To understand why those with an opioid use disorder need a fentanyl detox, it’s important to know what it is. Fentanyl is an opioid drug that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine. It plays a role in the U.S. opioid crisis.
Synthetic opioids like fentanyl cause most overdoses. Yet, this substance in particular contributes the most. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 59% of deaths from opioids were from fentanyl in 2017. Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms cause many to stay on it in the first place. That’s why it’s essential to find quality fentanyl addiction treatment before it’s too late.
What Are Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms?
First of all, fentanyl binds to the body’s opioid receptors. These receptors are located in the brain stem, thalamus, spinal cord, and cortex. Receptors in the brain control emotions and pain. Bodily chemicals like endorphins release when someone takes fentanyl. Endorphins reduce pain, increase pleasure, and reduce stress. In short, they can make a person feel euphoric.
Hence, a person addicted to fentanyl will rely on the drug to diminish pain. Also, they’ll depend on it to feel happy, in a sense. The more a person uses fentanyl, the more they become dependent on it to feel anything but sad and/or in pain. When a person stops using it, they start to feel fentanyl withdrawal symptoms. The body isn’t used to the lack of feel-good chemicals and craves them desperately.
Common fentanyl withdrawal symptoms include:
- Excessive sweating
- Heart palpitations
- Intense pain
- General uneasiness
These symptoms make it difficult to stop using. Additionally, people who use fentanyl for chronic pain will feel worse off than before they started. This is because their levels of endorphins are lower than ever.
Women especially may feel less inclined to stop using. According to NIDA, women are more pain-sensitive in comparison to men. This could be because they are more likely to suffer from chronic pain.
With this, research indicates they might use fentanyl to deal with anxiety or chronic pain without a prescription. This might be due to the fact that women with chronic pain are often dismissed by doctors. Harvard’s health blog notes that women who deal with chronic pain are told that it has to do with stress or mental illness. Therefore, women self-treat with fentanyl. However, no prescriptions mean no steady supply, often leading to fentanyl withdrawal symptoms.
Timeline of Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms
The timeline of fentanyl withdrawal symptoms depends on the severity of the case. This synthetic opioid is made legally, but it’s also made illegally in different forms. Medically, fentanyl is usually made in pill, patch, or liquid form. On the streets, it can come in the form of a powder and blotters. To continue, injected and snorted fentanyl is more intense since it hits the bloodstream quicker.
Those who take street opioids will experience fentanyl withdrawal symptoms sooner. Symptoms can appear in as little as eight hours. The Journal of Pain and Symptom Management studied withdrawal symptoms specifically for fentanyl patches. The following is what they observed in three patients using fentanyl for severe pain.
Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms in Patient One
The first patient was a man that used fentanyl for kidney cancer, along with bone and lung cancerous growths. He began to feel fentanyl withdrawal symptoms after his body became used to the drug, craving more. After 18 hours he experienced severe pain, tremors, heart palpitations, hopelessness, uneasiness and excessive sweating.
Patient Two’s Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms
Secondly, another patient on a fentanyl patch used it for adenoid-cystic carcinoma of the palate. Basically, this is a tumor in the neck and head areas. It’s a rare disorder that can cause intense pain. She too experienced fentanyl withdrawal symptoms after lowering her dose. She was already on a lower dose than patient one. After 48 hours she was in pain, excessively sweating, had tremors, felt anxious and uneasy.
Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms in Patient Three
Finally, this patient also suffered from adenoid-cystic carcinoma. She began to feel fentanyl withdrawal symptoms after about 24 to 26 hours. Her symptoms made her feel anxious, distressed, sweaty and uneasy. Pain-wise, she felt mild pain. Also, she mentions feeling unusually weak and lethargic.
What Is a Fentanyl Detox?
A fentanyl detox is a type of medical detox that rids the body of the opioid itself, but also the buildup of toxins from its abuse. Furthermore, fentanyl is known for its unpleasant and extreme withdrawal symptoms. Women especially have a difficult time with them, says NIDA. They also have higher risks of relapse and cravings.
When a recovering addict decides to do a fentanyl detox, it’s usually within an addiction treatment center. The program usually lasts around three to seven days. Yet, the duration depends on the severity of the addiction. A facility such as this will often take bloodwork to determine this.
Firstly, the fentanyl detox will begin with tapering the patient off of the drug. Typically, this will happen on the first day of the program. Medical staff doesn’t want to keep them on opioids for too long, but they also want to avoid extreme fentanyl withdrawal symptoms. An addiction treatment center may also prescribe certain medications to mitigate the negative effects.
A person doing a fentanyl detox might be prescribed the following medications:
- Naloxone (EVZIO and NARCAN)
Additionally, a common symptom of fentanyl withdrawal is anxiety, depression, and anguish. Other medications to deal with mental health disorders might be prescribed as well. Common medications to deal with these issues include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and anti-anxiety medication. Of course, medications known for their addictive qualities (i.e. Xanax) won’t be offered.
Not every addiction treatment center will offer medication to assist in withdrawal. That said, they should all offer support and guidance during this tough time. Also, withdrawal symptoms may last longer than expected after fentanyl detox. While most stop feeling them within a few months, some feel them mildly for a couple of years.
Holistic Habits That Help a Fentanyl Detox
Holistic habits are actions one can take to speed up recovery and ease symptoms of withdrawal without medicine. Taking care of the mind and body greatly affect how much pain, depression, and anxiety a person suffers from. Addiction treatment centers will offer assistance on how to incorporate healthy habits into a recovering addict’s everyday routine. Below are some holistic activities to consider.
Mind-body exercises have been in the health realm for centuries. Certain practices like tai chi and yoga date back centuries. Exercises like these help ease the mind of stress and improve physical health through movement. Choosing an activity like this can help the natural reproduction of endorphins, which fentanyl depletes during a fentanyl detox.
Eat a Nutritious Diet
A healthy body starts with a healthy diet. People with a substance use disorder often forget to take care of their nutrition because they can only think about feeding their addiction. Many addiction treatment centers will provide members with meals to aid their recovery. Foods included are plenty of leafy, green vegetables and fruit. Whole grains and foods rich in good fatty acids can expedite recovery.
Openly Talk About Any Struggles
Cravings and relapse, along with anxiety and depression, are common issues during fentanyl addiction treatment. Just because a recovering addict feels these emotions doesn’t mean they are bad. In fact, they are only bad if they bottle them all up. Communicating with loved ones, peers, and trained staff at the addiction treatment center will help ease these problems.
Cope Through Art
Creating art is a healthy way to cope with negative feelings and addiction. It allows a person to express themselves and deal with how they feel without resorting to drugs. A simple pen and paper can be a medium to turn to during the tough times of fentanyl detox. Also, it could be a good distraction.
Types of Fentanyl Addiction Treatment
Finally, a person who needs fentanyl addiction treatment needs to know there are various forms. The type of treatment is up to the individual. Yet, opioids are hard drugs. It can take years to kick the habit without the right kind of care. That said, not every person can afford intense fentanyl addiction treatment.
Moreover, if a person needs a less intense, shorter form of fentanyl addiction treatment they might prefer to go with a partial hospitalization program (PHP). This form of treatment is intense, requiring hours of sessions per day. However, patients go home at the end of the day. Duration for these programs may not last as long as others as well.
Inpatient fentanyl addiction treatment is usually the best option. This is because it usually entails a residential program. Members will live at the facility in this scenario. It’s a great idea to choose it because a recovering addict is cut off from any external sources that may set them back.
New Directions for Women Provides Fentanyl Addiction Treatment
America’s opioid crisis affects women. Females who never thought they would end up an addict get prescribed fentanyl, and an addiction with it. When someone has an addiction, it’s completely out of their control.
New Directions for Women offers fentanyl detox programs as a part of our fentanyl addiction treatment. We know that fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can stop an addict from trying to get help. We’re here to tell you that you can overcome them in the right addiction treatment facility. Sobriety doesn’t happen instantly, but it can start by contacting us now.