Nirvana Recovery

Understanding the Risk of Prescription Fentanyl Drug Abuse

Understanding the Risk of Prescription Fentanyl Drug Abuse

Facing fentanyl withdrawal can feel overwhelming, but it’s a crucial step on the road to recovery. Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, has become a major concern in Arizona due to its high addiction and overdose rates. At Nirvana Recovery (Drug and Alcohol Rehab in Arizona), we understand the challenges with the fentanyl withdrawal process and emphasize the importance of a safe, supportive detox journey. This blog is for those ready to start this journey and for the friends and family who want to support them. Whether you’re going through withdrawal or helping someone who is, these tips can make a big difference in managing fentanyl withdrawal symptoms.

Understanding Fentanyl Withdrawal

Fentanyl withdrawal refers to the range of symptoms that occur when a fentanyl-addicted person suddenly reduces or stops taking the drug. Prolonged fentanyl use can lead to physical dependency.When fentanyl use is decreased or halted, the body struggles to adjust to its absence, resulting in a series of uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms.

These withdrawal symptoms can include but are not limited to:

  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Vomiting
  • Cold flashes with goosebumps (often referred to as “cold turkey”)
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Severe cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Managing Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

The intensity and duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary based on the individual’s level of fentanyl dependence, usage pattern, and overall health:

  • The more you use fentanyl, the more severe and prolonged your withdrawal symptoms will likely be.
  • Daily users experience more intense and longer-lasting withdrawals compared to occasional users.
  • Higher doses of fentanyl typically lead to harsher and longer-lasting withdrawal than lower doses.
  • Injected fentanyl (especially short-acting forms) tends to lead to faster onset and shorter duration of withdrawal compared to longer-acting methods like patches.
  • Symptoms usually begin within 8-24 hours after the last dose, peaking within 36-72 hours. The most intense phase typically lasts 7-10 days, with gradual improvement afterwards. Some experience lingering symptoms like cravings, fatigue, and sleep issues for weeks or even months.

Quantify the Severity of Withdrawal Symptoms

The Short Opioid Withdrawal Scale (SOWS) is a useful tool developed by Gossop M. in 1990 to quantify the severity of withdrawal symptoms experienced by individuals. This scale helps in identifying the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, thereby guiding the appropriate management strategies.

The Short Opioid Withdrawal Scale

The SOWS categorizes withdrawal symptoms as follows, assigning a score from 0 (not present) to 3 (severe):

  • Feeling sick
  • Stomach cramps
  • Muscle spasms or twitching
  • Feeling cold
  • Heart pounding
  • Muscular tension
  • Aches and pains
  • Yawning
  • Runny/watery eyes
  • Difficulty sleeping

Add scores for a total score, which will help in assessing the severity of withdrawal and determining the most appropriate management approach.

Interpreting the SOWS Scores

  • 0-10: Mild withdrawal; symptomatic medication only.
  • 10-20: Moderate withdrawal; consideration of symptomatic or opioid medication.
  • 20-30: Severe withdrawal; opioid medication is recommended.

Tips for Managing Mild Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

For individuals scoring between 0-10, mild withdrawal symptoms can often be managed with over-the-counter medications, proper nutrition, hydration, and rest. Gentle exercises and mindfulness techniques can also be beneficial.

  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can alleviate mild aches and pains. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any medication.
  • Diet: A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins supports the body’s healing process. Staying hydrated is crucial, as water helps flush toxins.
  • Exercise: Light exercises, like walking or yoga, can boost mood and reduce stress. Listen to your body and avoid overexertion.
  • Additional Strategies: Ensure adequate rest and consider soothing activities like reading or taking warm baths to ease discomfort.

Managing Moderate Withdrawal Symptoms

Scores between 10-20 indicate moderate withdrawal symptoms. In addition to the strategies recommended for mild withdrawal, medical supervision may be required. A doctor might consider short-term opioid medications to alleviate symptoms. 

  • Medications: For moderate symptoms, a healthcare provider might prescribe medications to manage specific symptoms, such as clonidine for anxiety and hypertension. Never use prescription medications without medical advice.
  • Diet: Nutritional supplements may be recommended to replenish deficiencies. Small, frequent meals help maintain energy levels.
  • Exercise: Continue with moderate, low-impact exercises as tolerated, focusing on activities that promote relaxation and well-being.
  • Additional Strategies: Techniques such as mindfulness and deep breathing exercises can help manage anxiety and improve focus during this challenging time.

Navigating Severe Withdrawal Symptoms Safely

Scores above 20 suggest severe withdrawal symptoms, requiring immediate medical attention. Opioid medications, alongside supportive care and monitoring, are crucial to navigate this stage safely. Nirvana Recovery provides a supportive environment with medical professionals to assist through this challenging phase.

  • Immediate Medical Attention: Severe symptoms, such as intense cravings, hallucinations, or suicidal thoughts, require immediate medical attention. Professional detox programs provide the necessary supervision and care.
  • Medications: Medically-assisted detox may involve the use of medications like methadone or buprenorphine to ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings, under strict medical supervision.
  • Supportive Care: Continuous monitoring by healthcare professionals ensures safety and comfort, addressing any complications promptly.
  • Aftercare Planning: Successful detox is just the first step. Comprehensive aftercare planning is essential for long-term recovery, including therapy, support groups, and relapse prevention strategies.

Nirvana Recovery’s Approach to Detox and Withdrawal Management

At Nirvana Recovery, we tailor our detox programs to meet the individual needs of our clients. Our compassionate team of professionals provides round-the-clock care, using evidence-based practices to manage withdrawal symptoms effectively. Our holistic approach extends beyond physical health, addressing recovery’s psychological and emotional aspects as well.


Detoxing from fentanyl is a significant first step toward recovery, but it’s not one you have to take alone. With the right support and resources, managing withdrawal symptoms can be a safer, more comfortable process. Nirvana Recovery in Arizona is here to provide the care and guidance you need during this critical phase. If you or a loved one is facing the challenge of fentanyl withdrawal, we’re here to help. Contact Nirvana Recovery to learn more about our detox support services and take the first step toward a healthier, drug-free life.

More Questions on Managing Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Nirvana Recovery has experience and expertise in treating fentanyl addiction and withdrawal. It’s important to research and compare programs to find one that meets your specific needs and offers evidence-based treatment approaches.

Therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness meditation can help manage stress and cravings. Additionally, hydration, healthy eating, and regular exercise can improve physical and mental well-being during detox.

Many rehab centers in Phoenix offer sliding scale fees or scholarships based on financial need. Public treatment options are also available through state-funded programs or Medicaid. Don’t let cost be a barrier to seeking help. Explore all options and discuss financial assistance with us.

  • Medical supervision: 24/7 monitoring by healthcare professionals ensures your safety and provides immediate medical intervention if needed.
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): Medications like methadone or buprenorphine can reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making detox more comfortable and successful.
  • Supportive environment: Therapy, group support, and access to addiction specialists provide emotional support and guidance throughout detox.
  • Holistic approach: We offer mindfulness, yoga, and other activities to promote overall well-being during detox.
  • Accreditation and licensing: Ensure the center is accredited by reputable organizations and licensed by the state.
  • Experienced staff: Choose a center with qualified medical professionals specializing in addiction treatment.
  • Individualized treatment plans: Look for a center that tailors treatment plans to your specific needs and goals.
  • Amenities and support services: Consider factors like comfortable accommodations, therapy options, and aftercare programs.

Many rehab centers work with various insurance providers. Contact your insurance company directly or ask the rehab center for assistance.

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Nirvana Recovery