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Fentanyl Detox Centers

Medically Reviewed By: Benjamin Caleb Williams RN, BA, CEN

Written By: Gary Bowers

Article Updated: 01/24/2021

Number of References: 6 Sources

Fentanyl detox centers play a critical role in recovery from a drug as dangerous as this. Fentanyl addiction isn’t simple, one-sided, or linear; addiction is complicated and complex, and successful recovery requires a multi-faceted and comprehensive plan. The good news is that fentanyl detox centers have the medical and psychiatric staff, the resources, and expertise to not only ensure safe and effective withdrawal from fentanyl but to help chart a drug-free path following release from detox. Here, we will take a look at when a fentanyl detox center is recommended, the intake process, and what treatments are used at these centers.

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When Is Fentanyl Detox Recommended?

Professional support from fentanyl detox centers is always recommended for those suffering from fentanyl detox. Fentanyl withdrawal and detox can be extremely uncomfortable, painful, and downright miserable. While detox from fentanyl isn’t typically fatal in and of itself, there is a wide range of side effects and health complications that can combine to create a very dangerous health crisis. Without the medical, psychiatric, and other therapeutic support of a fentanyl detox center, someone suffering from addiction to fentanyl will likely continue using, because quite simply, it’s the only tool at their disposal that is capable of relieving their pain, even at the expense of relationships, finances, career and more. Due to the high incidence of fentanyl overdose and death, continued fentanyl use can increase the risk of dangerous or fatal outcomes. Fentanyl detox can help!

Though fentanyl detox is always recommended while under the care of medical professionals, there are situations in which specialized detox facilities can make a significant impact on the long-term recovery. Some of these situations may include:

Co-Occurring Physical Health Issues

Fentanyl use can impact the body substantially, with even occasional use negatively affecting cardiovascular and endocrine systems. Use of fentanyl and similar drugs (opioids), results in a phenomenon called downregulation, in which the body’s natural responses to pain, pleasure, food, stress, and others become dulled and they may become reliant upon the drug for support. In that case of fentanyl use, this can occur at even small doses and worsens as use continues.

Anyone with a history of heart-related medical issues (blood pressure, heart rate, arrhythmia, etc.), or endocrine-related medical issues (diabetes, Graves’ Disease, Hashimoto’s, etc.) are going to be especially vulnerable during fentanyl detox. The professionals at a fentanyl detox center will have the proper medications, medical staff, and awareness to treat the symptoms of fentanyl detox as they present themselves.

Co-Occurring Mental Health Issues

The physical symptoms of fentanyl detox will often grab the headlines – rightly so, opioids like fentanyl wreak havoc on the body, creating extensive damage and severely altering the body’s systems as well as posing a serious risk of overdose – but the mental or psychological effects of fentanyl detox can be devastating. People addicted to or dependent upon fentanyl often report an intense fear regarding the likelihood of quitting. This is the psychological double-edged sword of addiction; face the guaranteed pain of quitting, or face the guaranteed pain of continuing to use. While no person is immune to this fear, when co-occurring mental illness is present, it makes for an especially challenging situation.

By entering a fentanyl detox center, someone with a history of mental illness (anxiety, depression, psychosis, etc.) has a much better chance of success. In addition to gaining access to medical and psychiatric support, someone in a fentanyl detox center will also receive support from other forms of therapy which help to an even greater degree.

Intake: Fentanyl Detox at a Glance

Taking the first step in recovery begins with effective and safe care from the professionals at a fentanyl detox center. Once in the doors, the staff will greet you and immediately work to assess the severity of the situation, and begin to establish care. After completing the necessary documentation, the medical staff will conduct a basic health examination. This will likely be a very basic check of vital signs (like blood pressure and heart rate), and blood work (to assess overall toxicity, and associated health factors).

In addition to those standard medical assessments, additional information will be gathered which will help to shape the care offered in detox, and well into the future. The information gathered may vary based on the individual, but in most cases, the information the fentanyl detox centers will seek will likely fall into 3 different categories:

  • The extent of substance abuse (amounts used, how often, if other drugs are used, etc.)
  • Any co-occurring mental health conditions (depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation)
  • Pre-existing medical conditions (such as heart disease or diabetes)

The more information the staff has, the better they can serve, care for, and treat those in their care. This is an important fact-finding mission and can make a big difference in the quality of treatment and recovery.

Medical Monitoring Of Fentanyl Detox

Fentanyl detox will likely be a painful experience that comes with it a long list of symptoms and side effects which will vary in duration and intensity depending on the extent of the person’s history of fentanyl abuse. This is where fentanyl detox centers can make a tremendous impact on the effectiveness and safety of early treatment which will continue into all aspects of a person’s recovery. With close monitoring, both medical and psychiatric specialists, those in fentanyl detox centers will have a team working for them each step of the way.

The most prevalent and immediate effects of fentanyl detox will be physical in nature for most individuals. Many factors will influence the severity of these side effects or symptoms, but they will almost always be consistent for fentanyl users. Medical staff at fentanyl detox centers will be ready to observe and treat those symptoms, the most common of which are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Body aches and pains
  • Joint pain
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive Yawning

These symptoms can be unpleasant, painful, and dangerous, but many of them can be treated medically, and aren’t likely to be fatal. Physical symptoms should begin to diminish after 5-7 with proper care.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline

Medications Used by Fentanyl Detox Centers

Medically assisted therapy (MAT) is very common in treating fentanyl detox, and when administered under the care of professionals, MAT plays a critical role in overcoming the many physical dependencies that accompany fentanyl use. These are some of the most commonly used medications used in this setting:

  • Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine has gained acceptance in the medical community for use in treating opiate addiction and withdrawal symptoms. Sold under the brand names Subutex, Suboxone, and Sublocade, buprenorphine works as a partial opioid “agonist”, which means it will bind to opioid receptors in the brain, relieving the body’s demand for opiates, but without the “high” associated with fentanyl use. Additionally, buprenorphine is combined with naloxone which is an opioid “antagonist” which means it will block the effects of opioids. This added substance only takes effect to prevent misuse as misuse of buprenorphine by injection can cause immediate opioid withdrawal syndrome.
  • Methadone: Methadone is a powerful synthetic opioid that has an established history of treating opioid use disorder (OUD). Methadone is an opioid agonist that will alter brain chemistry by satisfying the body’s craving for opioids while blocking their “high inducing” effects. Methadone is effective, inexpensive, long-lasting, making it an important tool in treating OUD.
  • Lofexidine (Lucemyra): The first non-opioid medication that is FDA-approved to treat fentanyl withdrawal, this medication is very safe and effective at reducing symptoms during fentanyl detox.

In addition to MAT options, there are other medications that may be prescribed to address symptoms as they present themselves. Some other commonly prescribed medications would include:

  • Anti-Anxiety Medications: Anxiety is a common symptom of fentanyl detox and anti-anxiety medications may be used to treat both acute (sudden onset, short-lasting) anxiety and chronic (long-lasting) anxiety. There are many medical options in treating anxiety, and some, such as hydroxyzine are non-habit forming and can promote more restful sleep as well.
  • Antidepressants: When depression accompanies fentanyl detox, it can make recovery seem daunting and impossible. Antidepressants work to alter the failings in brain chemistry that can lead to depression and depressive symptoms. There are many medical options for treating depression, with Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) being the most common. These medications help by affecting the amount of usable serotonin in the brain.
  • Blood Pressure Medications: These can treat cardiovascular symptoms, although β-blockers are most commonly used to reduce symptoms of anxiety. Also, downregulation in the norepinephrine systems due to fentanyl abuse will cause blood pressure to rise during detox. Blood pressure medications are safe and effective in treating this symptom.
  • Sleep Medications: Poor sleep can be a drastically underestimated aspect of health and well-being, and for someone going through fentanyl detox, quality sleep will be in short supply without medical help. There are many safe, non-habit forming medical alternatives designed to improve sleep patterns.

Therapy During Fentanyl Detox

Addiction is a disease and is due to the complex and often interwoven symptoms (physical and mental), behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs of those who suffer from addiction, it can be a difficult and challenging problem to address. But recovery is always possible! Fentanyl detox centers will offer exposure to therapy, both medical and behavioral, and with a strong network of therapy partners outside the walls of the detox center, therapy does not have to end, following completion of the detox program. In addition to medical therapy, which can typically be continued through visits with a family doctor or general practitioner, behavioral therapies will provide meaningful and long-lasting tools to aid in recovery. Here are some proven options:

12 Step Programs

12 step programs have a long and proven history in helping treat addiction. One of the primary reasons 12 step programs work so effectively is they are not professional by nature – they are led by people in recovery themselves, which immediately can help destigmatize many of the issues that those with addictions may face. Fentanyl detox centers will provide an introduction to 12 step programs, and an opportunity to experience the fellowship that has provided hope to so many.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

For many who struggle with addiction, turning to drugs is usually a symptom of the difficulties faced in the course of life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is so effective because it addresses and helps to modify the root beliefs and attitudes that drive behavior. CBT can be a valuable tool in addressing past trauma, decision-making skills, reduction in risk-seeking behavior, and more. Fentanyl detox centers will have licensed professionals offering forms of CBT, and will also have a list of CBT options that exist in the community.

Continuing Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

Fentanyl detox centers will offer the first step towards a life free of addiction. While many people enter a fentanyl detox center simply hoping for safe, doctor-supervised detox, what they leave with is much more. Exposure to therapy, building a network of sober-minded people, and gaining access to a complete spectrum of recovery resources are all part of the experience at a fentanyl detox center. Recovery is a journey, and it begins now.

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