Fentanyl is a very powerful opiate use as a medical treatment for pain. The drug contains addictive properties similar to illegal drugs like heroin. However, fentanyl is 100 more times potent than heroin and cocaine. This makes the side effects of the drug more intense and deadly. There are several forms of fentanyl sold in the market, these are:
- injectable form (Sublimaze)
- transdermal patches (Duragesic)
- lollipops (Aqtic)
In recent years, fentanyl abuse increased drastically according to The Drug Enforcement Administration or DEA. Experts noticed the increased in several instances like:
- emergency department visits
- drug seizure cases
- drug overdose related incidents
Users who use fentanyl for a long time are at risk of developing tolerance and dependence. They may experience withdrawal symptoms whenever they attempt to stop using fentanyl. Unfortunately, because of the high potency and severe intensity of fentanyl, withdrawal symptoms can be more severe compare to other opiates.
Undergoing ‘cold turkey’ remains as the top reason why users do not want to stop using fentanyl. Because of the difficulty quitting the drug, users are stuck crash and use cycle.
However difficult it may seem, quitting the addiction is still possible. Some the things that may help users quit fentanyl addiction include:
- understanding withdrawal symptoms
- the process involved during withdrawal
- aftercare to avoid any possibility of relapses
Tapering off Fentanyl
Tapering means gradually decreasing the dosage of fentanyl until the body re-learns to function without the drug. In doing so, it can reduce the discomfort of the withdrawal symptoms. Slowly removing fentanyl from the body is also referred as weaning off from the drug. Tapering off from fentanyl needs careful monitoring and precise medications from medical practitioners. This will ensure:
- the drug leaves the body gradually to avoid painful withdrawal symptoms
- Withdrawal symptoms may manage to avoid any possibilities of relapses
This method varies from an individual to anther and doctors may utilize different approaches. Several factors play an important role when tapering off from fentanyl, these include:
- The dependence level of users (the heavy the user is, the slower tapering needs)
- Severity of the addiction
- Co-existent disorders like mental disorder or other medical problems
- the duration of fentanyl abuse
- Other occurring substance abuse (other substances can hinder and interact with fentanyl)
Detoxification means removing all traces of fentanyl from the body safely. A detox program will eliminate all toxic substances from the body.
A detox program can either be done in an inpatient or outpatient depending on the user’s condition. However, for fentanyl users, detox is usually done in a health care facility to ensure the safety of the user. Medical practitioners need to monitor several things like:
- physical aspects of addiction and the mental health of the users
- vital signs
- medications needed to ensure gradual fentanyl excretion
- manage the physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms
The process usually lasts around 5 to 7 days and can extend for more than 10 days depending on the severity of the addiction. Some people need more time compare to other users. A meticulous evaluation can help determine the most appropriate detox time process for each individual.
Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms
When users choose to stop using fentanyl the body goes into withdrawal process. Opioid withdrawal symptoms usually start within 12 to 30 hour from the last drug intake. Fentanyl transdermal patches take longer to leave the body. It can last up to 72 hours after removing the patch. The drug has a half-life of 17 hours and withdrawal can start at least a day after removal.
Withdrawal symptoms of fentanyl include:
- Tearing up
- Runny nose
- Stomach cramps
- Pain in joints
- Muscles Pains
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated heart rate
- Increased respiratory rate
- Pupil dilation
Fentanyl withdrawal timeline
Because of the short-acting half-life of fentanyl, it takes about three days to leave the body. Withdrawal symptoms usually last for 14 days to a month but some psychological symptoms may linger for a while. Depression and problems feeling any pleasure along with cravings may last several months to a year.
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms peak in the first few days and fade within a week or so. The withdrawal timeline of the drug is as follows:
1 to 3 days
Within several hours of stopping fentanyl intake, withdrawal symptoms will start. Some of the initial withdrawal symptoms include:
- muscle and joint pain
- stomach cramps
3 to 7 days
The symptoms may continue to peak but include some more withdrawal symptoms like:
- runny nose
8 to 21 days
Withdrawal symptoms will begin to fade but psychological problems may start to surface like depression and anxiety.
Beyond 21 days
Other symptoms that may arise and need to properly address to ensure full recovery of the user. Proper aftercare can also avoid cravings and relapses.
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