Fentanyl Withdrawal and Detox

Developing dependence becomes a very real possibility. Similar to other opioids, it is not only a powerfully addictive substancepsychologically, but you can quickly become physically dependent on it as well. Developing a physical dependence on a drug means that for your body to feel normal, that substanceneeds to be present. At this stage of fentanyl usage, you may not even feel the same ‘high’ as when you first started, but if you quit taking it, your body experiences a shock to the system, known as ‘withdrawal’.

If you’re someone who’s struggling with fentanyl abuse, you may be searching for answers about what todo next, or where to find help. The first thing you’ll need todo as you go through fentanyl withdrawal, is get yourself admitted into a professional, medically supervised detox programme. After you’ve successfully completed that, you can nowbegin treatment. However, the anticipation and fear of detox can usually hinder sobriety, but there are a number of ways you can improve your detox experience and begin the journey to long-lasting recovery.

What is Fentanyl Detox?

Fentanyl withdrawal can be quite uncomfortable and painful, especially when it doesn’t occur under qualified supervision. Fentanyl detox is therefore one of the best decisions you can make when considering recovery from drug abuse. Fentanyl detox comes with many benefits, so you might find that the symptoms of withdrawal (that occur when you stop using fentanyl) are minimised through the use of other effective medications. In addition, you’ll be unable to access fentanyl and the negative consequences associated with continuous abuse.

During fentanyl detox, your health and well-being will be closely monitored to help you safely navigate the phases of withdrawal. Fentanyl detox is usually carried out at rehab facilities, specialised clinics or hospitals. Some facilities offer the option of inpatient or outpatient detox. An inpatient detox is ideal if your risk of relapsing is very high and you cannot face the responsibility of avoiding drugs outside the treatment centre.

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What is Fentanyl Withdrawal?

Fentanyl is a very powerful drug, which can make it very easy to abuse. Like any drug with a considerable likelihood of abuse, quitting suddenly can result in some intense and painful side effects. Like other narcotics, fentanyl is highly habit-forming and can lead to physical dependence, where your body needs it to function properly. Even without being addicted, once you’ve developed dependence, increasing amounts of fentanyl will be required in order to achieve the same effects. Your body is already used to regular doses of fentanyl at this point, and some time will be needed to adjust to the absence of the drug. During that time, you may experience symptoms of withdrawal.

You may want to stop taking the drug to avoid the dangers of using unregulated and non-prescribed fentanyl, but it can be difficult. If you’ve been heavily using fentanyl for a long time and have mentally and physically become dependent on the drug, quitting may be even more difficult. This is because suddenly cutting off your supply of fentanyl can do more harm than good, especially with the withdrawal symptoms that may occur.

Contributing Factors to Withdrawal

Withdrawal will be different for everyone, as there are several factors that contribute to how your body will react and for how long you’ll experience it. These factors include:

  • Level of dependence of fentanyl: the more dependent you are – or the longer your duration of dependence – the more drawn-out withdrawal might be for you.
  • Addiction to (or abuse of) fentanyl: if you’re using fentanyl for non-medical purposes or suffering from compulsive drug-using behaviours, you may benefit best from an inpatient detox for your withdrawal.
  • Co-occurring disorders: medical or mental health disorders may further complicate withdrawal, and necessitate a more comprehensive approach to treatment.
  • Combined abuse with other drugs or alcohol: using fentanyl with other mind-altering substances may increase the level of dependence and may also cause a cross-tolerance that needs special attention.

How Fentanyl Affects the Brain and Body

Fentanyl affects the brain by triggering your reward system and causing you to eventually build a tolerance to it. The consequence of this is that more fentanyl will be needed before you can feel the same level of euphoric ‘high’. Also, your brain works differently from the way it did before you started using the substance. You will no longer be able to naturally produce dopamine, which is why depression is so common amongst addicts of fentanyl and other drugs.

Using fentanyl over a prolonged period affects your body by creating dependence and addiction. When you abuse fentanyl or take it for longer than you’re supposed to, it leads to tolerance. This is one of the main ways in which fentanyl affects the body. When you’ve built a tolerance, both your body and brain become so used to fentanyl in your system, that to achieve the desired‘high’, larger doses need to be used. Also, if you miss your regular dose or suddenly stop using, you’ll experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

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These effects are known as ‘withdrawal’, a process where many of your previously suppressed systems can no longer access the drug on which they have become dependent. Fentanyl addiction can be devastating on its own, but withdrawal exacerbates the overall effect. With detox, you can begin to recover from withdrawal, and also benefit from physical and mental restorations. Undergoing fentanyl withdrawal and detox at a medical facility is the ideal way to minimise the risks associated with stopping fentanyl usage.

How Fentanyl Withdrawal is diagnosed

Fentanyl is highly popular amongst patients and abusers alike, because of its strength when compared to other painkillers. As an opioid, it provides euphoria and a heightened state of relaxation, dulling your awareness of physical pain. Even though this is the desired effect – especially if you are dealing with moderate to chronic pain – you may be likely to increase dosage on your own, thinking it will deal with your pain even faster. This results in a dependence developing, and attempting to discontinue intake can cause powerful withdrawal effects.

However, a professional is better positioned to diagnosing withdrawal for you. They may begin by performing a physical examination and asking questions to find out about your symptoms. Urine and blood tests may also be taken to check for the presence of fentanyl in your system. Some key diagnostics they may also examine include the presence of risk factors, blunting of pleasurable effect of the drug, maladaptive pattern of usage and a high Addiction Severity Index (ASI) score.

Common Fentanyl Detox and Withdrawal Symptoms

Fentanyl alters your brain chemistry in the same way other drugs do, reinforcing your need to use the drug often. This results in taking increased doses, dependence, and in certain cases, addiction. Like other opiates, drug withdrawal from fentanyl can result in terrible symptoms. These symptoms of withdrawal are associated with many of your body’s long-suppressed systems suddenly having to adjust to the absence of the drug they became dependent on. In extreme cases where you have been using fentanyl in large doses or for a prolonged period of time, hallucinations and seizures can occur with withdrawal.

Typically, the common fentanyl withdrawal symptoms(such as nausea, vomiting, anxiety, chills and tremors)are similar to what can be experienced with other opioids. The symptoms begin a few hours after the last dosage. Many the worst and most intense withdrawal symptoms tend to start within 12 hours. For most people, the symptoms cease around four or five days later. If you were using fentanyl along with other drugs like heroin, your withdrawal symptoms may linger a lot longer, lasting up to 10 days.

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Physical symptoms of Fentanyl withdrawal and detox

During detox, your physical and neurological systems will be confused as a result of the abrupt absence of the drug. Certain vital connections in the brain and throughout your body have been affected and completely overpowered by fentanyl. In turn, the reactions you experience during withdrawal are a result of the absence of the drug.

The physical symptoms you experience may vary depending on the amount of fentanyl you’ve used. It’s possible to experience a mild withdrawal, but the larger the amount and frequency of usage, the higher the chance of suffering severe symptoms. When it comes to fentanyl, the physical symptoms you can expect in withdrawal and detox include: chills, nausea and vomiting, night sweats, uncontrollable trembling, hot flashes, fever, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, constipation, stomach ache, sleeplessness, increased heart rate, muscle cramping, powerful drug craving, and rapid breathing.

Psychological symptoms of Fentanyl withdrawal

Powerful withdrawal symptoms are typical whilst detoxing from fentanyl, which can be found either in the form of an oral lozenge (Actiq) or a transdermal patch (Duragesic). You may experience some extended fentanyl withdrawal symptoms, which are mainly mood related and psychological, including anxiety and insomnia.

The psychological symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal are difficult to manage without help. They can also include apathy, altered reality, confusion, irritability, agitation, depression, an inability to focus and concentrate, as well as nightmares.

How Long Does it Take to Detox from Fentanyl?

The time it takes to detox from fentanyl varies depending on how it was ingested. When snorting fentanyl or taking it through films and pain patches, it takes longer to leave the body than when it is injected. It can take up to 22 hours for your blood plasma to rid itself of injected fentanyl. However, using other means of administration results in fentanyl staying in the system for up to 1.6 days, before being eliminated.

It is a common misconception to think that as soon as the substance is completely eliminated from your body, you are free of addiction. In fact, addiction is beyond physical, as it also causes some severe psychological effects and therefore needs to be treated on both fronts. You can start by going through detox to deal with the physiological effects of dependency. However, your psychological addiction and the desire to use fentanyl (to cope with strong cravings and triggers) cannot be addressed through withdrawal and detox. Therapy – in addition to the support you can get from your family, friends and treatment professionals – can provide you with a strong foundation to overcome addiction.

Fentanyl Withdrawal: Timeline of Symptoms

Unlike certain opioid drugs, fentanyl is not a short-acting substance. It has a half-life of up to seven hours, which means it spends a longer time in the body before leaving the system in about three days. Withdrawal symptoms can therefore last two weeks to one month, while some of the psychological symptoms you experience may last even longer. The timeline of symptoms can be outlined as follows:

Day 1 – 3: after several hours of quitting fentanyl, you may begin to experience initial withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may include sleepiness, restlessness, insomnia, trembling, anxiety, nervousness, stomach cramps and pains in muscles, joints and the head.

Day 3 – 7: your early symptoms continue and peak within this period, including runny nose, teary eyes, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, aches and pains.

Day 8 – 21 onwards: your symptoms begin to decrease, but depression can develop and anxiety may continue in the long-term.

Depending on your initial reason for using fentanyl, other pain management methods may be necessary during withdrawal. Also, because everyone is different, the timeline for your withdrawal may also be different. The determining factors for individual withdrawal timelines include(amongst other factors) your physical health, constitution, metabolism, race or gender, dosage and length of time using the drug.

What is Acute Fentanyl Withdrawal?

Consuming fentanyl in quantities outside of the prescribed limits will cause you to develop an acute fentanyl withdrawal, when you abruptly stop or significantly lower your intake. You may manifest minor symptoms, which may begin as early as six hours after your last usage. These are general side effects, which aren’t dangerous and no medical attention is necessary. They include headaches, drowsiness, nausea, dry mouth, constipation and headaches.

Initial side effects of withdrawal may then give way to more dangerous symptoms that require emergency medical care. These include difficulty breathing, tremors or seizures, vomiting, heart palpitations, loss of consciousness, slurred or troubled speech and restrained movement. To best manage detox and withdrawal, consult a doctor who is experienced in treating fentanyl addiction.

Coping with Fentanyl Withdrawal

Knowing what to expect during fentanyl withdrawal can significantly affect your attitude towards the process. It’s also a great way to ensure you have as many combative tools as you need to be able to see your withdrawal through to the end. Here are some things you can do to reduce the effects and pain during withdrawal:

  • Sleep and rest as much as possible.
  • Drink lots of water and keep yourself hydrated. Dehydration can be a dangerous side effect that occurs simultaneously during withdrawal.
  • Understand that intense craving will occur during withdrawal. It’s important to ride the wave of cravings -a trick known as ‘urge surfing’, instead of trying to fight against it.
  • Try to stay relaxed or do things that are relaxing, such as deep breathing, hot showers or baths, as well as meditating.
  • Try to stick to a healthy diet, with lots of vegetables and fruits.
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Possible Complications

Possible complications may arise during fentanyl withdrawal and detox, due to some severe physical and psychological symptoms. It is not advisable for you to attempt to self-detox, because of these complications and sometimes dangerous and deadly outcomes. Detoxing on your own can expose you to potential risks. There are different detox options that you can choose from, but it is essential to be aware of the downsides each form of fentanyl treatment provides.

‘Cold turkey’ detox is very dangerous. Without medical supervision, attempting this kind of self-detox puts your health at risk. You may be unprepared for the level of intensity, which can result in severe physical symptoms. They can include: aches and body pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, flu-like symptoms, strong cravings and tremors. Some dangerous and life-threatening symptoms that may appear are seizures and coma. A cold turkey detox also increases your risk of falling into relapse, because you may find the withdrawal symptoms too much to handle. This puts you at risk of an overdose,as your fentanyl tolerance since beginning detox will have dropped.

How we treat Fentanyl withdrawal

Treating fentanyl withdrawal involves gradually tapering you off the drug. The treatment involves slow weaning, because abruptly terminating your abuse without a plan for long-term treatment in place can result in severe consequences. Fentanyl is a powerful drug, which is why your treatment may begin with careful doses of anticonvulsant and anti-anxiety medication, to help your body adjust to the process of withdrawal. This is another reason why you should not attempt to withdraw from fentanyl alone, as you mightn’t have access to the essential medications, or know how to administer them effectively to achieve the desired effects. Without knowing how to properly administer the medications, unwanted side effects (such as developing a new dependency on the withdrawal medication) may occur.

After your symptoms have subsided and your physical craving for fentanyl is under control, treatment progresses to a psychological level. Here, we address your mental state and the habits that led you to illegally abuse fentanyl or to take the drug above your doctor’s prescribed limits. Your reason for fentanyl abuse can be a lot more complex than simply taking it to cope with pain, and it’s our job to help you understand what your personal reasons are. This will help you discover how to avoid and handle them after your treatment is completed. A psychological approach to treating fentanyl withdrawal is applied by using various lines of questioning, providing fresh perspectives and creating strategies to help you handle pain management in more healthy and positive ways.

Medications to Treat Fentanyl Withdrawal

There are certain medications that can be offered by doctors to help you manage fentanyl withdrawal symptoms. Also, to make the medications more effective, appropriate psychotherapies may be employed. Treating fentanyl withdrawal is achieved using these common pharmaceuticals for opioid detox:

  • Methadone – this medication is one of the most well known for treating withdrawal. Methadone assists in the detox process and reduces your cravings in the long-term. If you have repeatedly gone through withdrawal, methadone may be prescribed for you over a long period of time. With long-term methadone therapy, your dosage may be gradually lowered over an extended period of time.
  • Buprenorphine – this medication is also known by the brand name Subutex. It can help ease the symptoms of withdrawal, and even reduce the length of time it takes you to completely detox. Buprenorphine can be used for a long period of time, but only if you have repeatedly undergone detox.
  • Naltrexone –naltrexone is commonly used to prevent a relapse. It reverses the powerful effects of narcotics and can be used as a life-saving drug in an emergency or during detox.
  • Clonidine – even though this drug does not control or alleviate cravings, it functions by reducing certain physical and emotional symptoms, such as body aches, anxiety, irritation and more.

Melatonin Remedies for Natural Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Melatonin is an antioxidant hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain while you are asleep, to maintain your body’s natural rhythm. Without sufficient levels of melatonin in your system, detoxing from fentanyl can be much more difficult. It is an all-natural ingredient that can be replenished with the use of supplements, so that you can benefit from its wide range of positive effects. Some effects include preventing your brain cells from oxidative damage, which contributes to some of the main withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and erratic sleeping habits.

Melatonin remedies to naturally handle withdrawal symptoms also boost your immune function and encourage healing by improving sleep. The amount of melatonin you require will depend on your personal needs. If your levels are severely depleted through fentanyl abuse, and you’re experiencing trouble sleeping, you may want to try a higher dose. However, it’s always better to start small.

Process from Fentanyl detox to rehab: what happens

Fentanyl detox can last up to several days. However, it is just the beginning of a longer period of treatment that helps to remove the last traces of the substance from your body. During detox, you may experience withdrawal symptoms that appear as you are slowly tapered off the drug. After detox, rehab is the next step required to ensure a complete recovery.

During the transitioning process, you will talk with addiction specialists at your rehab centre of choice with regards your personal situation and physical and mental issues to determine the method of treatment that will be the best fit. They may also ask other personal questions, such as at what age you started using fentanyl, and if you’ve used it in combination with other drugs. The evaluation process is a crucial step and it’s important to be as open as you can to get the best out of your treatment.

Medicated Assisted Therapy and Detox as Part of a Whole Treatment Plan

Sometimes, medication assisted therapy is what your addiction specialist may recommend as the best method of treatment for you. It involves a combination of behavioural therapy and the use of medications to treat your drug abuse. There are a few medications prescribed for use with the MAT therapy, but they all have the same objective – to help you control the cravings associated with the abuse of powerful opioids like fentanyl.

There is a very high relapse rate after finishing drug rehab. This is one of the reasons why addiction treatment centres take other methods of treatment into consideration when compiling your whole treatment plan. As a result of the high rate of overdose, new therapies are being offered to help prevent relapses from occurring. Medicated assisted therapy and detox is one of the most successful treatment methods you can find.

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Fentanyl Detoxification Timeline

When you become dependent on an opioid like fentanyl, your body begins to function as if the substance is a normal part of its makeup. Painful withdrawal symptoms therefore occur upon cessation. About six to 36 hours after your last dose, your symptoms may begin. How long or how severe they are will depend on your level of drug abuse. The first set of symptoms may include irritability, muscle cramps, sweating and restlessness. About one to two days after your last dose, as your body starts to drain itself of the drug, more symptoms appear, including sweating, diarrhoea, vomiting and nausea.

Post-acute fentanyl withdrawal or protracted withdrawal may also occur. The symptoms vary between individuals and you may not even experience them at all. The most common that occur as a result of quitting fentanyl include insomnia, anxiety and depression.

Finding the Right Treatment

When you’re ready to choose an addiction treatment centre, you’ll find a range of options to choose from. However, the most common are inpatient and outpatient settings. Inpatient programmes provide 24-hour supportive care and give you a trigger-free environment in which to work towards overcoming your addiction.

Outpatient programmes allow you to attend treatment for a fixed time during week days, whilst you live at home. When undergoing outpatient treatment, you can keep up with your school or office work and other responsibilities. In addition, you can also choose an executive fentanyl rehab programme for professionals if you have corporate obligations that need to be handled during treatment.

Home Detox for Fentanyl Abusers: How Safe is it?

Without medical supervision, fentanyl withdrawal can be dangerous. Home detox may not offer the medications that can help you ease into sobriety, and you may be unable to find the kind of support that a professional detox and treatment facility can offer. In addition, a home detox is a more painful and dragged out process than when medically supervised in a professional facility.

Problems that occur during fentanyl withdrawal can lead to death in some cases. Although this rarely happens, the period right after detox can be critical. This is because if you return to using fentanyl taking the same amount of the drug as your regular dose, you risk overdosing,as your body is no longer used to that amount of fentanyl after detox. Even if you choose to undergo a home detox, it’s essential you go for fentanyl addiction treatment afterwards. While quitting drug usage represents progress in the right direction, you will need the assistance of experienced addiction treatment experts to guide you to long-term sobriety.

Self-detoxification from Fentanyl

There are a number of options to help you overcome an addiction to a potent narcotic painkiller such as fentanyl. One of them is self-detoxification, which can simply mean trying a fentanyl detox at home without the help of a medical team. This type of detoxification can be dangerous, especially if you are attempting to quit by going cold turkey. Abruptly ceasing fentanyl intake can make you very sick, and lead to seizures or coma, especially if you’ve been taking it for a long time.

Your results and safety can be compromised outside of a medical rehab facility. There are some detox clinics available where you can get treatment, but have to return home to recover during a critical period when close monitoring is needed. Home detox kits are also available, with the aim of cleansing your body of the drug. However, without the right medication to treat any emergencies, you could be putting yourself in danger.

After detox: staying off Fentanyl

If you are abusing fentanyl or already addicted to it, detox should be followed by some form of treatment in a rehab or recovery programme, designed to help you stay off fentanyl. You can get treatment for addiction through an inpatient or outpatient programme or through 12 step programmes like Narcotics Anonymous.

Post-detox treatment in a rehab centre will usually include different types of therapies focused on helping you understand reasons for your substance abuse. You will also learn how to address any other issues in your life such as family, relationship or work related issues, which may hinder your recovery or trigger you to revert back to using fentanyl. After detox, treatment to help you maintain sobriety can be completed in a short period or may even take a long time to complete, depending on your personal needs.

Fentanyl Addiction Facts

  • Fentanyl is a highly potent synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine in function,but around 50 to 100 times more powerful.
  • Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is sold in a range of different forms, including: as a powder, as tablets that mimic other, less potent opiates, spiked on blotted paper or mixed with heroin.
  • The rise in overdoses and fatalities associated with fentanyl usage is more as a result of the increase in the availability of illegal fentanyl, than the use of the prescription form of fentanyl.

At Addiction Helper, we understand how challenging it can be to overcome a fentanyl addiction, especially when accompanied by other substance disorders. We are happy to provide the support and solutions you need to defeat your addiction and live a healthy life again.


How do you know if you’resufferingfromFentanyl Withdrawal?

There are certain symptoms you may notice that can indicate fentanyl withdrawal such as irritability, chills, sweats, insomnia, anxiety and nervousness, as well as agitation and restlessness.

Is Fentanyl Withdrawal Dangerous?

Without proper medical supervision, complications can occur with fentanyl withdrawal, which can be very dangerous.

How Does Fentanyl Withdrawal Affect My Health?

Going through fentanyl withdrawal means that you have become dependent on or addicted to the substance. It also means you may experience negative changes to your brain and body as a result of drug use.

How Long Does Fentanyl Withdrawal Last?

Depending on the length of time you’ve been taking fentanyl and how much of it you’ve been using, your withdrawal symptoms can last two weeks to a month, while some psychological symptoms may last longer.

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