Fentanyl Withdrawal And Detoxification
Fentanyl is a powerful medication that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. This drug may be prescribed as a lozenge, film, or tablet. Fentanyl can also be made illegally and sold as a street drug, as it produces intense euphoric effects when abused.
Fentanyl treats pain in those who have an opioid tolerance, or whose pain is not properly managed by other medications. This drug can cause severe side effects, including unusual thinking, depression, and mouth sores.
One of the side effects of fentanyl is dependence, which happens when the body needs the drug to perform normal functions. If a person stops using fentanyl suddenly, they will likely experience opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Common symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal include:
- inability to sleep
- increased tearing in eyes
- muscle and bone pain
- runny nose
- cold flashes
- goose bumps
- dilated pupils
- uncontrollable leg movements
Symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be agonizing, but are not typically life-threatening. However, withdrawing from a drug like fentanyl can increase a person’s risk for certain dangers, including overdose.
What Causes Fentanyl Withdrawal And Detoxification?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that binds to opioid receptors in the brain. This process relieves pain and produces a feeling of relaxation in the body. Because of these effects, fentanyl has a high potential for abuse, and can lead people to dependence and tolerance.
When a person is dependent on a drug, they need the substance to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Over time, they require higher or more frequent doses to get the same effects. This is called having a tolerance.
If a person stops taking fentanyl suddenly, their body enters a state of withdrawal. They may suffer from both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, as the body clears itself of the substance. This process is known as detoxification.
Phases Of Fentanyl Withdrawal And Detox
The duration of opioid withdrawal symptoms usually last anywhere from four to ten days. During this time, there are several phases of fentanyl withdrawal.
Early symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal include agitation, restlessness, and runny nose. People may feel flu-like symptoms such as fatigue and body aches. Phase two of withdrawal may cause a person to experience cramping, nausea, and diarrhea. As uncomfortable as these symptoms may be, they are the body’s natural way of detoxifying from the buildup of substances.
The last stage of opioid withdrawal tends to be less physically painful, but can impact a person’s mental health and mood. Extended withdrawal symptoms may include depression, and strong cravings for the drug.
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms may be classified as mild, moderate, or severe. During each of the three phases, people may have cravings for fentanyl, or other opioids. Many people relapse (return to the substance) simply as a way to relieve withdrawal symptoms.
This is why medical detox services can be extremely important. In a medical detox program, patients are provided with emotional support and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to soothe withdrawal and detox symptoms.
Dangers Of Fentanyl Withdrawal
The main danger of fentanyl withdrawal is dehydration through fluid loss. It’s important to drink as much water as possible throughout the detox process. One of the benefits of medical detox is the use of intravenous fluids, which corrects and prevents dehydration.
An additional risk of withdrawal is overdose. Because a person’s tolerance can decrease without regular doses, people who return to the drug may accidentally take too much. If they attempt to use their previous dose, they could suffer an overdose. It’s vital that people understand that once they have detoxed, their body cannot handle the same dose they were previously taking.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) For Fentanyl Withdrawal
One of the main barriers to getting off fentanyl is the detoxification process. It can be discouraging to have a true desire to stop using, only to repeatedly fall prey to the cycle of relapse.
Fortunately, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can be a life-saving tool in recovering from fentanyl addiction.
Several types of medication are available to help people recover from opioid dependence, including:
Buprenorphine-Based Medications *h3*
Buprenorphine is a partial opiate agonist, and includes buprenorphine-based medications like Suboxone or Zubsolv. Buprenorphine-based medications are considered to be the best form of MAT for managing moderate to severe opioid withdrawal.
Medications like Zubsolv control withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and help to prevent relapse. If a person was on a high dose of fentanyl (or another opioid), they will be prescribed a higher dose of buprenorphine. This allows people to get the correct therapeutic dose for their body.
This medication is not prescribed as frequently, because it has a high potential for abuse. However, when taken as prescribed, methadone can reduce detox symptoms and opioid cravings.
Methadone does have certain side effects, and should not be administered to people who suffer from respiratory problems, Crohn’s disease, liver issues, or alcohol dependence.
Getting Help For Fentanyl Addiction And Withdrawal
Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths in the U.S. In 2017, 59 percent of opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl. To combat these rising rates of fentanyl abuse, it’s vital that people have access to formal addiction treatment.
At The Bluffs rehab facility, we provide on-site medical detoxification services as well as a range of treatment therapies. Medication-assisted treatment, individual counseling, and group therapy are part of a daily structure that supports patients in early recovery.
Patients learn how to manage stress, triggers, and difficult emotions in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing sessions. When used in conjunction with MAT, these behavioral treatment approaches are shown to be especially effective.
It is possible to rebuild your life after fentanyl addiction. For more information on fentanyl withdrawal and detox, or to learn more about The Bluffs, reach out to a treatment specialist today.
Drug Enforcement Administration — Fentanyl
National Center for Biotechnology Information — 4Withdrawal Management
National Institute on Drug Abuse — Fentanyl