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Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline & Symptoms

Symptoms & Timeline of Fentanyl Withdrawal

Fentanyl is one of the strongest painkillers that is used in the medical field today. Fentanyl is highly addictive, and fentanyl withdrawal can be miserable, even when used for medical purposes.  Unfortunately, it’s not only used in a controlled medical facility.  Fentanyl has also taken to the streets lately and has become a very popular drug of abuse among illicit drug users. 

Even worse, fentanyl is one of the most dangerous narcotics that a person can use – especially if they aren’t under medical supervision. Today we’re going to take a look at fentanyl and the symptoms of its withdrawal so you can understand what you should expect if you have to withdraw from this drug.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a schedule II narcotic painkiller. That means that it currently has an accepted use as a medical drug but is highly abusable and should be used as little as possible. It’s a part of the opioid family of drugs, which contains other narcotics like heroin and morphine.

Opioid drugs are highly potent analgesics and are fantastic for helping alleviate pain. Unfortunately, due to the way that they saturate the opioid receptors in your brain, they can cause some serious withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use.

For this reason, if you ever find yourself in a situation that requires you use opioid painkillers to feel okay, it’s important that you wean yourself down before you stop using the drug entirely. This means that you gradually reduce your dose over the course of several weeks.  This way, your body can become accustomed to having lower and lower doses of the opioid drugs populating its receptor systems.

Morphine, which is notorious on its own for causing withdrawal symptoms, is less than 50 times the potency of fentanyl. This gives you an idea about the serious addiction potential of this drug. (1)

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Many drugs cause some sort of withdrawal symptoms upon their cessation, but opioid drugs in particular are known for the harsh physical withdrawals that they cause. While withdrawal from fentanyl will not kill you, you will certainly experience severe discomfort. You may even need medical care to manage your withdrawal symptoms.

The symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal are wide and varied, and can include any or all of the following:

  • Sweats and chills
  • Runny nose or stuffiness
  • Watery eyes and excessive yawning
  • Coughing
  • Fevers and nausea
  • Extreme fatigue, exhaustion
  • Mental problems – difficulty focusing, memory issues, intrusive thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Restless legs syndrome (akathisia)
  • Anhedonia (inability to find pleasure in everyday activities)
  • Severe insomnia lasting weeks
  • Weakness of the muscles
  • Pain in the muscles and bones
  • Cramping in the stomach and digestive system
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Irritation, emotional instability, mood swings
  • Serious cravings

The symptoms increase in severity the longer that one has been using  fentanyl and the higher dose that they use.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline

The withdrawal timeline for fentanyl depends on a few things. If you have been taking the medicine as prescribed, you may still have to face withdrawal symptoms – but they will not be as severe as someone who has been using it illicitly for years. Furthermore, if you have only used opioids one or two times, your withdrawal period will not be as protracted – the body learns to remember what withdrawal feels like, and the more times you experience it, the faster its onset will be. (2)

It also depends how your fentanyl is being taken. Fentanyl can be short or fast-acting.

  • Early stages of withdrawal come before the peak. People given fentanyl with an IV or most other methods besides the slow-release transdermal patch can expect some symptoms to arise within 12 hours. Transdermal users should see symptoms within 30 hours.
  • The peak of withdrawal will come between 24 and 36 hours for non-transdermal users. This is when most of the symptoms will be present and you will be very uncomfortable and possibly safer under medical supervision. This will last for 1-3 days for non-transdermal users, and potentially 2-5 days for transdermal users.
  • Longer symptoms stick around for 1-2 days, but are rather mild. These are often psychological symptoms like cravings or depression that linger in the individual’s mind while their body attempts to restore a state of homeostasis.
  • Post-acute symptoms, also known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), is a condition in which a person develops long-term symptoms as a result of their opioid use. This often occurs in people who have used the drugs for a long time and often requires that they seek psychological help to help them overcome these conditions.

Plan For Your Withdrawal

Fentanyl is a very powerful drug, and while it has its medical uses, it’s very important that anyone who needs to use it takes care not to develop a serious dependency. Fentanyl withdrawal can be horrible, and addiction to fentanyl should be avoided at all costs.

Hopefully this information helps you develop a plan for your withdrawal from fentanyl.  Don’t be afraid of requesting a medically supervised detox if you think that would help you through it. 

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