Fentanyl is a strong opioid medication that is about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, another opioid painkiller 5. People may abuse fentanyl for its euphoric and relaxing effects. Chronic fentanyl abuse can lead to a problematic pattern of use known as addiction. Someone who suffers from a fentanyl addiction continues to use the opioid despite the negative ramifications of doing so. Distressing withdrawal symptoms often occur when the drug user either stops or dramatically decreases fentanyl abuse. The opioid withdrawal syndrome can affect the user both physically and mentally. If you’re addicted to fentanyl, quitting on your own can be challenging. Drug detox and treatment programs can help ease withdrawal symptoms, alleviate cravings, and ensure your comfort throughout the withdrawal process.
Within this article, you will find information about the following:
- Fentanyl withdrawal syndrome.
- Length of withdrawal symptoms.
- Protracted withdrawal.
- Fentanyl detox and treatment.
- Aftercare planning.
- Get help for fentanyl withdrawal.
Fentanyl Withdrawal Syndrome
Withdrawal symptoms occur after the body has developed a dependence on fentanyl. Once an individual has become dependent on the drug for daily functioning, quitting fentanyl will indefinitely give rise to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Each individual will experience fentanyl withdrawal syndrome differently. Withdrawal symptoms vary depending on how long a person was using fentanyl, how much they used, if the person was using other drugs in addition to fentanyl, and the person’s overall biological make-up.
The fentanyl withdrawal syndrome consists of several characteristic opioid withdrawal symptoms that are typical of other forms of opioid withdrawal. These shared symptoms may include 1:
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Muscle aches.
- Tear eyes or runny nose.
- Excessive sweating.
If you or someone you know is addicted to fentanyl and wants to quit, don’t hesitate to call our helpline at 11111 to speak to a treatment support specialist about detox and treatment options.
How Long Does Withdrawal Last?
The length of withdrawal will vary from person to person and, in some cases, will be influenced by the specific formulation of fentanyl being used; generally, withdrawal symptoms will emerge within a few hours of the last use in those addicted to a fast-acting fentanyl formulation1. If the medication was extended-release, such as in fentanyl patches, the withdrawal symptoms may not appear for a couple days after the last administered dose 1.
The physical symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal may resolve within a few days to a couple weeks but the psychological symptoms have more of a potential to persist for much longer.
Protracted Withdrawal Symptoms
Post-acute-withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), or protracted withdrawal, refers to a set of symptoms that can occur for weeks, months, or even years after stopping the use of certain drugs, including fentanyl. An estimated 90% of opioid users in recovery experience some protracted withdrawal symptoms 3. This condition is marked by symptoms that are also found in mood and anxiety disorders 3. These symptoms may include 3:
- Mood swings.
- Insomnia or sleep disturbances.
- Severe fentanyl cravings.
- Increased sensitivity to stress.
- Obsessive compulsive behaviors.
- Pessimism or apathy.
If you or someone you know needs help recovering from a fentanyl addiction, call our helpline at 11111 to speak to a recovery advisor about the detox and treatment options available to you.
Fentanyl Withdrawal Treatment
Medically supervised fentanyl detox
Quitting fentanyl use on your own may be challenging due to distressing withdrawal symptoms. Thankfully, many different fentanyl detox and treatment options are available to help manage withdrawal, quit using fentanyl, and build coping skills to promote long-term sobriety.
Fentanyl detoxification helps to manage withdrawal symptoms and provides the patient with medical and psychiatric support while the drug is eliminated from the body. Drug detox can be accomplished in an outpatient or inpatient environment; however, detox is not a replacement for a comprehensive substance abuse treatment program since it doesn’t address the underlying issues associated with fentanyl abuse. That being said, fentanyl detox is a vital first step in the recovery process. Once detox is completed, patients generally transition into an ongoing inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment program.
Fentanyl addiction treatment programs can provide a patient with the tools they need in order to achieve and maintain sobriety for the long-term. Although every program is different, it is likely you will receive a combination of individual therapy, group counseling, relapse prevention skills classes, and ongoing medical care to promote sobriety.
The following is a list of fentanyl abuse treatment options:
- Inpatient programs: Provide patients with 24-hour care at a live-in facility. Programs can last anywhere from 28 to 90 days, and sometimes longer if necessary.
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHP): Offer structured and intensive outpatient services as an alternative to inpatient services. These programs typically meet for several hours per day, 5 days a week.
- Intensive outpatient programs (IOP): Similar to PHP, these programs provide regularly scheduled sessions (often multiple times a week) of counseling treatment; these may be individual and/or group sessions.
- 12-step programs: Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Opiates Anonymous (OA) are free programs to join. The only requirement to become a member is that you wish to abstain from fentanyl and other drug use. Many people benefit from the support and camaraderie of these fellowship programs.
- Luxury treatment programs: Provide patients with a resort-like setting with upscale amenities, such as spa treatment, massage therapy, swimming pools, and gourmet meals.
- Executive treatment programs: Provide working professionals the opportunity to continue working while recovering from a fentanyl addiction. High-speed internet, work rooms, and phones are among the amenities at executive treatment facilities.
- Holistic treatment programs: Focus on healing the mind, body, and spirit while helping clients stop using drugs. Traditional modalities, such as psychotherapy, are combined with complementary and alternative methods, such as acupuncture, meditation, yoga, art therapy, and music therapy.
- Population-specific treatment programs: Focus on one population, such as men-only, women-only, veterans, LGBT, or teens in order to address the specific needs of that population.
If you or someone you know is addicted to fentanyl, don’t hesitate to call our helpline at 11111. A treatment advisor is available to provide you with recovery information.
Medications Used in Detox
Fentanyl detox and recovery programs utilize various medications to manage fentanyl withdrawal and addiction. These medications include 6:
- Naltrexone: This opioid antagonist blocks the intoxicating effects of opioids like fentanyl. It is used to promote sobriety in those who have already completed detox.
- Buprenorphine: This opioid medication helps to alleviate fentanyl cravings, but has an upper limit to its effects, which minimizes its abuse potential. Suboxone, which is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, is formulated to prevent the medication from eliciting a high should it be injected.
- Methadone: Taken once a day, this long-acting opioid medication prevents fentanyl withdrawal symptoms from appearing and reduces cravings.
Sober living home for aftercare
Individuals who have completed an initial treatment program for drug use are at a 40% to 60% risk of relapse 4. A solid regimen of various aftercare efforts can help to lower this risk. Aftercare consists of any ongoing treatment that a person participates in after completing an initial substance abuse treatment program. It is important to seek aftercare in order to continue building upon the skills you learned in rehab.
Aftercare options include the following:
- Sober living homes: Group homes for people recovering from drug addiction. Residents must follow certain rules and stay sober throughout their stay.
- 12-step programs: Anonymous self-help groups that utilize the 12 steps to succeed in recovery from fentanyl use in a group setting; these groups utilize a sponsor system as well for guidance.
- Non-12-step programs: Alternative programs, such as SMART Recovery, utilize scientific and addiction research within the support group. The outlook focuses on self-empowerment.
- Individual counseling: People have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a mental health professional to explore thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors related to fentanyl abuse and addiction.
- Group counseling: People have the opportunity to meet with a mental health professional as well as a group of peers in order to explore their recovery-related issues and guide and support one another.
Get Help Today
It’s never too late to start on the road to recovery. If you or someone you know abuses fentanyl and wants to quit, call 11111 to speak to a recovery support specialist about treatment options.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).
- U.S National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. (2016) Opiate and Opiod withdrawal.
- Semel Institute University of California. Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012) Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Fentanyl.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). What are the treatments for heroin addiction?