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Fentanyl Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline, & Getting Help

When a person is physiologically dependent on fentanyl, they can experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to abruptly cut back or stop taking the drug.1 Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can be distressing and uncomfortable, and in some cases, lead to complications.1 This article will help you learn more about fentanyl withdrawal, including the symptoms, timeframe, and how to get help for fentanyl addiction.

Why Does Fentanyl Withdrawal Happen?

Physiological dependence occurs when the body adapts to a drug, resulting in symptoms of withdrawal if they abruptly cut back or stop taking it.2 Physiological dependence can occur even if someone uses fentanyl as prescribed by a doctor, which is why fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II narcotic.3 The extreme discomfort and intensity of fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can make it difficult to stop using it.1

What Are the Symptoms of Fentanyl Withdrawal?

All opioids, including fentanyl, produce similar withdrawal symptoms, but genetic, physiological, and psychological factors can affect a person’s withdrawal experience.4 While fentanyl withdrawal is not generally life-threatening, it can be highly unpleasant, and medical complications can occur.4

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can include:1, 4

  • Anxiety.
  • Bone and muscle pain.
  • Abdominal cramps.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Fever.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Goosebumps.
  • Sweating.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Uncontrollable leg movements.
  • Severe cravings.

Because fentanyl withdrawal can be highly unpleasant, many individuals have a high potential for relapse, which is why the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends that clinicians do not attempt to manage opioid withdrawal without medication.4 Fentanyl withdrawal can be managed under medical supervision to relieve these withdrawal symptoms and make the process much more comfortable and safe.4

How Long Does Fentanyl Withdrawal Last?

The fentanyl withdrawal timeline varies but generally last around 14 days. Long-acting opioids like fentanyl will typically result in withdrawal symptoms starting up to 36 hours after the last use.5, 6 The first symptoms of withdrawal vary in intensity but can include bone and muscle pain, muscle twitches, runny nose, teary eyes, stomach cramps, restlessness, and yawning.5 Initial symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal can peak in intensity around 72 to 96 hours after the last use, at which many people will go into fully developed withdrawal.6

Factors That Impact Fentanyl Withdrawal Timelines & Severity

Several factors can influence the duration and severity of the withdrawal process, including:4, 5

  • How long a person has been using fentanyl.
  • How much fentanyl a person has been using.
  • Whether a person uses other substances (e.g., alcohol, drugs).

How To Cope With Fentanyl Withdrawal

Although fentanyl withdrawal is typically not life-threatening, most clinicians believe that it should be treated aggressively with detoxification at a drug detox center.4 Medical detox provides medication, monitoring, and support to help a person comfortably and safely withdraw from fentanyl.4 A fentanyl detox may involve the use of certain medications to help manage the acute symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal, with the most common ones being buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone.5

Benefits of Medical Detox for Fentanyl

Medical detox has numerous benefits for people with opioid use disorders (OUD), including:7

  • Helping to keep people in treatment.
  • Lowering death rates from opioid use.
  • Increasing rates of employment.
  • Lessening chances of criminal activities.
  • Improving outcomes for women who are pregnant.

For many people, treatment for fentanyl withdrawal is an important part of the recovery process. However, detox is not a substitute for more comprehensive treatment efforts. Rather, detoxing from fentanyl in a professional setting can help facilitate the transition into ongoing inpatient addiction treatment or outpatient addiction treatment.4 Rehab can help address the underlying issues that lead to substance use.4

Get Help for Fentanyl Addiction

If you or your loved one is showing signs of fentanyl use or may be struggling with addiction, American Addiction Centers (AAC) can help. AAC is a leading provider of evidence-based treatment for substance use. When you call you will be connected with an admissions navigator who can listen to your story, provide information on treatment options, and verify your health insurance coverage for addiction treatment. Our compassionate navigators can also discuss the different levels of care, go over your payment options, and even help you start the admissions process.

Recovery is possible, so don’t wait. Pick up the phone and reclaim your life today.

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