June 9th, 2023
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid frequently used to treat severe pain. One hundred times stronger than morphine and some types of heroin, fentanyl has a very high potential for addiction. For this reason, if you are considering breaking the cycle of fentanyl addiction, it is vital that you first do your research, as this will assure that you are prepared for all the obstacles that might come your way.
If you have chosen to make a clean break from fentanyl, the first step comes with detox. While this process is challenging, it also must be done if you are truly to begin the road to recovery. With the help of trained professionals at a rehabilitation centre, this can help to offer you a haven of support, away from all the triggers that can make those initial stages of recovery so difficult. Here’s all you need to know when coming off fentanyl, which means starting a new life out from under the chains of addiction.
Why do our bodies react when we undergo fentanyl detox?
After some time using fentanyl, both the brain and body will have learned to rely on the substance to achieve normal functioning. In fact, many users have commented that they found it impossible to feel any normalcy at all unless they took the drug. This is because when you stop supplying regular doses of fentanyl to your body, your brain will no longer continue making the necessary neurotransmitters on its own and will instead rely on the drug to intervene. Therefore, your brain must learn how to produce these chemicals again without the help of fentanyl, a process which, unfortunately, does not happen overnight.
It can take a while before the body and brain get back to normal, and, in the meantime, you might feel quite unwell. The more dependent you are on fentanyl, the more your body must adjust as it tries to restore balance.
What is fentanyl detox?
Fentanyl detox is a natural process that begins after the last dose of the drug has been taken. When you stop taking fentanyl, or at the very least cut down the dosage significantly, your body will react by trying to heal itself. Detox jump-starts the process of getting the body back to its original state, and it is this that can result in many types of symptoms occurring, which can range from mild to severe in intensity. While this process is not particularly enjoyable, there are procedures that can be implemented to help ease those more uncomfortable symptoms. In a dedicated facility, for example, you might be weaned off fentanyl over the course of a couple of weeks, or you could be given a substitute opioid drug to help lessen the severity of symptoms.
Withdrawal from fentanyl
Withdrawal simply refers to the physical and mental process that a person undergoes when they stop taking or drastically decrease their dose of fentanyl. Withdrawing from any drug that you have become dependent on, either psychologically or physically, is going to be a challenging, complicated process. The good news is that in the right place and with plenty of support, fentanyl withdrawal need not be too difficult.
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms have been likened to those experienced during a bout of the flu and usually last for several days. Some of these symptoms can include, but are not limited to:
- Low blood pressure
- Slow heartbeat
- Shallow breathing
- Breathing difficulties
- Loss of consciousness
- Extreme fatigue
- Runny nose
Fentanyl detox timeline
While every individual is different, and it would be impossible to predict your precise experience, we have compiled a fentanyl detox timeline below, which includes some of the main symptoms usually experienced by those detoxing:
The early symptoms:
These earlier symptoms can range from aches and chills to anxiety and an inability to sleep. It is also common to experience intense cravings all the time.
24-72 hours after last dose
The peak symptoms:
These symptoms can last up to a week after the last dose of fentanyl and those more severe physical symptoms will typically feel at their most intense during this period.
Several weeks or months later
The long-term symptoms:
A few physical symptoms may continue to present themselves. This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome.
What is the best way to detox from fentanyl?
Whether you choose to detox from fentanyl at home or at an inpatient facility, your safety is paramount, and it is vital that you approach this process with careful consideration and planning. Fentanyl detox will likely put your strength to the test, and wherever you are, it is particularly beneficial to keep your body at optimal performance, drinking plenty of water, exercising where possible and eating healthy meals with high nutritious value. We have also found it can be useful to turn to tasks that bring you peace and relaxation during this process, taking part in activities that help both distract and soothe you.
Medical detox for fentanyl
Of all methods implemented for fentanyl detox, a medical detox has been said to be the best way to break the cycle of abuse and should be included as part of a comprehensive programme of treatment that deals with all aspects of the addiction. Quitting fentanyl can be a very unpleasant experience that could cause some individuals to return to the drug out of desperation. Medical detox can prevent this from happening by making the process as comfortable as possible.
It is also possible to quit fentanyl cold turkey, which is another term for stopping suddenly. Although this is the quickest way to break free, it is also the most unpleasant and the one that is likely to result in the worst withdrawal symptoms. Also, if the drug is removed without warning, a condition known as opioid withdrawal syndrome can set in as the brain struggles to restore balance. This is a life-threatening condition which is preventable through appropriate medical intervention.
Detox clinics are always considered the safest environment in which to withdraw from drugs. As you will stay in the clinic for the duration of the process, there is less chance of returning to fentanyl when strong cravings do occur. While fentanyl detox is possible at home for those who do not yet have a full-on addiction or those who have a less severe addiction, the risk of relapse tends to be higher.
If you remember that the symptoms you are experiencing will pass and that when they do, you will feel much better, you should be able to make it through to the end.
Benefits of inpatient fentanyl detox
- Detox clinics are considered the safest environments to withdraw from drugs. As you will stay in the clinic for the duration of the process, there is less chance of returning to the drug when strong cravings do occur.
- Each member of staff will be there to make your experience of fentanyl detox as relaxed as possible. This can be done using appropriate medications administered by a medical professional to ease your symptoms and keep you calm. If you are experiencing symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, for example, you may be prescribed medication to relieve these symptoms.
- You will have access to round-the-clock medical supervision, meaning that you can access psychological or physical intervention as needed.
- You will be surrounded by a group of people who have experienced similar hurdles, and you can use their strength to inspire you on your own journey toward sober living.
Freedom from fentanyl
Choosing to free yourself from fentanyl might be one of the most difficult challenges to undergo, but it can also be the most rewarding. This is not going to come easy, and it will require all the strength that you can find within. Make sure you are kind and compassionate to yourself and understand that adjusting to this new way of thinking takes time.
Across all eight of our UKAT facilities, we work with the belief that detox is just the first part of the recovery process. Quitting the drug is important, but perhaps even more important is learning to live without it. To secure your future and be free from the weight of addiction, you will need to know how to avoid a return to these dangerous substances, and for this you will require fentanyl rehabilitation.
Frequently asked questions
Which medications can I take to alleviate fentanyl withdrawal symptoms?
The most commonly used medications to treat patients when undergoing a medically assisted detox are medicines such as Clonidine
, and Buprenorphine
– all highly effective in alleviating those more uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Why is it dangerous to detox at home?
Trying to quit fentanyl without the appropriate medical supervision can be very dangerous. Given the severity of symptoms, it is recommended that you consult with a trained professional who can arrange a gradual withdrawal plan (or ‘taper’) to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and get you well as soon as possible. Without this support, there is a higher possibility of complications occurring.
How can I help a loved one detox from fentanyl?
Possibly the most important way to support your loved one during detox is by radiating love and understanding. Expecting recovery but also being prepared for the possibility of relapse will help make you ready for any outcome. It can be difficult to watch someone you love under the grips of addiction, but we would ask that you try not to take it personally. Detox is a very strenuous process, and your loved one will need all the support they can get.