Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment

Last Updated: May 12, 2021

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Using opioids can lead to physical or mental dependence and addiction. That is especially true if the individual has been using medications like fentanyl (brand name Actiq or Duragesic, among others) at high doses for more than a few weeks. Individuals who have continuing pain keep on consuming it. Physical dependence may lead to side effects upon drug’s removal if treatment is stopped suddenly. Read along to know the fentanyl withdrawal symptoms, timeline, and tips on coping with it.

Causes Of Withdrawal

If one uses the opioid, with time, it can lead to severe physical dependence. When an individual takes an opioid drug, brain chemistry alters, as the medications block opioid receptors along with the central nervous system and transform the way the part of the brain’s neurotransmitters or messengers move around. As dependence has been established, the brain will not continue to make these neurotransmitters at required levels on its own and will rather depend on the medication’s obstruction. When the drug is eliminated, opioid withdrawal can start as the brain battles to reestablish balance.

Hopeless addict suffering from fentanyl withdrawal.

Even though not that life-threatening, removing the drug immediately can prove to be a hopeless cycle. Those bearing a fentanyl addiction withdrawal will probably encounter excruciating symptoms if they stop taking the medication or diminish their dosage. Such impacts happen because it requires some time for the body to adjust to no longer having opioids in the system.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Fentanyl withdrawals are similar to any other opioid removal. Some of the common problems include both physical symptoms and emotional changes. Depression, anxiety, and strong drug cravings are among the emotional symptoms. All this can lead to dangerous and drug-seeking behavior.

Depressed man during fentanyl withdrawal.

These symptoms are what make it so hard to quit using. In attempts to avoid the symptoms and suffering, those who quit cold-turkey often relapse when the adverse reactions become too unbearable.

Common Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms Are:

  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety

Raised heart rate and breathing problems can also happen, which can be life-threatening. One of the worst results for many users is insomnia. Also, some people report feeling itchy when trying to get clean. Physical symptoms go hand in hand with emotional changes. Depression and anxiety cause further stress to the person. While mental problems, such as confusion, can happen. As Actiq causes extreme addiction, cravings are very common and last long after detox.

The symptoms stated above are not a complete list and can’t give a full understanding of the problem. What’s more, the return of the pain it was supposed to cure in the first place scares many users. Sadly, it makes people rarely stand the detox process without going back to their drug.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline

According to the National Library of Medicine, fentanyl withdrawal symptoms duration starts within about 12-24 hours after the last use. However, these numbers vary between users and depend on the history of abuse. It’s interesting to note that worn patches are among the most used forms of the drug (which action lasts up to 72 hours). Also, they have a long half-life, and as a result, it begins a whole day after one removes the patch from their body.

 

Asian depressed girl sits on the bed.

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms divide into two parts: the first part includes issues like muscle aches, fever, etc., and second includes vomiting, paleness, and many emotional changes. The symptoms peak in the first few days (around 72 hours) after detox and wear off within a week. However, emotional problems, such as panic attacks, can last up to months, and cravings can continue longer. Scary enough, some post severe ones can even last over a year. There is no exact fentanyl withdrawal timeline because it’s very individual.

Factors That Influence Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms Duration

Different patient’s attributes can potentially affect the discontinuation of Actiq. It may not be completely the same for every individual, and various timetables may need to be adopted.

Several Factors May Influence the Severity and Duration, Such As:

  • Dependence level: The higher the dependence, the higher the discontinuation duration and severity may get.
  • Addiction or abuse: Individuals who use fentanyl for nonmedical aims or who experience urgent drug-using behaviors may experience painful symptoms.
  • Co-occurring disorders: Somebody experiencing a clinical or emotional wellbeing issue may necessitate medications that should be appropriately overseen during the process.
  • Amount consumed: Usually, the more somebody has been consuming the drug, the slower the symptoms may take to deal with the fentanyl withdrawal timeline completely.
  • Abuse of alcohol or other drugs: Other psyche modifying substances can interact with Actiq and may expand the degree of dependence on both substances and form a cross-resistance that should be managed uniquely in contrast to typical.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Treatment

Fentanyl withdrawals can be truly painful, and numerous individuals continue to use this medication to avoid the unpleasant symptoms of quitting it. Nonetheless, addiction treatment in a controlled environment can make the individual more comfortable and lead to a more noteworthy possibility towards success.

Tapering may assist in lessening or eliminating withdrawal signs and symptoms. For tapering off fentanyl, an individual might be first transferred to another opioid, like long-acting methadone or morphine, as revealed in the Tapering and Discontinuation of Opioids distributed from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). After an individual is transferred, such opioids get diminished by around 20-50% every day.

Fentanyl Detox

Actiq detox is the medically managed withdrawal from Actiq for ideal protection and relief. Detox ought to be done as a component of a general arrangement for recovery. An inpatient detox program frames the initial segment of a substance addiction treatment program. It is a characteristic change to directing, which shapes a crucial part of the overall treatment plan.

Doctor supporting a patient during detox.

This procedure is commonly executed in a particular rehab center, contingent upon the person’s specific requirements. It incorporates clinical and psychological health support given by profoundly prepared experts. Imperative signs are monitored to guarantee every individual’s wellbeing, and medicines are likewise regularly used to oversee physical and emotional symptoms. A residential detox is typically suggested for such cases as it is a potent opioid.

Detox for fentanyl withdrawal symptoms duration commonly endures around 5-7 days, however, it can stretch out to 10 days if required. A few individuals may need more or less time, as detox is exclusive for every individual. An intensive assessment during intake can help decide the ideal timeframe for the detox procedure.

How To Cope With It In The Long Term?

Before helping a friend or family member through this procedure, it is ideal to talk to a clinical expert who knows about fentanyl addiction withdrawal. Recovery is a constant cycle, and individuals recovering from substance use and abuse need continuous support and recovery counseling. Seeking assistance in terms of opioid withdrawal will recover the general health and decrease the possibility of accidental fentanyl overdose, relapse, and complications linked with addiction. Methadone maintenance therapy is especially effective in opioid addiction. Find a methadone clinic in your area and start the treatment. The improvement in mental and physical health is worth the timely discomfort of withdrawal.

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Published on: March 15th, 2017

Updated on: May 12th, 2021

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.