Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is at least 50 times stronger than morphine. Some healthcare providers prescribe it for severe pain when the patient has developed a tolerance to other opioids.
However, because this drug is so strong, it is especially dangerous to people who have not developed a tolerance to the medication.
Fentanyl is a highly addictive drug that is often misused, but quitting fentanyl is a difficult process due to fentanyl withdrawal symptoms.
What Causes Fentanyl Withdrawal?
Fentanyl withdrawal is a group of symptoms that occurs when a person stops taking the drug. It is similar to other forms of opioid withdrawal.
Symptoms can cause emotional distress, discomfort, and pain.
According to opioid dependence research, opioids work by interacting with opioid receptors in the brain. This interaction blocks pain and can create feelings of relaxation and euphoria.
After prolonged opioid use, the brain compensates by increasing activity in the parts of the brain responsible for wakefulness, blood pressure, and other functions.
When somebody with an opioid use disorder stops taking opioids, the brain still anticipates the presence of opioids and continues to perform excitatory functions at high levels.
As a result, normal wakefulness may turn into anxiety, regular muscle movements may turn into muscle aches, and other signs of withdrawal syndrome may emerge.
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Symptoms Of Fentanyl Withdrawal
Fentanyl withdrawal causes both physical and psychological symptoms. In some cases, these symptoms can become dangerous or even life-threatening.
Many physical symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal mimic the flu.
They may range from mild to severe, depending on how long the person has taken fentanyl, the type of fentanyl, and whether they stopped using the medication gradually or abruptly.
Physical withdrawal symptoms include:
- runny nose
- watery eyes
- physical restlessness
- muscle and joint pain
- goosebumps or chills
- tremors or twitching
- changes in blood pressure and heart rate
Similar to physical fentanyl withdrawal symptoms, psychological symptoms may also range from mild to severe.
These symptoms may include:
- mood swings
- thoughts of suicide
Managing Fentanyl Withdrawal
Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be managed with the help of substance abuse treatment programs.
Medical Detoxification And Drug Tapering
Medical detox for fentanyl is one of the most important treatment options for withdrawal management.
Rather than quitting the use of fentanyl cold turkey, people in detox programs can taper off opioids slowly under the supervision of a medical professional.
Often, these programs prescribe a different opioid such as methadone or oxycodone to replace fentanyl.
Participants then receive smaller and smaller doses of the medication until they are no longer dependent on drug use.
With this method, people who deal with opioid dependence can minimize potential side effects.
Treating Symptoms And Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
During addiction recovery, people with opioid use disorders may also receive treatment for specific symptoms through medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
Gradual detoxification is one example of MAT, and some medications are designed specifically for that purpose.
Buprenorphine, for example, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating opioid use disorder.
Other examples include non-narcotic pain relief medications and mental health medications for co-occurring disorder treatment.
Long-term medications may also be used to prevent relapse.
For instance, a drug called naltrexone blocks the effects of opioids and may be used after a person is no longer opioid dependent.
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment
Managing withdrawal symptoms is just one part of effective treatment for substance use disorders.
While withdrawal results from physical dependence, addiction is a mental health condition. Further treatment can help people address the psychological stressors of substance abuse.
At an inpatient drug treatment center, participants receive substance abuse interventions as well as room and board. People generally stay in inpatient treatment for 30 to 90 days.
During this time, they may participate in individual therapy, support groups, and other forms of care.
Outpatient treatment programs also provide therapy and support groups. However, participants commute to treatment instead of living on the premises.
Outpatient treatment centers are often more affordable than inpatient treatment, though various payment options are available for both types of care.
FAQs For Signs Of Fentanyl Withdrawal
Fentanyl withdrawal is a difficult condition, and many people have questions about it. Here you’ll find some frequently asked questions about withdrawal and treatment options.
Can Fentanyl Withdrawal Be Dangerous?
Fentanyl withdrawal can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
Some people experience thoughts of suicide during withdrawal, and some people experience diarrhea and vomiting that can cause severe dehydration and malnutrition.
How Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Help To Manage Fentanyl Withdrawal?
Medication-assisted treatment provides a gradual approach to drug detox, which can minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
Certain medications can also treat specific symptoms such as pain, depression, and anxiety.
How Long Does It Take To Get Through Fentanyl Withdrawal?
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms may begin within a few hours after the person’s last dose, and it generally lasts for a period of several days to a few weeks.
However, factors such as dependence severity and individual body chemistry can impact the fentanyl withdrawal timeline.
Find Substance Use Treatment Today
Opioid withdrawal complicates the addiction recovery process, but the right treatment options can help people manage symptoms while they heal and recover.
If you or a loved one are facing addiction, call our helpline today and get on the path to sobriety.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Mayo Clinic
- Mayo Clinic
- National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA)