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COVID-19 and Rehab: Facts about drug and alcohol addiction treatments during pandemic.

dr-vorobjev

March 19, 2021

Even more potent than heroin, fentanyl is an addictive and life-threatening drug when it is used incorrectly. Fentanyl is prescribed to those with severe pain and may be given to patients that have recently undergone surgery or that are undergoing cancer treatment. Fentanyl may also be prescribed to people who suffer from chronic pain but have a tolerance to other opioid analgesics.

As one of the most powerful synthetic opioids in existence, fentanyl has a high addiction potential and is responsible for a disproportionate number of overdose deaths. Even if a patient takes fentanyl as prescribed, there is a possibility of forming a dependence on the drug, which can lead to addiction if it goes unchecked. As with all opioids, withdrawal from fentanyl can be unbearable and detox is often unsuccessful if attempted without the proper medical assistance.

This article will help you learn about the symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal and how long withdrawal will last. You will also discover a safe and painless treatment option that can help you or a loved one put an end to this dangerous drug addiction.

A bottle of prescription fentanyl tablets

Possible side effects

Even when used as prescribed, fentanyl can cause a number of side effects. Though many of them will dissipate on their own, you should speak to a doctor if these side effects are intense or if they continue for a long period of time. These include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling cold
  • Tiredness or unusual fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Reduced respiratory function

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms

The symptoms of a fentanyl abstinence crisis are similar to other opioid withdrawal side effects and are often compared to having the flu, though are commonly more intense and uncomfortable. Some fentanyl withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Chills
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Runny nose
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Intense drug cravings

The severity of these withdrawal side effects will depend on the seriousness of the addiction. If an addict has been abusing large amounts of fentanyl for a long time, symptoms will be more intense. Those who abuse fentanyl for prolonged periods of time are also more likely to experience adverse mental side effects as a result of altered brain chemistry.

How long does fentanyl withdrawal last?

Normally, fentanyl has a half life of about 3 hours and 40 minutes, meaning that withdrawal symptoms can start about two to four hours after the last use. For those using a transdermal patch such as Duragesic, it will take longer for the abstinence crisis to begin, as the patch is an extended release medication. With a half life of 17 hours, the adverse effects of withdrawal will begin about a day after removal of the patch.

If you are getting off of a non-patch form of fentanyl, withdrawal will likely peak within two to four days and subside after a week to ten days. With the transdermal patch, withdrawal may peak later, as it takes longer for the drug to leave your system. This means that physical symptoms could last for ten days or longer. Each individual’s timeline of events depends on factors such as general health, the length of time the drug was consumed, and the amounts of fentanyl a person was consuming..

It must be noted that getting through withdrawal is never as simple as it sounds, and addicts are often unsuccessful in their attempts to get off of fentanyl alone due to the painful withdrawal symptoms.

Psychological side effects of fentanyl withdrawal

A man experiencing psychological turmoil after fentanyl withdrawal.

As these physical manifestations subside, there may be a lasting feeling of being unwell. After getting through acute withdrawal, some people may experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms, or PAWS for weeks or months as the brain returns to its normal pre-addiction state. These side effects consist of occasional psychological and emotional disturbances such as irritability, depression, insomnia, anxiety, and brain fog.

Get a free online consultation with a medical expert to learn how to manage these symptoms for you or your loved one >>>

What is fentanyl detox and withdrawal treatment?

In order to detox from fentanyl, the drug must be cleaned from your body. Though it is technically possible to gradually clean the drug from the body safely, gradual self-detox frequently fails due to the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms.

One detoxification and withdrawal treatment method is opioid replacement therapy. With this method, other opioids such as methadone or buprenorphine are used to treat withdrawal symptoms and then the patient is slowly tapered off of these narcotic drugs. Unfortunately, these substances have an addiction potential of their own and may cause some users to form a dependence on methadone and buprenorphine, which may lead to another addiction.

Ultra-rapid opioid detoxification (UROD) is a more modern detox method that is safe, effective, and painless. This method ensures that fentanyl is completely gone from the patient’s system, and it does so quickly and without discomfort, circumventing the worst of the withdrawal symptoms.

Attempting to get off of fentanyl alone is very uncomfortable and has a high chance of leading to relapse. To get through fentanyl withdrawal safely and comfortably, detoxification should happen in a medical facility that specializes in the treatment of addiction.

Medical expert assessing the mental state of a fentanyl addiction treatment patient.

In order to avoid painful withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse, you should get the support you need by participating in an opiate addiction program. When older treatment methods are used, the detoxification process can last for months, but with individualized treatment plans and modern methods, even better results can be achieved in a much shorter time span. In fact, fentanyl treatment can be completed in just 14 days, or up to 21 days in more severe cases. There are five phases to an opiate addiction program, which are outlined below.

Diagnostics

Medical examinations and tests are run in order to assess the physical and mental state of the patient. These diagnostic tests will help the addiction treatment experts decide which method of detoxification is most suitable. 

Some of these examinations include tests for infections, blood analyses, and an ECG to test for cardiac abnormalities. In more severe or complicated situations, several specialized examinations can be run to get to the root of the issue.

Detoxification

In order to remove the substance from the body and return the chemicals in the brain to their pre-addiction state as quickly and painlessly as possible, several therapies may be used, including: Neurojet (N.E.T) therapy, which helps normalize endorphin levels in the brain,  pharmacotherapy, which helps put a stop to the effects of the drug and can reduce pain, and ultra-rapid opioid detoxification (UROD), which removes the drug from your body while you are under anesthesia.

Physiotherapy

This kind of therapy may include massaging or rubbing of the muscles, which helps to normalize dopamine levels, increase blood flow, and eliminate toxins from the body.

Pharmacological blockade

After detoxification, medications such as Naltrexone may be used. Naltrexone works by attaching to the opioid receptors in the brain without activating them, which stops you from feeling the pleasurable effects of opioids and other narcotics. Since the patient no longer feels the euphoric sensations that come from fentanyl use, it reduces their desire to take it.

Therapy and outpatient support

All of the above steps are crucial to the successful treatment of addiction, but support and therapy post-detox are also important to the continued sobriety of a previous opioid addict. Having sessions with a therapist can help a patient handle the psychological changes that come with addiction, and outpatient support is especially important for those that are participating in pharmacological blockade.

If you or a loved one is suffering from fentanyl addiction, do not hesitate to ask for professional help.

Allow us to lend you a helping hand so that you can get off of fentanyl once and for all. Get a free and confidential online consultation to discuss treatment options and outcomes with an expert of the clinic >>> 

Frequently asked questions

What are the symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal?

Symptoms may be similar to the flu and include but are not limited to runny nose, sweating, muscle aches and pains, chills, and gastrointestinal problems. Other than intense drug cravings, you are likely to experience psychological manifestations of abstinence including anxiety, depression, and sleep issues.

How long does fentanyl withdrawal last?

If you use a transdermal patch, withdrawal will likely begin about one day after you remove it and last for around 10 days. For other forms of fentanyl, withdrawal will begin in a matter of hours after your last dose and will generally last for a week or longer. This time can be greatly reduced when you participate in an opiate addiction program.

How do I get off fentanyl?

The safest and most comfortable way to stop using fentanyl is by going through an opiate addiction treatment program at an expert medical facility. The stages of this program include: diagnostics, detoxification, physiotherapy, pharmacological therapy, sessions with a psychologist, and outpatient therapy and support.

What is ultra-rapid opioid detoxification (UROD)?

UROD is an anesthesia assisted procedure that rids the body of opiates through administration of naloxone and naltrexone. Since the patient is under anesthesia for the duration of the procedure (which lasts from 6 – 8 hours a day, often for several days), they don’t have to suffer needlessly through painful withdrawal symptoms.

Published on March 19, 2021

by Dr Vorobjev Clinic team

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