Up to a hundred times more potent than morphine, detoxing from fentanyl is a complicated and unpleasant process. However, fentanyl withdrawal symptoms are a necessary discomfort for anyone who wants to regain control over their life.
While the prospect of detoxing and the withdrawal that accompanies it can be scary and overwhelming, there are ways to manage symptoms and resources that you can draw support from to make fentanyl recovery easier.
In this article, we gain a better understanding of what fentanyl is, the signs of fentanyl abuse, treatment options open to you, and how to stay drug-free. If you struggle with fentanyl use or know someone who does, this is a valuable resource that can help you or a loved one overcome fentanyl addiction.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl belongs to the family of synthetic opioid analgesics. It is many times more potent than heroin and up to a hundred times more powerful than morphine.
Your doctor can prescribe this drug if you are experiencing extreme short-term pain typically related to post-surgery or a serious injury. It is also used to manage advanced pain in cancer patients.
Unfortunately, this drug’s potency has often resulted in its misuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that overdoses resulting in death from synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, rose to over 36,000 in 2019.
The Rise of Fentanyl Use and Abuse
What’s contributing to this rise in fentanyl abuse? The drug’s potency and the immediate feelings of relaxation and euphoria it rewards the user with are some of the primary reasons why fentanyl is so prone to misuse. Is fentanyl addictive? Since this opioid is addictive and results in tolerance, people who ingest it easily find themselves taking larger doses to keep enjoying the same effects.
The fact that it’s readily available through drug dealers and the black market only exacerbates the problem.
How does fentanyl work? Fentanyl takes pain away by tapping into the receptors in the brain that are responsible for signaling pain. At the same time, it also interferes with how you control your emotions.
Since it’s a very potent substance, the reaction is so quick that every time you take fentanyl, with or without a prescription, there are risks involved.
Even if you are taking the prescribed dose for this painkiller, there can still be fatal side effects. If you are taking fentanyl with other medications (particularly those with a sedating effect) or alcohol, the dangers of taking it go up.
Fentanyl and alcohol should never be taken together. Alcohol is considered a central nervous system depressant. It not only slows down your brain and neural activity, but your breathing and heart rate as well so imagine what fentanyl and alcohol can do when combined.
What Are the Signs of Fentanyl Dependence?
You’re probably reading this because you’re concerned that you might be at risk for fentanyl dependence. If you’ve been continuously increasing your dose or taking it more often than prescribed to achieve the same effect it gave you in the beginning, you have good reason to be worried.
To further help you determine fentanyl addiction and abuse, here are some symptoms that are related to it:
- You’re isolating yourself from your family and close friends.
- You experience extreme drowsiness.
- You struggle with getting a good night’s sleep.
- You continuously use fentanyl despite the knowledge that it’s costing you your relationships, livelihood, or studies.
- You’ve lost interest in hobbies you previously enjoyed and were involved in.
- You’ve started neglecting yourself and your hygiene.
- You have no appetite and have been losing weight.
- You’ve considered quitting or cutting back on taking fentanyl but are unable to do so.
- You’re in a vicious cycle of obtaining the drug, using it, quitting, and going back to using it again.
- You’re bolder and indulge in risky activities without thinking of the consequences like driving while intoxicated, sharing needles with fellow fentanyl users, and committing theft so you can sustain your fentanyl needs.
Fentanyl abuse can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe. Regardless of your level of dependence, immediate intervention is necessary.
Why? Receiving timely treatment is essential. Even if you feel like you have your fentanyl dependence under control, one more dose is all it takes to overdose or have a life-threatening emergency.
What Are the Symptoms of Fentanyl Withdrawal?
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms generally start within the first 12 to 30 hours after your last intake.
Since the peak of fentanyl withdrawal symptoms occurs between the first and third day, it’s important that you get extra physical and emotional support as well as medical supervision while detoxing.
Medical supervision can make your withdrawal period easier and safer. If you are being treated inside a medical detox center, it’s possible that these withdrawal symptoms will resolve themselves in two weeks.
Here are the symptoms that you can experience in varying severity as you go through the withdrawal process:
- Agitation that can lead to panic attacks, increased blood pressure, and rapid heartbeat
- Chills, excessive sweating, stomach cramps, runny nose, watery eyes, and other flu-like symptoms
- Depression that can escalate to suicidal thoughts
- Excessive yawning
- Insomnia and other sleep-related problems
- Mood swings and irritability
How Long Does Fentanyl Last in Your System?
Fentanyl will show up in a urine test for 72 hours after your last intake while hair tests can identify the drug for up to three months. When you use a blood test to check for fentanyl in your system, it can be detected for five up to 48 hours after your last use.
The half-life of fentanyl is 219 minutes — a relatively short period which is why within the next two to four hours, you may already experience signs of withdrawal. This short half-life is the reason why you frequently have to keep taking it to sustain its effects.
Fentanyl’s half-life will be longer if you’re using a fentanyl patch that has a slower release. If such is the case, you can expect fentanyl patch withdrawal symptoms within 24 to 36 hours of removing the patch.
Here’s a breakdown of a fentanyl withdrawal timeline based on stages:
The first two to four hours of not taking fentanyl is considered the early stage. You will start having minimal withdrawal symptoms like:
- Body and muscle pains
- Hot and cold chills
- Intense craving
- Intense sweating
- Runny nose
This is physically and mentally the worst stage of the fentanyl detox timeline. This lasts two to four days after your last fentanyl intake.
As you reach this stage, you should be closely monitored by your medical team because this is when seizures are likely to happen. Outpatient fentanyl detox is not advised especially if you’ve been using fentanyl heavily for a long time.
Your symptoms should be at their worst by now. You will still have the same symptoms as the first few hours after you stop taking it, but the cravings at this point become more intense, so much so that they can deprive you of sleep. Depression and mood swings also kick in at this time.
After a week of detox, you will transition to the long-term stage during which you can experience the symptoms indefinitely. Also, you’ll have minimal physical symptoms and will now begin to deal with the psychological and long-term ones.
You will still have a continuous craving for the drug, but it is now more manageable. Here are the challenges that you will go through at this stage:
- Anhedonia or the inability to feel pleasure
- Low self-esteem
- Relapse dreams
- The Pink Cloud Syndrome
What Is a Fentanyl Detox?
A fentanyl detox treatment helps you manage your withdrawal symptoms while reducing your craving for the drug.
Most of the time, fentanyl withdrawal is so extreme that most people would rather go back to taking the drug than dealing with the pain caused by detox.
You may be wondering if you can quit cold turkey and stop taking the drug on your own. It’s certainly an option but it isn’t the best nor the safest one. As you can see, the withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe and may require medical intervention. Fentanyl withdrawal after short-term use will always be less severe than long-term use. If you want to detox on your own, it can lead to more unpleasant and more prolonged withdrawal.
The safest and best fentanyl detox with the highest chance of success will always be as an inpatient in a detox facility.
How Does Fentanyl Detox Work?
You can undergo supervised and assisted fentanyl detox at substance and alcohol abuse facilities. There are also drug rehab centers that cater to people struggling with fentanyl addiction.
During detox, your medical professional will replace fentanyl with another drug. The common ones are Suboxone, methadone, and Buprenorphine. These three are all FDA-approved treatments for relieving fentanyl withdrawal symptoms and reducing the intense cravings that accompany withdrawal.
Fentanyl and Suboxone
Suboxone is particularly popular for treating opioid misuse because it is less addicting than methadone. However, it still reduces cravings while protecting your brain from what is known as the “opioid effect” or the activation of pain receptors in your brain.
Suboxone is composed of naloxone and Buprenorphine which together work to reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. It can be administered in tablet form or as a sublingual film.
Is Fentanyl Detox a Must?
Many people who have developed an unhealthy reliance on fentanyl find their lives spiraling out of control.
When you stop taking fentanyl, your body’s tolerance for the drug goes down. It then needs to adjust, metabolize and learn to function without the drug. This can give your body and brain a shock. Your craving for the drug can then re-emerge as an urgent and strong need that can lead you to take twice or even much more than the usual dose. Continuously taking higher doses at frequent intervals can lead to overdose and even death.
Anyone who wants to regain control and live a life that doesn’t depend on constantly ingesting fentanyl must go through fentanyl detox. While it’s a difficult and even impossible process for some, it is necessary. A detox gives your body time to adapt and get rid of the drug and eventually revert to functioning normally without it.
What Are Fentanyl Detox Centers?
Detoxification and withdrawal are difficult for patients to go through and often need medical and specially trained personnel. This is where detox centers come in. Fentanyl detox centers can help those suffering from addictions such as fentanyl misuse overcome their dependence without coming to harm. They also provide a safe haven where patients can focus on their detox and recovery until they’re ready to rejoin the outside world.
Most rehab facilities address all types of addictions including fentanyl dependencies. Such facilities are equipped to provide physical and psychological support to their patients by providing a complete range of services that are geared towards patients’ recovery:
- Medical services
- Behavioral services
- Social services
- Patient community
- Wellness support
- Treatment of underlying medical conditions
With professional doctors, counselors, and therapists available 24/7, your overall wellbeing and holistic healing are given top priority in these facilities.
What Is a Medically Assisted Fentanyl Detox?
A fentanyl medical detox is the process of weaning someone off from fentanyl by using medication to stabilize fentanyl withdrawal symptoms.
During a medically assisted fentanyl detox, you will also be constantly monitored by a medical team and trained professionals who can assist you should your symptoms escalate.
They will also monitor your progress and ensure that you don’t become addicted to the medication you’re using to manage your withdrawal.
You need to complete the medical detox and follow through on your recovery by going to fentanyl rehab. This is because detox is just the beginning of your journey to recovery. It should ideally be followed with ongoing support and treatment to help you remain drug-free once you leave the detox facility. This follow-on treatment is recommended by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Advantages of a Medical Fentanyl Detox
Treating fentanyl withdrawal symptoms is best done in a medically supervised fentanyl treatment center. Here’s why:
Effective and Tailored Treatment
In a medical fentanyl detox facility, your withdrawal symptoms can be treated real-time and your treatment adjusted accordingly. They can also provide emergency medical intervention if necessary.
You’ll be able to employ their expertise for managing and reducing withdrawal symptoms. The pain and discomfort of the detox will still be there, but it’s more manageable thanks to the medical team and the treatment they’ll be prescribing.
They’ll also create a treatment plan that addresses your fentanyl use, medical history, and physical and mental condition. The treatments that medical detox facilities provide are holistic and can involve programs and activities like counseling, meditation, group therapy, and yoga.
While fentanyl addiction is common, every individual is different and can benefit from a medically assisted treatment plan that takes their different needs into account. This sets you up for better, safer, and more long-term recovery than if you were to do it on your own.
Psychological Aspect of Recovery
Aside from the physical withdrawal symptoms, you also need to address your psychological need for fentanyl because it significantly reduces the chances that you’ll relapse.
Once you leave the detox facility, you won’t have access to the same drugs that helped you manage your cravings while you were inside it. You’ll need to have a plan in place to make sure that you can manage your cravings on your own and remain drug-free.
Post-Detox Plans and Aftercare
As difficult as withdrawal and detox are, recovery is an ongoing pursuit that continues after you’ve left a rehabilitation facility. What happens next?
You can continue receiving outpatient support from the medical fentanyl detox facility where you were admitted. This is one of the major advantages of detoxing at such a facility. Traditional hospitals, clinics, and state-funded facilities don’t normally offer ongoing support.
You can continue to attend aftercare activities like group and individual therapy. Access to these types of aftercare resources can make all the difference for a successful recovery since they provide a buffer against relapse, accountability, and much-needed emotional support.
The first step is always the hardest. This is especially true when it comes to detoxing and withdrawal where the battle is not just mental but physical as well. However, it is the first of many steps in the right direction.
Though challenging, ridding your body of fentanyl and its addiction to it will allow you to regain control of your life and refocus on the things that truly matter like your family and the people who are important to you. Call us today at Divine Detox and let’s get you past fentanyl and into a meaningful, lasting sobriety you will be proud of!