Fentanyl Detox: Overview, How It Works, and Detox Length
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Fentanyl Detox: Overview, How It Works, and Detox Length

Fentanyl detox is a medical treatment that helps people recover from physical opioid dependence. This treatment is widely available at drug rehab centers, hospitals, and health care practices that treat opioid use disorder. Fentanyl detox is the first stage of recovery from opioid addiction and usually involves the use of medications that can relieve withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of complications including relapse and drug overdose.

Understandably, fentanyl detox may sound scary, especially if you’ve tried quitting opioids in the past. However, fentanyl detox is backed by scientific evidence and proven safe and effective as a treatment for opioid use disorder. Here’s a closer look at what fentanyl detox is, how it works, and how long you can expect your treatment to last.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is an opioid medication that was approved by the FDA in 1998 for the treatment of breakthrough pain in cancer patients. According to the National Library of Medicine, fentanyl is generally used by cancer patients who are already using other opioids and have developed a tolerance to their medications. Fentanyl is available in several forms including as a lozenge and as a dissolvable film and tablet.

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid between 50 and 100 times stronger than morphine. It has a strong potential for abuse due to its high potency, and should be used only under close medical supervision to minimize the risk of an overdose.

In recent years, the number of fentanyl overdose deaths has skyrocketed due to the increased use of illicit synthetic fentanyl analogs. Most synthetic fentanyl is manufactured overseas and enters the U.S. through mail and via the Mexican border. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that, in 2017, nearly 60% of opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl compared with 14.3% of opioid-related deaths in 2010. In 2018, an estimated 67% of opioid-related deaths involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, reports the CDC.

What Is Fentanyl Withdrawal?

Fentanyl withdrawal is a set of symptoms a person may experience when they suddenly stop using this drug after becoming physically dependent. Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms are generally the same as those experienced when discontinuing other opioids.

The NIDA reports that fentanyl withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Sleep problems including insomnia
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Goosebumps
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Severe drug cravings
  • Hot flashes and sweating
  • Tearing eyes and runny nose
  • Muscle stiffness and aches
  • Anxiety

What Is Fentanyl Drug Detox?

Fentanyl drug detox manages the physical symptoms of withdrawal — including drug cravings — in those who are physically dependent on this drug and want to stop using it. Many times, opioid withdrawal causes severe pain and discomfort to the point people resume drug use just to relieve their symptoms. However, fentanyl detox uses medications that relieve withdrawal symptoms so people can experience a safe, successful, and comfortable recovery from opioid dependence.

How Does Fentanyl Detox Work?

Fentanyl detox can take place at a designated drug and alcohol detox facility, or at a drug rehab center that also offers addiction therapy and counseling. Treatment usually takes place in a residential environment where patients can try to sleep and relax as they go through withdrawal. Many facilities offer a variety of amenities such as libraries, fitness centers, game rooms, and TV rooms to keep you occupied and busy for the duration of treatment. Some facilities also offer fentanyl detox in a hospital-like inpatient setting for those with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for complications during withdrawal.

During fentanyl detox, a doctor replaces fentanyl with buprenorphine, methadone, or Suboxone—all of which are FDA-approved medications that relieve opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Over the course of several days, the dosages of these medications are gradually reduced until patients are no longer dependent on fentanyl or other opioids. Some patients end up staying on these medications for several months or indefinitely, especially if shown effective at helping them stay abstinent.

Do I Need Fentanyl Detox?

When you stop using fentanyl, your tolerance level decreases as your body adapts to the absence of the drug. If you are unable to stay abstinent and decide to start using fentanyl again, the doses you took before will be too high for your current tolerance level, which will put you at risk for drug overdose. Fentanyl drug detox is the safest way to stop using fentanyl since attempting to quit on your own comes with many risks, including overdose and death.

Fentanyl detox is the best way to ensure you experience a safe, long-lasting recovery from opioid addiction. These treatments are overseen by trained nurses and medical staff who can intervene at any time to relieve your symptoms and help you feel more comfortable. Treatment plans at drug detox centers are usually individualized for each patient based on symptoms and health status.

How Long Does Fentanyl Detox Last?

Fentanyl detox can last up to several weeks or longer depending on how your body responds to the medication being used to relieve withdrawal symptoms. The greater the amount of fentanyl used, the larger the dose of medication needed to control and manage symptoms—meaning your detox period may be longer than initially expected. In some instances, medication may be used for a lifetime to help you stay abstinent from fentanyl and other opioids.

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can set in anywhere within 8 to 12 hours of the last dose, reports the World Health Organization. For short-acting versions of fentanyl, symptoms set in 8 to 24 hours after last use and continue for between 4 and 10 days. For long-acting versions of fentanyl, symptoms begin 12 to 48 hours after last use and continue for between 10 and 20 days.

Your doctor at drug rehab can give you a more accurate time frame regarding how long fentanyl detox may last for you based on the severity of your addiction, your health status, and your medical history.

Fentanyl Detox Centers

If you are suffering from fentanyl dependence, understand that fentanyl detox can help you experience a safe, comfortable withdrawal. Fentanyl detox is available at many drug and alcohol rehab centers that treat opioid dependence.

Dana Point Rehab Campus offers medical detox services to help you safely overcome drug and alcohol dependence. Contact us today to learn more about how detox and therapy can help you experience long-term recovery from substance use disorders and addiction.

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