Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate medication used to treat severe pain. Sold pharmaceutically in a patch (Duragesic) or lozenge form (Aqtic), the drug is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. Doctors typically prescribe this narcotic to treat pain associated with major surgeries or serious conditions such as advanced cancer. Fentanyl also is used in hospice care to keep a terminally ill patient comfortable before death. Because of its potency, fentanyl carries a high risk of abuse and addiction. People who abruptly stop taking fentanyl after prolonged use can experience painful symptoms known as fentanyl withdrawal.
Quitting Fentanyl Cold Turkey Is Not Recommended
Heavy fentanyl users may decide to stop using the drug all at once–known as going “cold turkey”–to break their addiction. However, quitting cold turkey without medical help can lead to painful and dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Because fentanyl is an extremely powerful narcotic, users should seek help from a detox facility or drug rehab center to safety withdraw from the drug.
Fentanyl abuse is often deadly because the drug depresses respiratory functions. People typically die from an opiate overdose because they stop breathing. If you or a loved one experience trouble breathing or other serious symptoms, call 911 immediately or visit an emergency room or urgent care center immediately for medical attention. These symptoms are red flags that yours is a more urgent situation, and you must seek help now.
Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Blamed for Rise in Fatal Overdoses
Illegal fentanyl in powdered form also is mixed with street drugs, most commonly heroin. Fentanyl also has been found in illegal Xanax pills and cocaine. Drug dealers sometimes add fentanyl to their supply to sell more of their product. Many users inject fentanyl-laced heroin without realizing it, putting them at risk for overdose. Authorities say fentanyl is behind the steep rise in accidental overdose deaths in recent years.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the US with 55,403 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reports that on average 44 people die from opioid abuse daily in the US. More first responders across the country are carrying naloxone or Narcan–a drug used to restore breathing in people who have overdosed on opiates like heroin. However, when added to heroin, fentanyl can thwart these life-saving efforts. The drug’s extremely high potency makes naloxone less effective.
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Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms
Because of its potency, fentanyl’s withdrawal symptoms can be more severe than that of other powerful opiate drugs such as heroin. Medical professionals recommend fentanyl users get medical help from a detox facility or drug rehab center to prevent any health complications or a return to use, known as a relapse. Whether a person uses fentanyl as a prescription medication or as an illegal street drug can affect the withdrawal process.
Common Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms Can Include:
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Running nose
- Rapid heartbeat
- Stomach cramps
- Tearing up
Fentanyl Withdrawal Detox and Treatment
How to Safely Withdrawal from Fentanyl
Withdrawal treatment for fentanyl most often takes place in an inpatient setting in a detox facility or drug rehab center. Fentanyl detox treatment can be similar to that of other potent opiate drugs such as heroin. The key to safely withdrawing from fentanyl is a medically supervised tapering process. At a detox and drug rehab, medical professionals gradually reduce the dose to prevent painful withdrawal symptoms, such nausea and fever.
At a detox facility, clients can be given longer-acting opioids, such as Suboxone to ease withdrawal symptoms. The medications also can prevent cravings, but longer-acting nature of the drug does not result in a high.
Medications to Expect During Detox Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction:
- Methadone Maintenance: Methadone is a long-acting synthetic opioid antagonist that is used to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms in opioid addicts. Methadone is often used as a long-term alternative for those who have a history of opioid relapse.
- Buprenorphine Maintenance: Buprenorphine is an opioid analgesic, meaning it affects the same receptors as heroin and opioids, but it doesn’t create the same high. This drug is most commonly used to treat opioid dependence and comes in the form of a single tablet or dissolvable film.
- Naltrexone: Naltrexone is a once-a-day pill that blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of opioid drugs. The drug is also available in a once-monthly injectable form called vivitrol.
- Suboxone: Suboxone is a drug that consists of a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, an opioid analgesic and antagonist. Similar to methadone, suboxone is a depressant used to limit cravings and withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin.
Continue Treatment after Detox
After detox, clients are encouraged to enroll in an inpatient or outpatient drug treatment program to prevent a return to use. Although most physical withdrawal symptoms subside after about a week, psychological symptoms, such as depression and cravings, can persist. Inpatient or outpatient drug treatment programs can help clients throughout what is known as Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).
Need Help Finding Treatment in Your Area? Drug Treatment Center Finder Can Help
Drug Treatment Center Finder has a database filled with drug rehabs in all 50 states. We can help you find a drug treatment center in your area. If you have questions on withdrawal detox and treatment, call our 24-hour hotline at (855) 619-8070, and one of our call agents will walk you through the addiction treatment process.