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Withdrawal From Fentanyl

Withdrawal from fentanyl can be very difficult. Cravings and fentanyl withdrawal symptoms may cause you to relapse.

What Does Fentanyl Do?

Fentanyl is among the most potent painkillers available. It is categorized as a schedule II medicine in the United States, meaning fentanyl can be abused. Fentanyl can be administered to a patient who suffers from severe pain and is resistant to some opioids. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine [1]. It is prescribed as fentanyl transdermal patches or lozenges and can be diverted for abuse. Fentanyl is addictive because of its potency. Long-term effects of fentanyl abuse can cause damage to the entire body. Most recent cases of fentanyl-related overdose, harm, and death in the U.S. are linked to illegally made and street fentanyl. Fentanyl detox centers can help those suffering from fentanyl addiction overcome their withdrawal from fentanyl.

What Does Fentanyl Do To Your Brain?

Fentanyl functions in the brain like many other opioid drugs such as heroin. It binds to opioid receptors in the central nervous system (CNS). These opioid receptors manage and regulate one’s experience with pain. They’re also known to have an impact on one’s emotions.

Once the fentanyl molecules attach to the opioid receptors, they flood the brain’s reward centers with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurochemical that is naturally produced by the body. It’s crucial to autonomic function. It’s also integral to the regulation of various behaviors.

When dopamine rushes into the brain, it saturates the opioid receptors. This causes a sense of extreme euphoria and relaxation. It’s a feeling that the brain craves. Too much dopamine can lead to sedation, nausea, confusion, respiratory arrest, depression, and more.

The influx of dopamine signals to the brain that it needs to stop producing it. As a result, the brain will inherently begin to make less and less of this neurochemical to balance out the neurochemical levels. Unfortunately, within time, the brain will adapt. It will continue producing dopamine at low levels even when no artificial stimulation exists.

withdrawal from fentanyl
Fentanyl addiction is a severe condition that affects more Americans than one would think.

What Does Fentanyl Do To Your Body?

Long-term fentanyl abuse can cause effects on the entire body. From the brain, and other organs, to extensive tissue damage, including limb loss, the body as a whole is at risk when a person engages in long-term fentanyl abuse [2].

Long-term fentanyl use depresses the respiratory system. Respiratory depression over a long period of time can result in less oxygen being distributed throughout the body, which is referred to as hypoxia. This can cause overall irreversible damage to tissue in the body and result in brain damage and damage to the cardiovascular system, liver, digestive, and respiratory systems.

What Does Fentanyl Do To Your Heart?

Fentanyl can cause bradycardia. Bradycardia is a name for what occurs when a person has a slow heartbeat, which is usually defined as having less than sixty beats a minute. When a person experiences bradycardia, their heart can’t pump enough blood during exercise or normal activity. When someone abuses fentanyl, it can lead to a condition called long Q-T syndrome, where the heart’s electrical conduction is slowed, and its natural rhythm is disrupted. The long-term use of fentanyl causes the change in the natural rhythm of the heart can become permanent, contributing to a lack of proper oxygen delivery and heart damage.

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How Addictive is Fentanyl?

Like heroin, morphine, and other opioid drugs, fentanyl works by binding to the body’s opioid receptors, which are found in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. After taking opioids many times, the brain adapts to the drug, diminishing its sensitivity and making it hard to feel pleasure from anything besides it. When people become addicted, drug-seeking and drug use take over their lives.

Even just a couple of milligrams of this opioid can be fatal for recreational users. Many illegal versions of fentanyl are circulating in the streets, with various substances interacting in dangerous ways. This drug, called non-pharmaceutical fentanyl (NPF), is produced in makeshift labs and often cut with cocaine or heroin.

Even with prescription use, fentanyl can cause seizures, respiratory failure, coma, and death. One of the significant reasons Fentanyl deaths are rising is how quickly users die from it, well before most emergency medical personnel can administer successful treatment, often an injection of naloxone. In addition, the effect that fentanyl has on the muscles of the abdomen and chest often makes it difficult for first responders to administer CPR.

Withdrawal from Fentanyl

Although fentanyl is prescribed in medical settings, it is also diverted for street use. When bought on the streets, fentanyl may be called “china girl,” “china town,” “china white,” or “apache.” The effects of fentanyl are similar to those of other opioids; however, they are far more extreme. It is difficult to discontinue Fentanyl without professional help.

Fentanyl creates euphoric effects, pushing people to begin abusing the drug in the first place. It makes the user feel good. That’s why many individuals take it recreationally, not knowing the dangers. And if a person is already addicted, attempting to quit without proper treatment will result in withdrawal from fentanyl.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone who suffers from an addiction to fentanyl suddenly stops using, fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can occur. These can include:

  • Fentanyl cravings
  • Goose bumps
  • Runny nose
  • Increased tearing
  • Sweating
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Excessive yawning
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscles aches
  • Joint pain
  • Weakness
  • Stomach cramps
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation

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How Long Does Fentanyl Withdrawal Last?

Withdrawal from fentanyl can last up to several weeks or longer, depending on how your body responds to the medication used to relieve fentanyl withdrawal symptoms. The greater the amount of fentanyl used, the larger the dose of medicine needed to control and manage fentanyl withdrawal symptoms — meaning your withdrawal from fentanyl may be longer. In some instances, medication may be used for a lifetime to help you stay abstinent from fentanyl and other opioids.

Don’t try detoxing from fentanyl on your own since doing so has life-threatening consequences. Fentanyl is a short-acting opioid, which means fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can begin anywhere between 8 and 24 hours after the last use and may last between four and ten days.

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Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline 

Withdrawal symptoms from fentanyl may vary from person to person and usually appear in as little as 12 to 24 hours after the last dose.

  • Stage 1 or the early stage with initial fentanyl withdrawal symptoms: It may take several hours for the body to feel withdrawal after the last dose. However, early-stage withdrawal effects may be experienced in as few as three to four hours following dosage and last for two t three days peaking with symptoms such as agitation, muscle aches, insomnia, sweating, and runny nose.
  • Stage 2 with serious symptoms: Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms typically appear within one to two days and subside within a week or two in most cases. This is the stage when the worst physical symptoms start becoming intense. This includes nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle and bone pain, increased tearing, and runny nose. By day five, Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms will decrease once the brain relearns how to manage on its own with Fentanyl in its system.
  • Stage 3 includes post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) that may affect users for months or even years. Physical symptoms generally disappear within a week, but emotional symptoms like depression, anxiety, and cravings can become post-acute.

Symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

  • The trouble with cognitive tasks
  •  Panic or anxiety
  •  Irritability
  •  Depressed moved
  •  Difficulty maintaining social relationships
  •  Increased sensitivity to stress
  •  Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
  •  Craving fentanyl
  •  Sleep pattern disturbances
  •  Apathy or pessimism

It takes seven to 10 days for the worst symptoms to pass. Cravings for Fentanyl can last for years after the last dose, but users can relapse without understanding the emotional and physical stressors.

withdrawal from fentanyl
Some users become depressed during withdrawal from fentanyl and may have thoughts of self-harm.

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Fentanyl Withdrawal Treatment

Withdrawal from fentanyl can be difficult for patients and require medical and specially trained personnel. This is where detox centers come in. Fentanyl detox centers can help those suffering from addictions such as fentanyl abuse overcome their dependence without coming to harm. They also provide a safe setting where patients can focus on their detox and recovery until they’re ready to rejoin the outside world.

Most inpatient 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:

  • Patient community
  • Wellness support
  • Treatment of underlying medical conditions
  • Medical services
  • Behavioral services
  • Social services

With professional doctors, counselors, and therapists available 24/7, your overall well-being and holistic healing are prioritized in these facilities. 

Medical Detox Treatment for Withdrawal from Fentanyl

Fentanyl detox is the medically assisted withdrawal from fentanyl for optimal safety and comfort. Detox should be done as part of an overall recovery plan. Detox centers and drug recovery programs are safe, clean, and comfortable places. They are staffed with healthcare providers, including nurses, social workers, and psychotherapists, all of whom are specially trained for and experienced in addressing your addiction recovery needs. 

Inpatient treatment facilities provide a more immersive treatment environment and around-the-clock supervision for the duration of your treatment. During the day, you will participate in activities with other people in recovery. This setting can be advantageous for those using fentanyl for an extended period. Inpatient detox has the additional benefit of helping to remove you from your everyday temptations and break old habits before returning home. 

It is important to remember that recovery from substance addiction takes much more than simply ending drug use. The underlying causes of the addiction and the mental illness from the addiction itself must be addressed for the best chances of a successful recovery.

withdrawal from fentanyl
Someone experiencing withdrawal from fentanyl will likely experience many uncomfortable feelings and negative thoughts about life during the process of detox

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Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

First and foremost, if you think that a loved one is abusing fentanyl, you should first research the drug and addiction associated with it so that you can better understand what your loved one needs.  Next, you must plan an intervention to provide your loved ones with options to battle the effects of fentanyl abuse in a safe and supportive environment. During this intervention, offer compassion and support instead of judgment. Lastly, show your support throughout the entire treatment process.

In addition, prolonged drug use can have severe physical and psychological effects on you, so it is essential to seek treatment as soon as possible. Inpatient drug rehab offers intensive care that can help you promptly get through the early stages of withdrawal. 

Medically-Assisted Detox

Medical detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated withdrawal from fentanyl process but doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior contributing to drug use. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can give necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and withdrawal effects from fentanyl.

Psychotherapy 

Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of mental health disorders along with addiction, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves changing both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Person-Centered Therapy – is a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.
  • Solution-focused therapy is an approach interested in solutions that can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Drug abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorder and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. This strategy treats both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.

Medication-Assisted Treatments

Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for substance use and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

Please, do not try to detox on your own. The detox process can be painful and difficult without medical assistance. However, getting through the detox process is crucial for continued treatment. We Level Up provide proper care with round-the-clock medical staff to assist your recovery through our opioid addiction treatment program medically. So, reclaim your life, and call us to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

withdrawal from fentanyl
Medically supervised detox in an inpatient recovery center can help to ensure safety, increase comfort, and provide a solid start to the recovery process of withdrawal from fentanyl.
Sources:

[1] CDC – https://emergency.cdc.gov/han/han00413.asp
[2] NIDA – https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl
[3] Fentanyl Addiction Treatment – We Level Up NJ
[4] Withdrawal from Fentanyl Treatment Options (welevelupnj.com)