Fentanyl is known to be the most powerful drug in the opioid family. If you thought morphine was strong, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent. Fentanyl can be prescribed as a lozenge, film, or tablet, but it can also be made illegally and sold as a street drug. Common forms of legal fentanyl include Duragesic (Similar to that used for smoking, fentanyl patch), and Actiq (fentanyl powder).
Known to produce intense euphoric effects when abused, it is prescribed to treat pain in those who have an opioid tolerance. Another reason that fentanyl is prescribed is for those whose pain is not properly managed by other medications. Despite this, there are severe side effects, including addiction and dependence.
Dependence happens when the body needs the drug in order to perform normal tasks. If you stop using fentanyl suddenly you will experience opioid withdrawal symptoms as your body begins to detox.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. It is used for “breakthrough pain” in adults, and often in those who have cancer. It is an opioid analgesic, but it is also habit-forming. It commonly leads to dependence, tolerance, and overdose.
Often times fentanyl as an adulterant is found within cocaine or other drugs. This makes fentanyl and overdose risk extremely common because too much is ingested. However, fentanyl is an opioid of choice is becoming increasingly more common.
Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms
- Inability to sleep
- Increased tearing in eyes
- Muscle and bone pain
- Runny nose
- Cold flashes
- Goose bumps
- Dilated pupils
The symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable. Despite this, they are not usually life-threatening. The main risk of fentanyl withdrawal is the increase in overdose.
Dangers of Withdrawal
The main danger of fentanyl withdrawal is actually dehydration above all else. This occurs due to fluid loss. This makes it important to drink as much water as possible while going through fentanyl withdrawal. If you choose to go to a medical detox center you will be given intravenous fluids. This will eliminate the risk of dehydration.
Another risk of withdrawal is overdose. If you decide to try your recovery from fentanyl addiction without fentanyl addiction treatment, you may end up weaning off of fentanyl, and then relapsing. When you relapse you have a much higher risk of overdose. This is due to your tolerance decreasing during fentanyl detox, but still taking the same as before. It leads to a dangerous amount of the drug in the body and possibly death.
Withdrawal Timeline for Fentanyl
The duration of opioid withdrawal symptoms is usually similar but can differ from person to person. The typical timeline is between four to ten days. There are a few different phases of withdrawal.
- Phase 1: Primary symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal include agitation, restlessness, and a runny nose. People may also feel general flu-life symptoms, fatigue, and suffer from body aches.
- Phase 2: Cramping, nausea, and diarrhea. These are uncomfortable, but they are the body’s way of getting out the bad elements and detoxing.
- Phase 3: The final stage of opioid withdrawal is usually less about physical symptoms and more about mental health. Your mood may be down, and you may suffer from depression, as well as strong cravings.
There are different variations of fentanyl withdrawal symptoms, including mild, moderate, or severe. Whether you have cravings for the drug or terrible physical symptoms, you may want to use it again. This is why many people relapse as a way to relieve withdrawal symptoms. The best way to avoid these symptoms is to enroll in a medical detox program. These programs provide you with emotional support and medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
Causes of Fentanyl Detox
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. It binds to opioid receptors in the brain. Although it relieves pain and produces a feeling of relaxation, it can also pose huge potential for abuse. Eventually, it leads to addiction, dependence, and tolerance. When dependence occurs it means that the user will require more fentanyl in order to feel the same effect. This leads to what is described as tolerance.
If you have a tolerance to fentanyl and you stop taking it, then your body will go into a state of withdrawal. This will then cause both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, as the substance leaves the body. This process is known as detox or detoxification.
Best Fentanyl Detox Methods
Cold Turkey vs Medical Detox
Going “cold turkey” is the act of stopping the use of a drug immediately without tapering off. It is not a safe method, and it also has a greater risk of relapse. When you suddenly cut off Fentanyl after having a dependence, your respiratory rate, heart rate, and blood pressure will suddenly rise. These systems can become overwhelmed and confused, but it can also lead to a stroke or heart attack. Because Fentanyl withdrawals also come with emotional issues, quitting cold turkey can mean dangerous mental side effects.
Medical detox is recommended for drugs like Fentanyl because there are dangerous withdrawal symptoms involved. For example, you may be put on tapering off schedule along with your medication. In some cases, doctors may completely replace the drug with Buprenorphine or Naltrexone. This allows you to slowly get off of opioids and lessen your withdrawal symptoms.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can be a life-saving tool. Some of the medications used include:
- Buprenorphine-Based Medications: Buprenorphine is a partial opiate agonist. It includes medications such as Suboxone or Zubsolv. These medications are considered to be the best form of MAT for those with moderate to severe opiate withdrawal. There are also medications such as Zubsolv, which help to control withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and help to prevent relapse. If you have been taking a high dose, then you will also be given a higher dose of buprenorphine. In some cases, a Suboxone and fentanyl detox will need to be completed.
- Methadone: Although this medication is not prescribed as frequently, it does work, It has a high potential for abuse, but it can reduce detox symptoms and opioid cravings. Eventually, in some cases, both a methadone and fentanyl detox will need to be completed. Methadone has many side effects, and cannot be given to people who suffer from breathing problems, Crohn’s disease, liver issues, or alcohol dependence.
Counterfeit Pills with Fentanyl
One huge issue with fentanyl is the fact that it can be found in many counterfeit pills. Often it is mixed into pills in order to fill them, but this can have deadly consequences. These pills have been falsely marketed as prescription drugs. They are often sold online or through social media and look like the real drug. They are easy to find and easy to purchase. Typically they contain more than the deadly dose of fentanyl.
Any pills that are purchased away from a pharmacy are illegal and dangerous. The only time it is safe to have medications is when they are prescribed and provided by a licensed professional.
At this point over 10 million counterfeit pills have been seized in one year, which is huge. Many of these counterfeit pills contain at least two milligrams of fentanyl. This is considered deadly. After more laboratory testing it was found that two out of every five pills with fentanyl contain a lethal dose.
Common counterfeit pills with fentanyl include:
- Oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall)
Because they are widely accessible, it can be very dangerous, especially for young people. They are sold on social media and even on websites. This makes them very available and accessible. You wouldn’t even know they were fak by looking at them. These counterfeit pills have been seized in every U.S. state, in large amounts.
Getting Help for Your Addiction
Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are some of the most commonly found drugs in overdose cases. In fact, almost 60 percent of opioid-related deaths involve fentanyl. It is essential that anyone who is suffering from a fentanyl addiction gets help, and goes to formal addiction treatment.
At Circle of Hope, a rehabilitation facility, we provide medical detoxification services, as well as other therapy options. Not only do we offer medication-assisted treatment, but we also provide individual counseling, and group therapy as a normal part of our treatment programs.
By learning how to properly manage your stress and triggers, you can get help. We also offer cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing, used in conjunction with MAT. These behavioral treatments have been shown to be incredibly effective for fentanyl abuse.
Get started today at Circle of Hope. We are here to help you rebuild and get started on a new path of recovery.