic pain in people who are physically tolerant to other opioids. People who use it on a regular basis may develop dependence, meaning that stopping or drastically decreasing use can result in withdrawal symptoms, and tolerance, meaning that increased doses are needed to achieve the same effect.
Opioid withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable. This is one reason people who want to quit using fentanyl often struggle to stop, especially if they try to do it “cold turkey” on their own.
Although opioid withdrawal on its own is usually not dangerous, without close supervision it can increase a person’s risk of restarting the drug and overdosing, which can be fatal. In addition, there are ways to support a person during the withdrawal process that can help to minimize symptoms and make the process more tolerable, increasing the chances of avoiding relapse.
Don’t Suffer through Withdrawal Alone
Fentanyl withdrawal may not generally be life-threatening; however, it can be significantly physically and mentally distressing. The support of medical staff who can make your experience more comfortable can help you to make it through withdrawal and begin your recovery with a renewed sense of health and stability.
If you’re worried about the cost of detox, you don’t need to be. There are many options you can utilize, including insurance. Laguna Treatment Hospital is continually working to make accessing care easier for those who need it. We are now part of the Anthem Blue Cross network. You can call to find out more about specific plan details and coverage. The cost of treatment may be much less than you expected when you utilize your insurance coverage.
Withdrawal symptoms from fentanyl are similar to those of other opioids. Possible symptoms include both physical and psychological symptoms. They may include:
- Agitation, anxiety
- Muscle aches
- Increased tearing, runny nose
- Trouble sleeping
- Stomach cramping, diarrhea
- Nausea, vomiting
- Dilated pupils
- Goose bumps
Another major symptom of withdrawal is craving the drug. Individuals going through opioid withdrawal are especially vulnerable to giving in to that craving due to the desire to stop the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Relapse during detox is not uncommon and can be fatal. Individuals who have detoxed from opioids are at increased risk of overdose because their opioid tolerance has decreased.
For this reason, it is important that the individual engages in treatment that helps them develop the tools, skills, and support network to manage cravings that arise during and after detox.
Timeline for Detox from Fentanyl
The timeline of fentanyl withdrawal symptoms depends on many factors, including formulation and individual factors. However, a general timeline is as follows:
- Hours 8-30: Mild symptoms typically begin.
- Hours 36-72: The worst physical symptoms typically feel the most intense. After the peak, symptoms will begin to decrease.
- Days 5-8: Primary withdrawal symptoms should end around this time, and the person will begin to feel more normal. However, in some individuals it can take a few weeks.
- Several weeks or even months: A few physical symptoms (such as increased sensitivity to pain) and several psychological symptoms (such as cravings, depression, sleep disturbances, irritability, and anxiety) may persist, a phenomenon known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome or a protracted withdrawal phase. Some sources state this can last for years.
Individuals who were using fentanyl for pain will likely need other forms of pain management.
Withdrawal timelines and severity can vary for individuals based on the formulation used, the frequency and intensity of use, the person’s genetics, and other factors. Before detoxing from fentanyl, consult with a medical professional who is experienced in treating opioid dependence.
Medical Support for Detox
The challenges of quitting fentanyl may seem possible to endure without help; however, people often underestimate the severity of symptoms they will experience. Withdrawal symptoms, especially cravings, often lead to relapse. These relapses can result in fatal overdoses due to decreased opioid tolerance. According to provisional 2017 counts, over 29,000 Americans died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, primarily fentanyl.
Medical detox provides a safer way to stop using fentanyl and other opioids. The individual’s health and safety are monitored during detox and medical professionals are on hand to intervene if necessary. Medical detox may also involve using medications and/or other treatments to help with the symptoms of withdrawal. Opioid replacement medications can be slowly tapered off over time, significantly diminishing withdrawal symptoms and decreasing the risk of relapse. A patient’s treatment plan should be customized to their unique needs.
Withdrawal from fentanyl can be very difficult. However, with the support of an experienced treatment team, an individual with a dependence on opioids can have a safer and more comfortable detox experience. Those who are dependent on opioids and have an opioid use disorder will be better able to engage in treatment after completing detox. Reputable, research-based treatment is the best option for long-term recovery.