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Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms And Timeline

Joseph Sitarik, DO

Medically reviewed by

Joseph Sitarik, DO

April 2, 2019

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and typically last one to eight days. A medically monitored detox program can help to manage withdrawal symptoms.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid used in the medical setting to treat chronic and severe pain. It is most often prescribed to those with hard-to-control pain or people who have a tolerance to other opioids.

Because of its intense pain-relief and euphoric effects, this drug can be abused, often leading to tolerance and addiction. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the abuse of fentanyl has increased in past years. Deaths related to fentanyl use have also increased.

Stopping taking this drug, even when taken as prescribed, can cause a number of side effects. These side effects can range from uncomfortable to dangerous and may include sweating, restlessness, and joint pain.

How Does Fentanyl Work?

As with other opioids, fentanyl works by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain. These receptors are located in the parts of the brain that control emotions and pain. When fentanyl binds to these receptors, dopamine levels can increase and produce relaxation and euphoria.

Fentanyl also dulls the feelings of pain and allows people to experience an emotional disconnect from the pain.

This drug is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic and is an estimated 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine or heroin.

The side effects of fentanyl are similar to that of heroin and may include:

  • euphoria
  • nausea
  • confusion
  • fatigue
  • respiratory depression
  • constipation
  • sedation

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Fentanyl Abuse

Because of its effects on the brain and the feelings of euphoria and relaxation it produces, fentanyl is abused just like other opioids such as heroin.

People who abuse fentanyl often obtain the drug on the street. It can be found in powder form, on a blotter paper, as tablets, or mixed with other substances such as heroin. Fentanyl is most commonly swallowed, snorted, or injected intravenously.

Individuals who take fentanyl can build up a high tolerance to the drug in a short amount of time. This means that they will need to take more of the drug to feel the same effects. This tolerance can lead to abuse as well as put people at an increased risk of addiction.

Additionally, physical and psychological dependence on the drug can develop. People who abuse the drug long enough may need to take the drug just to feel normal. This can result in difficulty trying to stop taking fentanyl and lead to addiction.

When a person is dependent on fentanyl, he or she will likely experience a range of withdrawal symptoms when not on the drug. These symptoms can make giving up fentanyl incredibly difficult. Many people give in to the intense cravings and desire to ease the symptoms by using fentanyl again.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Fentanyl is a drug that can cause both physical and mental addiction and dependence. As a result, quitting the drug can cause a number of mental, emotional, and physical withdrawal symptoms.

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • sweating
  • chills
  • diarrhea
  • upset stomach
  • sleep problems like insomnia
  • muscle and joint pain
  • mood changes
  • anxiety
  • yawning
  • trembling
  • restlessness

More severe withdrawal symptoms of fentanyl can include:

  • muscle weakness
  • increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • pupil dilation
  • weight loss
  • severe anxiety
  • nausea
  • insomnia

People who are withdrawing from fentanyl may also experience psychological side effects. These can include trouble feeling pleasure, depression, and intense cravings for the drug.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline

When and how long the symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal will be felt will depend on individual factors. How much a person takes and how long he or she has abused fentanyl will influence the withdrawal symptoms experienced.

The following is a general timeline of fentanyl withdrawal:

  • Eight to 30 hours after the last dose — Moderate symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal may be felt. These may include sweating, upset stomach, and chills.
  • One to three days after the last dose — This is typically when people experience the most severe side effects.
  • Five to eight days after the last use — For many people, most withdrawal symptoms have subsided. People may even feel back to normal by this time. However, for others, it may take weeks to feel themselves again.

Psychological symptoms like depression, intense cravings, and irritability may be felt for several weeks or months after quitting fentanyl. Minor physical symptoms may also persist. This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome and will be different for each person.

Getting Help For Fentanyl Withdrawal

Attending a medically monitored detox program is the safest and most effective way to withdraw from fentanyl. These programs can provide any needed medication to help ease symptoms. They also offer a comfortable and safe place to go through the withdrawal process.

To learn more about fentanyl withdrawal symptoms and the timeline of withdrawing from this drug, contact us today.

Drug Enforcement Administration - Fentanyl

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Fentanyl

FDA - Duragesic

Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior - Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

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