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Fentanyl Withdrawals

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In 2019, nearly 1 in 3 people who sought treatment for substance use in California sought it specifically for opioids. Would you be able to spot the signs of fentanyl withdrawal if they were happening to you or a loved one?

Here at Pacific Sands, we utilized a solution-focused approach when addressing substance use and how it impacts our community. One way we do this is by offering educational pieces to help our community make more informed decisions about their health. Today we’re going to talk about fentanyl withdrawals, how they happen, how long they last, and what you can do to address them.

What Causes Fentanyl Withdrawals?

Withdrawals, whether from fentanyl or other substances and medications, occur whenever you stop taking a medication or substance that impacts your body’s functionality when you take it. In the case of fentanyl, it impacts many systems within the brain.

When you regularly take a substance that alters how the body’s systems work, your body becomes accustomed to this assistance and interference. When you stop taking the medication or substance, your body has to adjust to it no longer being present. This period is known as detox and the symptoms that come from this adjustment are known as withdrawal. 

Who Is Most Likely to Experience Fentanyl Withdrawals?

Fentanyl is a prescription medication that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s primarily utilized for extreme cases of pain management like those who are going through cancer treatment. 

The other way fentanyl is commonly taken is through illicit means, both knowingly and unknowingly. Some may pursue fentanyl itself, while others may encounter it through other substances like cocaine or meth due to them being laced with fentanyl. 

Both people who take it as prescribed and illicitly have a chance of experiencing withdrawal. Those who experience withdrawal most often do if they regularly engage in fentanyl consumption, or if they’ve been on a prescription for a period of time.

In the case of prescription fentanyl, many doctors are aware of the potential for withdrawal and will work with patients to taper them slowly off of fentanyl to help mitigate the effects. 

who is most likely to experience fentanyl withdrawals

Going Through the Timeline of Fentanyl Withdrawal

The process of withdrawal is not an exact science, but certain time frames are consistent between cases. Let’s talk about the timeline of fentanyl withdrawal.

  • 0-24 hours after the last dose – This is when symptoms will begin. These commonly include muscle aches, anxiety, runny nose, excessive sweating, altered sleeping patterns, and overall restlessness.
  • 25-72 hours after the last dose – After the first day, symptoms get more intense. Most often this period consists of rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, cramping, diarrhea, blurry vision, and high blood pressure.
  • 1 week after the last dose – While the peak of withdrawal is normally around the 3-day mark, many times the above-mentioned symptoms will persist to varying degrees for up to a week.
  • Up to 6 months after the last dose – Not everyone will continue to experience withdrawal symptoms much after the first week, some people may experience protracted withdrawal. This is when you continue to experience occasional or ongoing side effects well beyond the initial week.

During the large majority of the withdrawal timeline, not only do you have to deal with symptoms such as these, but you also have to deal with intense cravings. This combination is often what leads people to return to use, to satisfy cravings while making the uncomfortable symptoms go away.

What Factors Can Impact the Timeline of Withdrawal?

The exact timeline of withdrawal will vary from person to person. Many things can impact this such as your history of fentanyl use, how strong your last dose was, if you’re detoxing from other substances, and if you’ve detoxed from fentanyl before.

Beyond substance use factors, however, lie other things such as your genetics, metabolism, and overall health of your body. All of these things can influence how the body is able to properly process and adjust to fentanyl no longer being in your system.

Spotting the Warning Signs of Fentanyl Withdrawal

Whether you’re intentionally starting the detox process or not, being able to identify the warning signs can help you react properly to the situation. During withdrawal, especially a few days in, you’re at an increased risk of experiencing an fentanyl overdose. This is primarily due to people returning to use at the same dosage they were used to, but their bodies were no longer accustomed to it, leading to their system becoming overwhelmed.

It’s important to note that no one person will experience the same combination of symptoms. You do not need to experience every symptom in order to be validated in your withdrawal.

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

The most glaring symptoms that come from fentanyl withdrawal are the physical ones. Fentanyl withdrawal, while not inherently deadly on its own, is very uncomfortable for most.

Fentanyl withdrawals don’t just impact one area of the body. As with most substances that lead to withdrawal, your body has a wide reaction as it slowly adjusts to its new normal. Different substances lead to different reactions depending on the exact chemicals within a substance as well as how they impact your body when you consume it.

The most common physical withdrawal symptoms for fentanyl include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle spasms, cold flashes, and cramping. 

Mental Withdrawal Symptoms

Beyond the physical, fentanyl withdrawals also impact your mind. This primarily happens because of the effects of fentanyl when consumed. When the body becomes accustomed to the feelings of euphoria caused by fentanyl, it can make normal levels of euphoria feel like depression and greatly impact someone’s mental health.

Alongside that, intense cravings are very common during withdrawal. These intense cravings can take a great toll on those going through withdrawal, especially if you’re unaware of the potential for cravings ahead of time.

Fentanyl withdrawals can also disrupt sleep patterns, lead to feelings of restlessness, and cause heightened anxiety. 

Should You Quit Fentanyl Cold Turkey or Wean Off of It?

The primary reason withdrawals occur is because someone quits a given substance cold turkey. This doesn’t give your body time to adjust to the substance no longer being present in your system.

Weaning off of a substance, instead of quitting cold turkey, does help decrease the chances of experiencing withdrawal. This is why, in medical situations, many doctors will taper patients off of fentanyl to help the body become accustomed to the slowly decreasing dosages. 

If you’re taking fentanyl outside of a prescription and obtaining it illegally, it’s not recommended to wean off of it. This is primarily due to the dangers that come from continued consumption of illicit substances. You continue to run a risk of experiencing an overdose. The best way to step away from fentanyl use is to seek help from medical professionals.

What Risks Are Associated With Fentanyl Withdrawal?

Fentanyl withdrawal does not come with largely life-threatening side effects, unlike some other substances like alcohol. This doesn’t mean that there are zero risks associated with withdrawal, however.

As we touched on earlier, the biggest risk associated with fentanyl withdrawal is returning to use. This is primarily due to the increased chance of overdosing whenever someone returns to use. The longer you detox from fentanyl, the less accustomed to it your body becomes. This means if you went through five days of withdrawal and then went back and took your previous, normal dosage of fentanyl, it can easily be too much for your system and overwhelm it. 

going through the timeline of fentanyl withdrawals

Getting Treatment for Fentanyl Withdrawals in California

If you’re looking to step away from fentanyl use, or you’re experiencing withdrawal and wish to seek help and comfort, then fentanyl treatment is the right option for you. There are great programs available right here in California that can assist you during your process toward recovery.

When starting your journey away from fentanyl, you will always go through withdrawals, first. The best way to tackle this is through a fentanyl detox program. During a medical detox, you will have medical professionals assist you in ensuring your safety and comfort as you manage withdrawal symptoms.

From there, you move on to inpatient or outpatient recovery to help learn the skills you need to foster a successful, long-term recovery.

If you’re looking for a facility that will work with you to shape a program and timeline to your unique healing needs, then Pacific Sands is right for you. With our intimate facility, we ensure you have the hands-on treatment you deserve. There’s no wrong time to get started, so give us a call today at 949-426-7962 to learn more.

Pacific Sands – The first step towards a new life.


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