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Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline, Symptoms, and Treatment by Rehab Recovery Centers

Fentanyl is an opioid drug that is similar to heroin and morphine, but it is 50-100 times stronger.[1] It is available via a transdermal patch that provides around-the-clock pain management to people who are tolerant to other opioids, such as cancer patients. However, an illegally manufactured form of fentanyl is also found in the black market drug supply.

Despite being a powerful and deadly opioid, cases of fentanyl abuse, addiction, and overdose are on the rise. Emergency room visits, illicit substance seizures, and opioid overdose deaths have all increased dramatically since 2017.[2] Many batches of heroin and counterfiet opioids contain fentanyl, as well, causing opioid users to become increasingly tolerant and dependent on illegal opioids.

When someone takes fentanyl for an extended period of time, their brain and body undergo changes. The opioid receptors in the body become less sensitive and the drugs have changed the way the brain’s messengers communicate. Over time, a dependence develops, causing users to experience flu-like withdrawal symptoms when they suddenly stop taking opioids.

Fentanyl dependence can occur in both medicinal and illicit drug users, but nobody should ever stop taking fentanyl without medical support. The symptoms that occur during the fentanyl withdrawal timeline can be painful and severe, and there is a very real risk of relapse and overdose during this time. The best way to detox is in a medical facility that specializes in the treatment of opioid addictions.

Fentanyl

Fentanyl Withdrawal

Symptoms of Fentanyl Withdrawal

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), common symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Backache
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Elevated heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Muscle weakness, stiffness, or pain
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Tearing up
  • Yawning

People who have used fentanyl for long periods of time or in high doses may have more severe and long-lasting symptoms.

How Long Does Fentanyl Withdrawal Last?

In the patch form, fentanyl is a very long-lasting, extended-release medication. Its effects last up to 72 hours. As a result, people who use the patch may not begin experiencing symptoms of withdrawal until a day or two after removing the patch. However, the symptoms can last for up to 10 days.

People who have been taking fentanyl in the powdered form will begin having withdrawal symptoms 5-10 hours after last using the drug. Most of these individuals report their symptoms fading away after 5-7 days.

The exact fentanyl withdrawal timeline and duration can vary from one person to the next. This is because there are several factors that can influence how long symptoms last and how severe they get, such as:

  • Degree of fentanyl dependence – The longer a person uses fentanyl or another opioid, the longer their detox will take. At the same time, people who are used to taking higher doses may experience longer-lasting symptoms.
  • Age, weight, metabolism, and overall health – People with faster metabolisms will have shorter withdrawal timelines, while those with co-occurring health problems or slower metabolisms will spend more time detoxing.
  • Method of fentanyl use – Fentanyl can be snorted, smoked, or injected. It also comes in a transdermal extended-release patch. The way in which a person uses fentanyl can dictate when withdrawal starts and how long it lasts.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline: What to Expect

The easiest way to outline what to expect during fentanyl withdrawal is to break the process up into three stages: early, peak, and long-term withdrawal.

  1. Early Withdrawal – As the effects of fentanyl begin to subside, users may begin anticipating the onset of withdrawal. They may feel anxious, worried, and restless. As withdrawal kicks in, people can expect cravings, yawning, watery eyes, nausea, muscle aches, runny nose, hot and cold chills, and sweating. These symptoms continue to increase in intensity until after peak withdrawal.
  2. Peak Withdrawal – This phase of the fentanyl withdrawal timeline is when symptoms are most intense. Peak withdrawal usually occurs 2-4 days after the last dose of the drug and can last until days 5-7. Individuals may experience intense sweating, insomnia, anxiety, depression, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and high blood pressure.
  3. Long-Term Withdrawal – After peak symptoms begin to subside, individuals will begin feeling more energized and stable. However, some psychological symptoms and drug cravings may linger for several weeks and months. Relapse dreams, anhedonia, and low-self esteem are common.

The best way to cope with acute and post-acute withdrawal is to seek help from an opioid detox and treatment center.

Medical Detox for Fentanyl Addiction

Drug and alcohol detox centers can manage fentanyl withdrawal and keep the most severe withdrawal symptoms at bay. People who are dependent on transdermal patches may use the tapering method where a doctor slowly weans them off of the drug, avoiding most withdrawal symptoms. People who are addicted to fentanyl, however, may be switched to one of the following FDA-approved medications for opioid dependence:

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine[4]

These medications can reduce withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings, thereby making the detox process much easier and more tolerable.

Stopping fentanyl cold turkey or without medical supervision is not recommended. Rapid onset of withdrawal symptoms can be severe and often results in relapse. At the same time, people who try to self-taper themselves off of opioids are often unsuccessful due to their inability to control their drug use.

Find a Fentanyl Detox and Treatment Center Near You

At Rehab Recovery Centers, we understand how difficult it can be to get off of fentanyl, but that’s why our team is wholly dedicated to helping you locate a detox and treatment program that is guaranteed to provide you with the comprehensive medical and psychiatric care you need to recover. Don’t wait any longer to get the help you deserve. Call now to speak with a team member for a risk-free, confidential consultation.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3267509/
  2. https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/fentanyl.pdf
  3. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2005/19813s039lbl.pdf
  4. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/buprenorphine

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