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Overview of Fentanyl detox

Fentanyl has become increasingly popular in the past decade, thus there is more of a need for specialized fentanyl detox which was not needed before. Its popularity arose out of the prescription drug and heroin epidemics. Fentanyl began being used to cut heroin, and lead to many overdoses and deaths. The media began reporting bad batches of heroin, and at first it was not known that fentanyl was the drug being used. It since has become more popular due to its effects of making heroin more powerful. Dealers are becoming more adaptive, and using the substance more often to attract more users. Unknowingly news outlets would report batches of fentanyl laced heroin in an attempt to warn users, but adversely caused more users to seek out the substance. Now the DEA is on the lookout for manufacturers and smugglers to prevent even more deaths.

Fentanyl, or sometimes just called “Fent”, is an extremely powerful synthetic opioid. It was first synthesized in the 1960s but its use did not become popular until the 1990s. It is a prescription and typically used to treat pain associated with cancer and severe back injuries. It comes in many forms including powder, dissolvable tablets, lollipops, nasal sprays, oral sprays, and transdermal patches. It is very short acting but effective in blocking very severe pain. Because of its potency it is typically used when all other treatments fail, or if the patient has a terminal illness. Fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is used in patches and lollipops because of its high risk of overdose when used intravenously.

Fentanyl, when used recreationally, creates a powerful rush of euphoria and comfort, making it highly desirable. The drug is stronger than heroin, making it seeked out by active heroin addicts with a high tolerance for opioids. When used on the streets it is typically in powder form and mixed with heroin. This is extremely dangerous and has a high risk of overdose because this concoction is typically injected into a vein. When fentanyl is injected into a vein its effects are immediate, and if too much is administered the user immediately passes out and goes into respiratory arrest. There is no telling how much fentanyl is in a certain batch. A user may use the same amount over and over, but if one batch has more fentanyl than another this can easily lead to overdose. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention the state of Ohio alone had 514 fentanyl overdoses in 2014. These numbers are increasing throughout the nation.

With powerful opioids comes powerful tolerance and dependence. When a person takes opioids for a long period of time the body becomes dependent on the drug. With fentanyl users opioid dependence has shown to be much more intense than with other opioids, and in some cases has shown to be dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms are very severe, and more medical attention may be required with fentanyl detox opposed to other opioids.

Click below for detailed Opiate detox guides

How Detoxing From Fentanyl works

Fentanyl detox is similar to other opioids but can be more difficult. Because of the severe dependence the drug causes sometimes buprenorphine (Suboxone) is not enough to suppress withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes methadone is used as a tapering drug because it is more powerful, but this can extend the detox process because methadone stays in the body longer than buprenorphine.

A taper is a drug used to detox a patient slowly rather than an abruptly. This insures significantly decreased withdrawal symptoms and also increases safety. Abruptly ending substance abuse causes severe symptoms and increases risks of harm. In medical detox the withdrawal from drugs like fentanyl can be regulated so that it does not cause harm to the user. Many times users avoid treatment because they know withdrawal symptoms and have felt their full effect and are afraid of feeling them. It is important to know in detox these symptoms will be reduced enough to be tolerable.

In conjunction with buprenorphine or methadone, other comfort medications are used, like clonidine (blood pressure stabilizer), benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and sleeping medication. These drugs are used to reduce anxiety, discomfort, trouble sleeping, tremors, and risk of seizure. Though uncommon, seizures have been reported in severe cases of fentanyl dependence. More medications may be used in fentanyl detox compared to other drug detox because of the severe discomfort of withdrawal. Doctors want to insure safety as well as comfort because they know the risks involved with fentanyl abuse. Medical staff will want the user to be as comfortable as possible to reduce risk of them changing their mind and leaving detox against medical advice.

WHAT DOES THE Fentanyl DETOX PROCESS LOOK LIKE?

A medical detox center will look like a large doctor's office but with couches, chairs, and beds. The patient will be given a room where they can sleep and be monitored. In a medical detox center the patient will likely be monitored for risk of falling. With fentanyl detox the patient can be at a higher risk of falling due to fatigue, weakness, and dizziness associated with comfort medication.

Blood tests will be conducted, which look for blood imbalances, diseases, and liver dysfunction. Because of the risks associated with substance abuse, especially IV drug use, users have a high risk of liver dysfunction and communicable diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C. In a medical detox center the patient can catch these problems as soon as possible which leads to a more effective treatment.

Many medical detox centers also have therapists on site. This is important because underlying mental health issues can be addressed. These problems cannot be addressed on one’s own accord. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 53% of addicted drug users have a major underlying mental health disorder. In medical detox one can be prescribed antidepressants, bipolar medication, or antipsychotics if need be.

Withdrawal symptoms are the number one reason addicts do not seek help. Often they have felt full effects of withdrawal when they could not find their drug of choice or when they have tried to stop on their own. As mentioned above it is important to know how medical detox can help with symptoms, but it is also important to know the symptoms. Though detox will help, there will still be symptoms associated.

Like other opioids, fentanyl detox is rarely life threatening. Though seizures are uncommon, the withdrawal is still extremely painful. The pain can be so great that sometimes users will go to any extent to relieve their symptoms. This can lead to crime or harming oneself or others. They may not be able to sleep which can lead to severe anxiety, depression, confusion, and erratic behavior. A decrease in motor skills can also lead to injury. In medical detox much of this can be prevented.

Fentanyl Detox Withdrawals

Pill Bottle Icon Sometimes users will peel film off patch to eat, smoke, or inject
Pill Icon Was synthesized first in 1960s
Syringe Icon Is extremely addicting and causes physical dependence

Withdrawal symptoms are the number one reason addicts do not seek help. Often they have felt full effects of withdrawal when they could not find their drug of choice or when they have tried to stop on their own. As mentioned above it is important to know how medical detox can help with symptoms, but it is also important to know the symptoms. Though detox will help, there will still be symptoms associated.

Like other opioids, fentanyl detox is rarely life threatening. Though seizures are uncommon, the withdrawal is still extremely painful. The pain can be so great that sometimes users will go to any extent to relieve their symptoms. This can lead to crime or harming oneself or others. They may not be able to sleep which can lead to severe anxiety, depression, confusion, and erratic behavior. A decrease in motor skills can also lead to injury. In medical detox much of this can be prevented.

List of Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Cold Sweats
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cramps
  • Restlessness
  • Body pain
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue

Can you detox from Fentanyl at home?

Although in theory one might be able to detox from fentanyl at home, it is highly impractical. Fentanyl is very powerful and will cause severe withdrawal symptoms. Many times these symptoms cause users to make rash decisions to relieve their pain. They may commit crimes, harm themselves, or others.

Even if one does not commit crime or harm, he or she may not be able to remain clean on their own. They may change their mind when symptoms become too severe. Lack of sleep can lead to confusion, anxiety, and low motivation. Depression will also be severe, and the user may not be able to see the motivation, or desire, to stay sober. Fentanyl withdrawal also depresses appetite and lack of nutrition can lead to further medical problems.

In addition to the difficulty of detoxing on one’s own, fentanyl relapse is extremely dangerous. Even missing one day of a dose can decrease the tolerance to the drug. If one uses the same amount they were using prior to attempting to quit, overdose is very common. The same amount of fentanyl must be used on a consistent basis to maintain tolerance.
In detox one can be prescribed opiate blockers, this decreases cravings and also blocks the effects of opioids on the brain. If one were to relapse while on an opiate blocker not only will they not get high, but it will prevent overdose from occurring. This is important with a drug as powerful as fentanyl. One should never detox from fentanyl on their own, and should always seek medical help.

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How long does it take to detox from Fentanyl

The length of detox has multiple factors. It ranges differently person to person and depends on age, weight, height, length of use, and amount of use. Detox relies on the body’s metabolism to rid the drug from the body. The initial detox can take anywhere from 5-10 days or more. If methadone is used this may lead to a longer stay due to its long lasting effects. Sometimes if methadone is used the detox process can extend for weeks in an outpatient setting.

Though the initial detox may be about a week, withdrawal symptoms can last longer. Trouble with sleep, depression, and restlessness can be longer lasting symptoms, but medication can be prescribed to help. Post acute withdrawal symptoms, or PAWS, can last several weeks, to months, to years, all depending on a person’s habit and metabolism. PAWS can include trouble with concentration, cravings, depression, and sleep disorders. It is important to stay in contact with doctors following detox so any remaining symptoms can be addressed and treated accordingly. There are many treatment options, including therapy, which can assist with lasting effects of drug abuse.

  • Fentanyl patches release over 48-72 hours, but sometimes abusers will peel off film and smoke it
  • The drug is believed to be the cause of death of pop artist Prince and actor Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • Hundreds are dying every year due to fentanyl related complications
  • Fentanyl is also used in surgery for anesthesia
  • Fentanyl suppresses breathing making sleeping while on the drug dangerous