Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline
Fentanyl is a highly potent, quick-acting synthetic opioid with a high risk for dependence.1 If you are physically dependent on fentanyl and you cut back significantly or attempt to quit using it, you will experience symptoms that are characteristic of the opioid withdrawal syndrome.1 This article will help you understand more about fentanyl withdrawal, including:
- Symptoms to expect.
- The typical timeline of fentanyl withdrawal.
- What to expect from medical detox.
What Are the Symptoms of Fentanyl Withdrawal?
Fentanyl-dependent individuals continue taking fentanyl or other opioids to feel “normal” or functional.2 If they stop taking fentanyl or other opioids, withdrawal symptoms can set in quickly, causing extreme discomfort and a strong urge to relapse back to opioids.1,2 Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms may include:1-4
- Aching bones or muscles.
- Runny nose.
- Teary eyes.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Feeling jittery and restless.
- Uncontrollable leg movements.
- Depressed mood.
- Strong opioid cravings.
- Increased sensitivity to pain.
- Raised blood pressure, pulse, and temperature.
How Long Does Fentanyl Withdrawal Last?
Fentanyl is a short-acting opioid with a withdrawal timeline similar to heroin.1,4,5 The first withdrawal symptoms begin quickly, as soon as 6 hours after the last dose.1,4
Symptoms typically get progressively worse over the next 1-3 days.4 After they peak in intensity, symptoms will slowly resolve over the next few days and generally subside within 5–7 days.4
Withdrawal timelines may vary among individuals and may be impacted by factors such as:3
- How much fentanyl you use.
- How long you’ve used fentanyl.
- The typical time between fentanyl doses.
- Other opioid use.
Some symptoms experience during withdrawal may linger for several weeks or months.4,6 These symptoms may fluctuate in intensity or disappear and come back.6 These protracted, or post-acute, withdrawal symptoms may include:4
- Feelings of uneasiness or dissatisfaction with life.
- Inability to feel pleasure.
Medically Assisted Fentanyl Detox
Medical detox involves medical supervision and prescribed medications that can make the opioid withdrawal process safer and more comfortable.3,7
During inpatient medical detox, you will be thoroughly assessed to identify your medical history and all of your potential treatment needs, and an individualized treatment plan will be developed. Your doctor may prescribe one or more medications to help ease your withdrawal symptoms, and medical staff will regularly monitor your condition and watch for any concerning medical complications such as dehydration.3
Opioid agonist medications are often used during medical detox to help resist a return to opioid use.7,8 These medications act on the same opioid receptors in the brain as illicit opioids and help to reduce opioid cravings and dull or mask withdrawal symptoms without producing a euphoric high.7,8 These medications, which may be used to manage acute withdrawal and continued as maintenance medications after detox, include:1,3,7,8
- Methadone, a full opioid agonist that reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms and has the ability to block the high from illicit opioids. It may only be dispensed at licensed opioid treatment programs or methadone maintenance programs.
- Buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist medication. It has a ceiling effect that stops the medication from producing opioid effects at a certain dose and reduces the likelihood of overdose.
Methadone and buprenorphine are also associated with reduced risk of relapse during withdrawal, improved treatment retention, and a reduced risk of overdose and overdose death.8
Other medications, such as those to manage symptoms such as diarrhea, blood pressure, or anxiety, may be provided as needed.3
As you get close to completing detox, staff will work with you to refer you to the next step in treatment.3,7 Completing detox is an important first step of addiction treatment, but detox alone is rarely sufficient in reaching long-term abstinence. Without additional treatment, you may at increased risk for relapse, which can lead to a deadly overdose since opioid tolerance drops during detox.3,7,8 Opioid use disorder changes a persons’ thoughts, behavior, and emotions—tying them all to drug use. Treatment interventions, including behavioral therapy and maintenance medications, will help you learn healthier ways to cope with life’s ups and downs and teach you how to avoid situations that trigger problematic opioid use so that you can remain sober long-term. 7,8
- Inpatient residential treatment. You stay at the facility for the duration of treatment, receiving round-the-clock support plus group and individual
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), or day programs. You receive intensive support and treatment for much of the day 5 days a week and go home at night.
- Intensive outpatient (IOP) and standard outpatient treatment. You attend scheduled treatment appointments while living at home. IOP involves longer sessions several times a week, while standard outpatient involves shorter sessions that take place less frequently.
Most health insurance plans cover opioid detox and addiction treatment. The coverage may differ depending on your plan and your needs. We can help you