Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment
Opioid abuse is a significant problem in the United States, and there is no sign of it decreasing. Legal and illicit opioid use is rising, which has resulted in a flood of life-threatening overdoses.
As of April 2021, 100,306 people had lost their life to opioid-related causes in the previous 12 months. The dramatic increase in opioid abuse-related deaths has public health officials and medical professionals alarmed.
Fentanyl, a powerful opioid drug, is responsible for nearly 75% of the overdose deaths recorded in the past several years. Most deaths connected to fentanyl are the result of illegally manufactured fentanyl, not the same fentanyl that is prescribed by physicians to manage severe pain.
People who are addicted to other opioids, such as heroin or oxycodone, may develop an increasingly high tolerance that causes them to deliberately seek out fentanyl for its more powerful effects. Others think they are using heroin or OxyContin, but their drugs actually contain fentanyl and they find themselves addicted to fentanyl.
The first step toward recovery involves detoxing and going through withdrawal. The fentanyl withdrawal timeline is different from person to person, but symptoms can begin 1-2 days after your last dose and last for a week or more.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that doctors prescribe to treat pain. Fentanyl is available in several forms, including:
- Injectable liquid
- Nasal spray
- Powder (the most common form of illicit fentanyl)
Fentanyl is effective at relieving severe and chronic pain but poses the risk of addiction. Users may experience a pleasant high, sedative, or euphoric effect when taking fentanyl. This may make them want to take it more often or in higher doses than prescribed. Some people may take fentanyl recreationally–without a prescription.
Fentanyl is life-threatening in tiny amounts. Drug traffickers often add powdered or liquid fentanyl to other drugs, including heroin and counterfeit opioids. People who use counterfeit opioids or heroin are vulnerable to overdose because they may unknowingly ingest a fatal dose of fentanyl.
But even people taking fentanyl as prescribed may become dependent on it. It’s critical to take fentanyl exactly as your doctor prescribes and be aware of any signs of abuse or dependence so you can seek treatment immediately.
Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal from fentanyl can be very challenging. Many people cannot withstand the physical and emotional discomfort and cravings that occur during withdrawal and relapse early in the process before having a complete detox.
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle weakness
- Lack of appetite
- Increased heart rate
- Elevated blood pressure
- Strong cravings
Going through withdrawal in a medically-supported detox program can help you stay safe and comfortable during detox. The more support you have during withdrawal, the more likely you will have a safe, complete detox from fentanyl.
How Long Does Fentanyl Withdrawal Last?
The fentanyl withdrawal timeline varies from one person to the next based on a variety of factors, including:
- How long you’ve used the drug
- How often you use it
- What dose your body is used to taking
- Whether or not you’re detoxing from other substances, too
- Your overall health
For most people, acute withdrawal symptoms subside after 1-2 weeks.
Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline
Detox is often physically and emotionally challenging. Knowing the stages of fentanyl withdrawal can help you prepare for what will come next and stay focused on the most essential thing: your recovery from addiction.
Symptoms may begin within 8 hours of your last dose of fentanyl. Long-acting opioids, including fentanyl, take longer to clear from your system, so symptoms may take up to 48 hours to develop.
Long-acting opioids like Fentanyl often have a longer withdrawal period than short-acting drugs. People may experience physical symptoms, including sweating, chills, muscle weakness, and nausea, and psychological discomforts like depression, insomnia, and anxiety. Symptoms can fluctuate in intensity throughout a person’s withdrawal period.
20 days and beyond
Some people develop a prolonged form of withdrawal called Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS. People with PAWS may experience depression, insomnia, anxiety, and low mood for several weeks or months after acute withdrawal.
People with mood disorders, anxiety, and chronic pain are more likely to have longer, more intense withdrawal periods than those without these conditions.
Treating Fentanyl Addiction
On an average day, 200 people will die from opioid abuse, and the majority of these deaths involve fentanyl. Without treatment, fentanyl addiction can lead to severe, sometimes life-threatening complications, including overdose. People who use fentanyl must be aware of the signs of addiction, and those who abuse fentanyl must seek immediate treatment.
Effective addiction treatment is available in many settings and levels of care. Recovering from addiction requires dedication and hard work, but living the healthy life you choose is worth the effort.
Fentanyl abuse treatment generally happens in stages.
Before beginning treatment, a doctor or addiction professional will assess your individual needs and recommend a level of care. You will answer questions about your physical and mental health, substance use, treatment history, and other personal information.
People who abuse fentanyl or become addicted to it must have the support of a medically-supervised detox program during withdrawal. Fentanyl withdrawal can be physically and emotionally challenging. Without medical treatment and emotional support, many will be unsuccessful and may relapse before the process is complete.
During detox, doctors can prescribe medications like methadone or Suboxone to reduce the severity of withdrawal and prevent complications.
Fentanyl addiction is a complex condition, and people require caring, comprehensive treatment to overcome it. Treatment for fentanyl addiction must address the physical, emotional, and behavioral aspects of a person’s addiction and give them the skills they need to avoid relapse for the rest of their life.
Fentanyl addiction treatment plans use a combination of evidence-based and holistic therapies, including:
- Medical and mental health care
- Individual counseling
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Holistic therapies like nutrition support, massage, exercise, and art therapy
The amount of time someone spends in treatment depends on the intensity and length of their addiction and other personal factors. After completing treatment, people must follow an aftercare plan that will keep them active and engaged in their recovery. This may include joining a support group, continuing individual counseling, or participating in other forms of addiction treatment.
Find Help for Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction Today
Going through withdrawal on your own can make you feel miserable and isn’t likely to be successful. You don’t have to detox alone. Contact the PAX Memphis staff to learn more about managing your fentanyl withdrawal symptoms in a safe, supportive environment.
Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.