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Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opioid typically prescribed to treat severe pain. However, its potency can cause users to become addicted, and stopping fentanyl use can cause severe withdrawal symptoms. Opioid withdrawal (including fentanyl) is a potentially dangerous condition, so medical intervention is often necessary, especially if the individual has any co-occurring health conditions.

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What Is Fentanyl Withdrawal?

Fentanyl withdrawal is a condition that occurs when you stop taking fentanyl after your body and brain have developed a dependence on this potent synthetic opioid.

Fentanyl is a highly addictive drug, much stronger than heroin and morphine, and is used to treat severe pain in medical settings. However, it is frequently abused recreationally in the form of synthetic street versions.

Quitting fentanyl use can be very challenging due to its addictive nature, and can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. Those who have developed an opioid dependence on fentanyl or have a substance use disorder may experience withdrawal syndrome.

Physical symptoms of withdrawal can start as early as 12 hours after your last dose and may continue for several days.

Common Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal can vary based on the severity of the dependence or addiction.

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Intense cravings
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Runny nose
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Chills
  • Goosebumps
  • Having trouble getting and staying asleep
  • High blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate
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What Causes Fentanyl Withdrawal?

Fentanyl withdrawal happens when a person who is dependent on fentanyl stops taking the drug.

First, a person develops what’s called “fentanyl dependence” when their body becomes used to having fentanyl in its system. Drug dependence can happen after long-term use or heavy abuse.

Then, when the dependent person stops taking fentanyl (or goes too long in between doses), their bodies might start to go through withdrawal.

Both legitimate fentanyl users (i.e., people with a fentanyl prescription for pain relief) and fentanyl abusers (i.e., those who use fentanyl to get high) can experience fentanyl dependence.

What Causes Fentanyl Dependence in the First Place?

Opioids like fentanyl cause the brain to release the feel-good chemical known as endorphins by attaching themselves to the opioid receptors in the brain.

Endorphins are what produce feelings of pleasure and euphoria. They also cover up feelings of pain, which is why opioids are commonly prescribed as painkillers.

The feelings of pleasure or euphoria produced by opioids can be so strong that you may begin to experience cravings for the increased rush of endorphins.

With time, your brain may cease to create dopamine on its own. At this point, the brain and body may start to act in a negative way when there are no opioids in the system. These negative reactions lead to opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline

The length of time withdrawal symptoms linger largely depends on the severity of the drug abuse, as well as how often and how much fentanyl you use.

  • Typically, fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can begin between 8 to 12 hours after the last dose.
  • Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms typically peak at around the 36- to 72-hour mark and can last as long as 7 to 10 days.
  • Some fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can linger for weeks or months, particularly the mental and psychological side effects of the addiction.

Spotting Fentanyl Withdrawal

To help yourself or a loved one through opioid withdrawal, it helps to recognize withdrawal when it happens.

If you suspect someone close to you may be experiencing fentanyl withdrawal, there are some signs you can watch out for.

Try asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you experience flu-like symptoms when you don’t use fentanyl?
  • Do you crave fentanyl or other opioids?
  • Are you experiencing feelings of anxiety when you don’t have access to opioids?
  • Do you feel like you can’t get through the day without using fentanyl?
  • Are you seeking alternatives to fentanyl?
  • Have you called more than one doctor to try to get a fentanyl prescription?
  • Are you buying fentanyl off the streets?
  • Have you stolen a loved one’s fentanyl patches or tablets?

While these signs cannot provide a fentanyl withdrawal diagnosis, they may help you determine whether you need medical intervention.

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Safely Withdrawing From Fentanyl

If you are considering stopping fentanyl use, you should talk to your primary healthcare physician or an addiction treatment professional before stopping.

Abruptly stopping fentanyl use (i.e., quitting “cold turkey”), especially if you have been taking it for more than two weeks, can be incredibly dangerous.

Tapering off Fentanyl

Tapering is the process of slowly reducing the amount of opioids you are taking until you are no longer taking them.

If your healthcare provider thinks tapering is right for you, they will likely create a personalized tapering schedule to help you wean off fentanyl. They may also switch you to an alternative opioid if that would be a better option for you.

It is essential to follow your tapering plan closely and regularly check in with your doctor or treatment professional for monitoring.

Visits with a mental health professional might also help while tapering to help manage the mental and psychological side effects associated with the withdrawal process.

Medical Detox for Fentanyl

The safest way to withdraw from fentanyl is through medical detox. Detoxing is what happens as the body eliminates fentanyl from your system, and your brain and body can begin to heal.

Before detoxing, consult your primary care physician or a treatment professional.

Self-detox can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. It’s best to undergo detox under the care of trained medical professionals at a local medical facility, a detox center, or a treatment center that offers detox a detox program.

During the fentanyl detoxification process, your doctor might prescribe certain medications to help curb cravings and lessen other withdrawal symptoms.

Medications that have been FDA-approved for fentanyl detox include:

Can Fentanyl Withdrawal Be Fatal?

The process of fentanyl withdrawal is not typically fatal. However, the risk of overdose significantly increases after someone undergoes fentanyl detox.

After detox, the lack of fentanyl in their system may have lowered their tolerance. As a result, they are more likely to overdose when returning to fentanyl abuse.

Fentanyl overdose is still possible at any time since only a small amount of the drug can be fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 67% of overdose deaths in 2021 were caused by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

Follow-Up Fentanyl Addiction Treatment Options

People facing fentanyl withdrawal may have an opioid use disorder (e.g., fentanyl addiction).

Detoxing is the first step in the recovery process for opioid addiction. Once detox is complete, the next step is to start either an inpatient or outpatient rehab program.

Fentanyl Addiction Rehab Programs

Inpatient treatment programs, where people stay at a treatment facility overnight, are the most effective way to overcome fentanyl addiction.

Opioids are some of the most addictive drugs of abuse, and inpatient rehab helps people learn methods for withdrawal management, coping strategies, recognizing triggers for drug use, and ways to prevent relapse.

Other substance abuse treatment programs include:

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Many people with substance use disorders involving opioids benefit from medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Many healthcare professionals consider MAT one of the most effective ways to treat fentanyl and other opioid use disorders.

Medications help stave off fentanyl withdrawal symptoms, which can be helpful since withdrawal is often what prompts a person to return to substance abuse.

Methadone and buprenorphine are some of the most effective medications in opioid treatment programs.

Opioid Addiction Support Groups

Support groups are a vital resource both during and after treatment.

Twelve-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and SMART Recovery provide safe and supportive environments along with a structured, step-by-step process to work through recovery.

Through support groups, people in fentanyl addiction recovery can share what they are going through with others who have had similar experiences.

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Get Help for Fentanyl Withdrawal

If you are battling fentanyl dependence or addiction and want to stop taking it, you can start by talking to your doctor. They can perform a drug assessment to determine the severity of your substance use disorder or withdrawal symptoms and offer medical advice for optimal treatment plans.

You can also call the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-4357 or visit their online program locator to find fentanyl addiction treatment options in your area.

If you’re ready to take the next step to overcome fentanyl addiction, learn more about treatment and therapy options.

Fentanyl Withdrawal FAQs

How is fentanyl or opioid withdrawal diagnosed?

To diagnose fentanyl withdrawal, healthcare professionals will assess a person’s physical and mental symptoms and look for signs of fentanyl addiction.

They will also rule out other possible conditions, like alcohol intoxication or withdrawal, opioid-induced depressive disorder, or other withdrawal disorders.

What is fentanyl withdrawal?

Fentanyl withdrawal is the body and the brain’s response to no longer having the drug in its system after becoming dependent on or addicted to the substance.

How long does fentanyl withdrawal last?

Fentanyl withdrawal may begin within 12 hours after the last dose of fentanyl and last up to 10 days.

However, many factors can affect the fentanyl withdrawal timeline, such as how long a person misused fentanyl, how much they were using, and how often they misused the drug.

People who have been abusing opioids like fentanyl for a long time may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which causes prolonged withdrawal symptoms for weeks or months after ceasing the use of fentanyl.

What are the symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal?

Symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal can vary based on the severity of the dependence or addiction, the length of time you have been taking fentanyl, and the dosage.

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Cravings
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Irritability
  • High blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia

What helps with fentanyl withdrawal?

The most effective form of treatment for fentanyl withdrawal is medication, which helps curb withdrawal symptoms.

Common opioid withdrawal medications include methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone), and naltrexone (Vivitrol).

Can fentanyl withdrawal be fatal?

The process of fentanyl withdrawal is not typically fatal. However, the fatal risk associated with fentanyl use is often highest in people who have undergone detox and then returned to fentanyl use.

After detox, the lack of fentanyl in their system may have lowered their tolerance. As a result, they are more likely to overdose when returning to fentanyl abuse.

Is fentanyl withdrawal treatable?

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can be addressed by either tapering off fentanyl slowly or through medical detox. Once detoxification is complete, treatment for fentanyl addiction can begin.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of AddictionHelp.com and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

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  2. Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) | Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. (n.d.). https://www.semel.ucla.edu/dual-diagnosis-program/News_and_Resources/PAWS
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  7. Watson, S. (2020, January 7). Treating Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms: Medication, Home Remedies, More. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/opioid-withdrawal/treating-withdrawal-symptoms#support
  8. WebMD. (2022, April 11). What Causes Fentanyl Withdrawal and How Can You Manage It? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/what-to-know-fentanyl-withdrawal

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