Signs and Symptoms of Fentanyl Withdrawal
Fentanyl is a powerful and highly addictive synthetic opioid that is said to be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl is a prescription drug used to treat acute severe pain following surgeries or in an operative setting. It is also prescribed to treat pain in cancer patients and in those with chronic pain that has become physically tolerant to other opioids.
Fentanyl is also made and used illegally on the streets. Illegal Fentanyl is made in labs and mixed with other drugs such as heroin, cocaine, MDMA, and methamphetamine. It is also sold as a powder, put in nasal sprays and eye droppers, and made into pills to mimic other prescription opioids.
According to the Centers for Disease Control:
Rates of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, which includes fentanyl, increased 10% from 2017 to 2018. Over 31,000 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids (other than methadone) in 2018. Reports from law enforcement indicate that much of the synthetic opioid overdose increase may be due to illegally or illicitly made fentanyl. According to data from the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS), confiscations, or seizures, of fentanyl increased by nearly 7 fold from 2012 to 2014. There were 4,585 fentanyl confiscations in 2014.4 This suggests that the sharp rise in fentanyl-related deaths may be due to increased availability of illegally made, non-pharmaceutical fentanyl, and not prescribed fentanyl. (CDC)
Fentanyl, like other opioids, binds to the opioid centers in the brain that control pain and emotion; it tells your brain that you aren’t really in pain. Taking Fentanyl over a long period causes the brain to adapt to the medication making it difficult to feel pleasure from anything besides the drug. The brain no longer makes the necessary neurotransmitters it needs to fight pain on its own, and it then relies on the drug’s interference. If the drug is abruptly stopped, opioid withdrawal syndrome sets in, and the individual will start to experience withdrawal symptoms.
More About Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms
When an individual becomes dependent or addicted to Fentanyl, the withdrawal symptoms that the person will experience if they stop taking the drug are debilitating. Both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms accompany opioid withdrawal syndrome. Typically the withdrawal symptoms will begin once the drug leaves the bloodstream. Here are some of the physical symptoms:
- Muscle, bone, and joint pain and weakness
- Tearing up and runny nose
- Stomach cramps and diarrhea
- Nausea and vomiting
- Decreased appetite
- Increased heart rate
- Pupil dilation
- Increased respiratory rate
- Persistent headache
- Tremors and uncontrollable shaking
Opioid withdrawal syndrome also causes severe psychological symptoms when the medication is abruptly stopped. Some of those symptoms are:
- Irritability and agitation
- Anxiety and depression
- Suicidal ideation
- Mood swings
- Crying spells
- Intense cravings
The onset of Fentanyl withdrawal usually begins within 8 to 24 hours after the last use. Physical symptoms can last for up to 10 days after stopping the medication, but the psychological symptoms can last for months. This is called PAWS or post-acute withdrawal syndrome. The severity of the withdrawal symptoms an individual may experience will depend on a couple of factors, how much of the drug was being taken and for what length of time.
The positive thing here is that there are medications now that are available to assist with an opioid withdrawal syndrome. Medication-assisted treatment is an option, and other medications have been approved by the FDA to assist with opiate withdrawal. The best course of action is to get into a treatment facility where medical professionals can give you the options you have and devise a treatment plan based on your individual needs.
Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, our addiction specialists are available around the clock to assist you. Evoke Wellness offers a network of drug and alcohol treatment centers that are carefully designed to provide a lasting solution for healing substance use disorders. We offer medical detoxification, residential treatment, and aftercare support to lead you on the road to long-lasting recovery. You don’t have to suffer any longer. Call us today.