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Coping With Fentanyl Withdrawal and Leaning Into Recovery

Table of Contents

Key Points

Understanding The Cycle of Fentanyl Withdrawal

Fentanyl is a Schedule II controlled substance, a classification reserved for substances that carry a high potential for misuse, addiction, and severe dependence.[1] The significant dangers of morphine stem from both its potential for addiction and its potency. 

More than 100 times more potent than morphine, fentanyl is a dangerous synthetic opioid.[2] This potent substance is approved for use only in a medical context, usually for post-operative pain relief or cancer. 

As your body develops opioid dependence, you may experience increased cravings for it or notice that higher doses are required to attain the same euphoria as before. If you suddenly eliminate the substance from use, you may experience uncomfortable withdrawal and related side effects, increasing the likelihood of relapse and activating a harmful cycle that characterizes opioid use disorder (OUD).  

However, in illicit use cases, fentanyl doses are completely unregulated and potentially lethal. Opioid substances, including fentanyl, are the most common substances found in overdose fatalities.[3]  

Fentanyl is often used to “lace” other street drugs, like heroin or cocaine, to activate a more intense high at a lower street value. Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveal that more than 150 people die each day in opioid overdoses, including fentanyl. [4]

What are the symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal, and how can they be managed?

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms are consistent with opioid withdrawal symptoms, which include:[5]

Managing Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

In the world of substance abuse and addiction treatment, several evidence-based interventions can be implemented to treat the symptoms of withdrawal. Usually, these interventions will be part of a comprehensive detox, inpatient, or outpatient treatment program.

An opioid taper is a type of medication-assisted treatment that can mitigate opiate withdrawal and reduce uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. This process gradually lowers the amount of fentanyl in the system by prescribing prescription opioids and controlling the dosage amounts. 

Some of the common medications used in tapering schedules include buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone.[6] These prescription medications include both full and partial opioid agonists as well as opioid antagonists, which interact with opioid receptors in the brain. Buprenorphine and methadone are agonists that activate opioid receptors, while naltrexone is an antagonist that blocks these receptors. As your brain and body adjust to newly reduced levels of opioid substances, the dosage will be reduced until it can be safely discontinued completely.

Tips For Managing Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms At Home

The Mayo Clinic shares several helpful interventions you can try at home to manage uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms on your own.[7]

Disclaimer: Always consult with a medical provider before attempting detox on your own or making any changes to your existing health and medication routine.

Fentanyl Rehab Resources

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Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one are struggling with fentanyl use or other substance use disorder (SUD), there are practical solutions available. Across multiple levels of care and within the safety net of a supportive community, you can find relief and restoration. 

Medical Detoxification is often the first level of care that allows you to address the withdrawal experience while also beginning to reset patterns and routines without substances. With individualized pharmacology and behavioral health care interventions, opioid addiction treatment can be navigated with safety and success. 

Detoxification is only a small part of a comprehensive and integrated process. Once your body has had a chance to reset, a lower level of care in formal treatment should follow. 

Residential rehab offers an opportunity to focus completely on treatment and recovery while staying in a peaceful environment free of distractions. Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) or Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) are suitable for those who have completed higher levels of care or who may not need inpatient programs. 

Standard outpatient treatment and Aftercare are ideal for later stages of recovery when you have developed a strong sense of independence and autonomy. Comprehensive evaluations and an individualized treatment plan aligned with your needs will determine the level of care that's best for you.

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There is a safe and supported way to approach fentanyl withdrawal and recovery. Seek professional help from reliable substance use disorder providers and clinicians. A new day starts tomorrow! 

Frequently Asked Questions About Fentanyl Withdrawal

Fentanyl is a fast-acting opioid with intended effects that activate quickly and also dissipate quickly. Withdrawal symptoms can begin to appear within just a few hours after the last dose.[8] Intensity will vary based on the baseline amount and the severity of dependence but often peaks within 72 hours. Withdrawal symptom duration can last days or even weeks.

It’s important to remember that all treatment plans and timelines will be customized to meet individual needs. However, in most cases, the average detox timeline is between three and ten days. Detox is only the first phase of a successful recovery and should be followed up with other levels of care and treatment.

The only guaranteed way to avoid withdrawal symptoms is to avoid the use of addictive substances. However, even with prescription medications, this is not always possible. While not all symptoms can be completely avoided, many can be mitigated or reduced with medication-assisted treatment, symptom management, and other self-care interventions.

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