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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.

Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Blamed for Rise in Fatal Overdoses

Illegal fentanyl in powdered form also is mixed with street drugs like 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 U.S. 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.

FENTANYL WITHDRAWAL SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Heroin Signs

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.

  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Running nose
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Stomach cramps
  • Sweating
  • Tearing up
FENTANYL WITHDRAWAL TIMELINE

Heroin Timeline

It can take several hours for someone to feel Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms. As such, mild symptoms tend to start 12 to 30 hours after the last dose of Fentanyl. When a patient begins to experience symptoms depends on the amount of the last dose and whether it was in a time-release form like a transdermal patch. Thisfirst stage tends to last no more than two to three days, and it peaks with symptoms like agitation, insomnia, muscle aches, runny nose, and sweating.

Patients will experience the worst physical symptoms on days three through five. These unpleasant symptoms include gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, as well as muscle and bone pain, runny nose, and watery eyes. Patients also start to feel intense psychological symptoms at this point, including anxiety, depression, and mood swings. Luckily, these symptoms will start to decrease after the fifth day. At this point, the brain is beginning to restore balance.

The physical symptoms of Fentanyl withdrawal should dissipate. However, some psychological symptoms, including cravings and depression, can still remain. At this point, the risk of relapse is high and patients should continue to seek medical support to manage their remaining symptoms.

FENTANYL WITHDRAWAL TREATMENT

Heroin Treatment

How to Safely Withdraw 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 the longer-acting nature of the drug does not result in a high.

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).

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.
FENTANYL WITHDRAWAL FAQS

Heroin FAQ

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used to treat severe pain. Doctors can prescribe the medication in lozenge, patch, or pill form. Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. The drug also is sold illegally in powder form and mixed with other illegal drugs such as heroin. A small amount can lead to overdose and death.

Fentanyl withdrawal starts a few hours after use has stopped. Like any other withdrawal process, the timeline and severity varies from person to person based off of the dosage used, the user’s own body chemistry, and the length of time the substance was abused.

Authorities have found fentanyl in several illegal drugs including heroin and cocaine. Because fentanyl is cheap to make, dealers add the drug to their supply to sell more product. Oftentimes, people do not know their drugs have been laced with fentanyl. In other cases, fentanyl’s potency can make the laced drugs more attractive to addicts in search of a greater high. However, people who abuse fentanyl-laced drugs have a high risk for overdose.

Yes. Fentanyl has been linked to thousands of overdose deaths. Many users consume fentanyl-laced heroin thinking they are only using heroin. Many of these people accidentally overdose and die. Fentanyl can also thwart the effectiveness of naloxone or Narcan, a drug used to revive victims of opiate overdoses.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM FENTANYL DRUG TREATMENT

WHEN YOU GET THERE

At a drug rehab center, you can start your recovery with a healthy support group of trained clinical staff, other like-minded recovering addicts, and addiction counselors that only want you to succeed.

PROGRAMS VARY BY INDIVIDUAL

Addiction treatment programs will vary by individual and substance, depending on the severity of his addiction and whether other treatment methods need to be included, such as dual-diagnosis or holistic therapies.

MEDICATIONS USED IN FENTANYL DETOX

Some medications that may be expected are: buprenorphine, Naltrexone, Suboxone, and methadone. Medicines for non-pain health conditions may also be administered, such as for diabetes and high blood pressure.

THE RISKS OF STOPPING FENTANYL COLD TURKEY

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 WITHDRAWAL STATISTICS

72.2%

Between 2014 and 2015 in the United States, the death rate of synthetic opioid overdoses like fentanyl increased by 72.2 percent.

50%

Fentanyl-related drug overdose death rates increased by 50 percent or more in 15 states from 2014 to 2015; some states showed drastic numbers: West Virginia (229 percent), New Jersey (193 percent), and Ohio (131 percent).

37%

In 2016, 37 percent of overdose deaths involved cocaine and fentanyl without heroin, up from 11 percent in 2015.

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