Nirvana Recovery

Understanding Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Understanding Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms

Although fentanyl offers quick pain relief for people with chronic conditions or in recovery from painful surgeries, its euphoric effect makes it highly susceptible to abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that fentanyl and fentanyl analogs-related deaths increased by 22% between 2020-2021, with more cases being reported in the years after. Although such statistics can act as a motivating factor to quit usage, the associated fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can make quitting harder, keeping individuals dependent on opioids.

For those struggling with fentanyl withdrawal symptoms, we are about to discuss a few things that may prove helpful. We want to help you understand the signs and symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal, how to manage them when to seek help, and the role of medically supervised detox in effective withdrawal management. We hope to foster early recognition of fentanyl withdrawal symptoms for effective intervention. Let’s get started!

What Are Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms?

Our bodies often adapt to substances after periods of chronic or compulsive usage, leading to increased tolerance, physical dependence, and, finally, addiction. Stopping or minimizing usage after long periods of regular or chronic use triggers several changes as the body tries to adjust to the deficit or absence, leading to withdrawal symptoms. 

For fentanyl users, these symptoms can range from intense cravings to muscle aches and severe diarrhea. They mainly arise 6-12 hours after the last dose and increase in severity for the next 1-3 days, gradually subsiding between the fourth and seventh day. However, symptoms such as insomnia may extend past the first week and persist for several weeks or months. Let’s see the signs of fentanyl withdrawal to look out for.

Early Signs of Fentanyl Withdrawal

The following symptoms are common at the onset of fentanyl withdrawal: 

  • Intense cravings – One of the earliest indications of fentanyl withdrawal is an intense, persistent urge to use fentanyl.  This normally happens within the first 6-12 hours of sobriety.  
  • Mood swings – Mood swings occur when the body starts adjusting to the fentanyl absence or deficit. Individuals may become increasingly irritable, restless, or anxious. 
  • Excessive yawning – Besides significant mood fluctuations, individuals with fentanyl dependence may experience frequent, uncontrollable yawning after a few hours of sobriety.
  • Initial physical discomfort – Physical discomfort is common when withdrawing from a range of opioids. Fentanyl users may complain of headaches, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal issues as the body attempts to readjust. 
  • Insomnia – Individuals in the early stages of fentanyl withdrawal may find it hard to sleep. Those who manage to fall asleep are likely to experience restless nights.
  • Appetite loss – Individuals dependent on or addicted to fentanyl experience a significant drop in appetite during withdrawal as intense cravings take over.

The above symptoms appear suddenly without warning, which is a major differentiating factor between early fentanyl withdrawal and other health issues.

Physical Symptoms of Fentanyl Withdrawal

Fentanyl withdrawal can manifest physically, with symptom severity and onset differing from one person to the next. Here are the most common physical indicators of fentanyl withdrawal:  

  • Enlarged pupils
  • A runny nose 
  • Excessive sweating accompanied by hot flashes. 
  • Chills are characterized by sudden cold sensations and shivering. 
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Shivering 
  • Teary eyes 
  • Increased heart rate, which can develop into hypertension. 
  • Overall exhaustion 
  • Breathing difficulties 
  • Insomnia

Whilst you may be able to manage the above symptoms at home, it is recommended to seek out medical assistance and guidance before you stop using fentanyl to minimize any dangers during fentanyl withdrawal.

Psychological and Emotional Symptoms

Fentanyl withdrawal can also impact individuals psychologically. Here are the psychological and emotional symptoms commonly experienced following the cessation or  reduction of regular fentanyl use: 

  • Anxiety manifests as feelings of restlessness, anxious thoughts, and unease. 
  • Rapid and intense mood swings. Emotional instability may also be witnessed in some cases.  
  • Fentanyl withdrawal depression is signified by intense feelings of sadness and hopelessness and a general disinterest in activities or life in general. 
  • Intense cravings refer to a persistent urge to consume fentanyl.

To cope with the emotional and psychological symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal, consider practising mindfulness and relaxation techniques, engaging in light physical activities, obtaining emotional support from friends and family members, and maintaining proper nutrition and adequate sleep. You should also seek professional support as some of these symptoms may interfere with your normal bodily functioning.

The Role of Medically Supervised Detox in Managing Withdrawal

Deciding to detox from fentanyl is a step in the right direction. However, it should be medically supervised for easier countering of severe withdrawal symptoms, risks, and complications.

Risks and Potential Complications During Fentanyl Withdrawal

Tailored medical supervision and support can help counter the following fentanyl withdrawal risks and complications: 

  • Intense, overwhelming symptoms and the psychological effects of fentanyl withdrawal, such as anxiety and depression cause elevated relapse risk. 
  • Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance due to vomiting and severe diarrhea. 
  • There is a higher likelihood of relapse-related fentanyl overdose due to a reduction in tolerance during withdrawal. 
  • Complications caused by co-occurring disorders with fentanyl addiction or dependency. 
  • Exacerbation of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Since fentanyl withdrawal severity and duration vary from one individual to another, those who experience prolonged withdrawals face an increased risk of complications.

Here is how our fentanyl detox program contributes to safe, effective fentanyl detoxification and withdrawal management: 

  • It offers a safe detox environment, helping minimize complications and lower risks. 
  • It makes it easier to monitor vital signs, allowing for early intervention in case of abnormalities. 
  • It supports medication-assisted treatment. Medications such as methadone are used to help patients manage cravings and alleviate withdrawal symptoms. 
  • It makes preventing and managing potential complications like dehydration and respiratory distress easier. 
  • It fosters the development of personalized plans for individualized withdrawal management and addiction treatment. This enhances treatment and recovery outcomes. 
  • Its structured and supportive withdrawal environment increases the likelihood of success. 

We conduct a comprehensive assessment before admitting individuals into our detox program to establish treatment needs and identify underlying issues. This helps us tailor treatment and support interventions for individualized care and better outcomes.

Home Remedies and Self-Care During Withdrawal

For a more manageable withdrawal experience and enhanced recovery outcomes, you can use a few home remedies and engage in self-care practices. The following practical tips can help you cope with fentanyl withdrawal symptoms: 

  • Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. This helps flush toxins out of the body. 
  • Eat nutritious foods. A healthy, balanced diet supports physical well-being and promotes recovery. 
  • Engage in exercise or physical activity. Activities such as jogging and stretching can reduce anxiety and improve mood, helping alleviate withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Engage in mindfulness, relaxation, and deep breathing exercises to manage stress, foster a sense of calm, and improve relaxation. 
  • Prepare and take herbal teas such as peppermint and chamomile to help with nausea. 
  • Non-prescription medications such as ibuprofen should be used to address mild discomfort or pain. However, you may need to consult with your treatment provider once you begin professional withdrawal management, medical detoxification, or fentanyl addiction treatment. 
  • Engage in positive activities that can distract you from withdrawal symptoms. Good examples include listening to music, rewatching your favorite movie, or reading. 
  • Get adequate rest or sleep to give your body time to heal. This also helps regulate mood, enhances your body’s ability to cope with withdrawal-related physical and mental stress, and reduces irritability.

When to Seek Professional Help

It’s possible for individuals to self-detox from drugs such as marijuana (although medical detox is still recommended). However, this is highly discouraged for opioids such as fentanyl owing to the potentially severe and life-threatening risks, complications, and withdrawal symptoms. Seeking professional help for fentanyl withdrawal early enough puts you on the path to recovery, leading to improved health, overall-being and social life. 

Here are a few signs that you need immediate professional help for fentanyl withdrawal: 

  • Severe withdrawal symptoms, such as intense nausea, cravings, vomiting, or respiratory distress. 
  • Presence of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. 
  • Inability to cope with withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Withdrawal-induces medical complications, such as seizures, heart problems, or respiratory complications. 
  • Lack of a support network or system. 
  • A history of relapse or unsuccessful detox attempts 
  • Use of fentanyl in combination with other drugs.

Professional Interventions for Fentanyl Withdrawal and Addiction

At Nirvana Recovery, we understand the complexities of fentanyl withdrawal. Therefore, we offer the following services to foster a safe, more manageable detox experience: 

  • Comprehensive Assessments – Our multidisciplinary team of professionals conducts comprehensive assessments before further intervention to determine the right level of care and identify underlying issues, including co-occurring disorders. 
  • Medical detox –  We have a medical detox program that offers a medically managed and supervised environment for the safe management of severe physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) – We use medications such as methadone or buprenorphine to reduce cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms, making the process more manageable. 
  • Group Therapy – Our patients participate in group therapy during detox and treatment processes to obtain a sense of community and understanding from peers with similar challenges and experiences. 
  • Individualized Treatment Plans – Our treatment plans are tailored to patients’ needs, medical histories, symptom severity, and co-occurring disorders for individualized treatment and enhanced outcomes. 
  • Holistic Therapies – Besides evidence-based interventions such as family and behavioral therapies, we administer alternative, complementary therapies such as art, yoga, meditation, and music therapy to promote patients’ overall well-being. 
  • Family Involvement Programs – We allow our patients’ families to participate in withdrawal management and addiction treatment through family therapy and psychoeducation programs to foster understanding, fentanyl addiction awareness, and support.

Support Systems: Family, Friends, and Recovery Groups

Managing fentanyl withdrawal symptoms, especially after years of dependency, can be challenging. You need a supportive environment, best offered by family members, friends, and recovery support groups. Here is how you can benefit from a supportive network of family and friends during fentanyl withdrawal: 

  • The resultant understanding and support can help with the emotional burden associated with withdrawal. 
  • A supportive network of family and friends reduces isolation. 
  • A supportive network can be a great source of motivation, helping you endure the challenges of fentanyl withdrawal. 
  • Surrounding yourself with supportive people can help minimize stressors, making withdrawal more manageable. 
  • When surrounded by the right people, it’s easier to obtain access to the right resources and professional help during withdrawal. 
  • A supportive network can foster a sense of urgency, empowering you to take control of the withdrawal process. 

Joining a recovery support group also allows you to connect with others with similar experiences, fostering connections and shared experiences and reducing isolation.

How to Involve Family and Friends in the Recovery Process

It’s crucial to involve your family and friends in recovery. However, this can be difficult at times owing to the negative effects of addiction on interpersonal relationships. Regardless, here are a few strategies that can help: 

  • Encourage your family members to attend ongoing family therapy sessions. Family therapy allows you to identify and address issues within the family’s dynamics and fosters improved communication, enhanced support, and healthier relationships. 
  • Share accurate information regarding fentanyl addiction and withdrawal, treatment options, and recovery expectations with family and friends to boost understanding.  
  • Set and communicate clear expectations and boundaries for a healthy, supportive network.  
  • Establish a solid support foundation by openly discussing your struggles, goals, and progress with them. 
  • Collaborate with them to eliminate triggers and create a sober environment. 
  • Invite them to your support group meetings. 
  • Involve them in developing relapse prevention and crisis plans.

Aftercare and Preventing Relapse

Fentanyl withdrawal management transcends the treatment period. At Nirvana Recovery, we offer ongoing post-treatment support to foster long-term recovery. Intensive outpatient therapy is a key component of our aftercare program, which offers a safe, supportive space and ongoing therapy, helping address emerging issues and reinforce strategies and skills acquired during treatment. 

Besides our aftercare programs, we encourage patients to explore the following relapse prevention strategies for long-term post-withdrawal sobriety: 

  • Establishing a strong support network of family and friends. 
  • Regularly exercising and eating healthy, nutritious meals for enhanced overall well-being. 
  • Establishing a structured daily routine and adhering to it. 
  • Joining a relevant addiction support group and attending meetings regularly. 
  • Identifying and avoiding triggers. 
  • Practicing stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation and mindfulness. 
  • Replacing unhealthy habits by engaging in positive activities and hobbies.

Educational Resources and Community Outreach

A majority of the population still lacks mental health and addiction education despite the growing number of initiatives and programs. At Nirvana Recovery, we offer psychoeducation during fentanyl withdrawal management and addiction treatment to help counter the ensuing stigma and foster enhanced support. We also maintain open communication lines with patients, allowing them to contact our professionals whenever they want clarifications on their conditions.

Conclusion

Fentanyl withdrawals can be debilitating owing to the drug’s highly addictive nature. Users often experience severe discomfort, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, muscle cramps, and diarrhea (among others). Besides conducting comprehensive assessments and tailoring treatment plans, we offer medical detox and withdrawal management services at Nirvana Recovery to help individuals get off drugs and substances safely. 

Contact us for tailored medical and psychological care if you or your family member is undergoing fentanyl withdrawal. Our withdrawal management program not only stabilizes patients but also lowers the chances of relapse, leading to sustained, long-term recovery. Our team of caring professionals is always ready and available to help.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Yes. Despite most people believing that fentanyl withdrawal is unpleasant but not life-threatening, it can be fatal. For example, the associated vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, finally resulting in heart failure. A 2016 study discovered that the underestimation and insufficient monitoring of fentanyl withdrawal complications have contributed to avoidable deaths.

Fentanyl’s potency and rapid withdrawal onset differentiate it from other opioids. Its quick withdrawal timeline often catches users off-guard, leading to an intense, challenging experience. Although symptom severity may differ from one user to another, the cravings, anxiety, and flu-like symptoms are usually relatively more intense.

Yes. Detoxing from opioids such as fentanyl requires medical supervision to help manage potential life-threatening symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and respiratory issues. Medical supervision also helps minimize relapse and overdose risks as opioid tolerance reduces during withdrawal.

Common medications administered to promote stability or lessen the severity of depression withdrawal symptoms include methadone and buprenorphine. Alpha-2 adrenergic agents are also used to improve untreated symptoms. These medications are often used alongside therapeutic interventions for comprehensive, all-rounded treatment.

You can support a family member going through fentanyl addiction by educating yourself on opioids and fentanyl addiction, offering reassurance and emotional support, accompanying them to relevant therapy and support group sessions, creating a safe and trigger-free environment, helping them adopt healthy habits, participating in medication monitoring, and helping them find appropriate professional support.

Yes. At Nirvana Recovery, we offer a range of specialized services and treatment programs for fentanyl withdrawal depending on individual needs, symptom severity, and co-occurring disorders. These include medication-assisted treatment, inpatient rehabilitation, holistic therapies, dual diagnosis treatment programs, and behavioral therapies.

Yes. Without medical supervision and support, individuals may find themselves using fentanyl again to cope with or manage intense physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Post-withdrawal relapse is usually riskier as drug tolerance decreases significantly during the withdrawal period.

The psychological symptoms associated with fentanyl withdrawal, such as irritability, anxiety, depression, and mood fluctuations, can be detrimental to mental health. Persistent cravings and the stress associated with fentanyl withdrawal management can also cause emotional distress, worsening pre-existing mental health issues. 

At Nirvana Recovery, we offer psychological support during fentanyl detox and addiction treatment to address related mental health challenges, leading to improved treatment and recovery outcomes.

Although fentanyl withdrawal may not cause direct permanent body damage, symptoms such as dehydration, respiratory issues, severe vomiting, and increased blood pressure may lead to long-term complications if not addressed properly.

Suddenly stopping or reducing fentanyl usage can lead to insomnia, nightmares, or excessive sweating at night, affecting sleep quality. Accompanying withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and restlessness can also lead to sleep disturbances.

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Nirvana Recovery