Fentanyl is a powerful opioid designed to treat severe pain. Even when used by doctors, fentanyl is handled with care. It is highly addictive and people with certain health conditions can not take it safely. Fentanyl is also abused recreationally across the United States. You may come across the drug on its own, or mixed in with other drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Anyone who uses fentanyl outside of its intended medical purpose is putting their health at risk.
If you use fentanyl illicitly or care about someone who does, you may feel very worried and isolated. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Detox and rehab facilities have years of experience in helping people to overcome fentanyl abuse and addiction. This blog post examines what fentanyl is, what happens when a person quits taking it, and how detox treatment centers can support recovery.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a highly potent synthetic opioid drug used in medicine as an anesthetic and in the treatment of post-operative or end-of-life chronic pain. It is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Because of its powerful qualities, fentanyl should only be used under the supervision of a qualified medical professional. Even legal use can lead to addiction.
Fentanyl is extremely potent so it is easy to overdose when taking it. Just a tiny dose of two milligrams of fentanyl can be deadly. Fentanyl is a major contributor to drug overdose deaths. In the USA, every single day, fentanyl and similar synthetic opioids kill over 150 people.
Unbeknown to users, drug dealers frequently mix fentanyl with the drugs they sell. Heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines, and other illicitly sold substances may be mixed with high levels of fentanyl and, as a result, present a heightened risk of accidental overdose.
With good reason, the Drug Enforcement Agency describes fentanyl as the deadliest drug threat the USA has ever encountered. Between 2021 and 2022, overdoses and drug poisonings killed 107,375 people. Of these deaths, 67% involved fentanyl or other synthetic opioids. It is not possible to talk about the opioid epidemic without mentioning fentanyl.
What Causes Fentanyl Dependence?
Fentanyl abuse can cause the brain to adapt to the drug's presence. Fentanyl binds to neurotransmitter receptors in the areas of the brain that control pain and emotion. Gradually, the brain adapts to repeated fentanyl use and makes less of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. Users then find it difficult to feel pleasure unless they are taking fentanyl.
Inevitably, fentanyl tolerance and dependency result from this process. Users need to take ever-increasing doses not only to feel high but to feel any sense of happiness at all. It becomes normal for them to have the drug inside them, so when they don't take it they get withdrawal symptoms.
Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms
After a fentanyl user's brain has adapted to the drug, any attempt to stop taking it causes the body to send urgent signals that more of the substance is needed. These signals, and other physiological and psychological changes, are experienced as fentanyl withdrawal symptoms.
- Bone pain
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Muscle pain
- Increased body temperature
- Increased heart rate (tachycardia)
- Drug cravings
- Mood disturbances
People going through fentanyl withdrawal can also experience an inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia), negative feelings such as anger, and reduced self-esteem.
Can I Detox From Fentanyl Without Help?
Just like any other opioid withdrawal, fentanyl withdrawal can be very uncomfortable for the person going through it. If a person chooses to detox away from medical supervision, this can be distressing both for the individual and any person near them. If you or your loved one wants to stop using fentanyl, the safest thing to do is seek a medical detox.
Medical detox allows fentanyl addiction to be treated comfortably and safely. When you choose a medically assisted detox, you give professional healthcare staff the opportunity to ease your withdrawal symptoms and make you as comfortable as possible.
What Would Detox Without Medical Help Be Like?
During an attempt to detox at home, you might stop taking fentanyl cold turkey. This would result in the rapid onset of withdrawal symptoms, usually within two to four hours. These become steadily worse in the 12 to 24 hours after your last dose. Physical withdrawal symptoms then continue to worsen over the next 24 to 48 hours, potentially inducing life-threatening levels of vomiting and diarrhea.
The withdrawal process typically reaches its peak two to four days after the fentanyl detox began, and the physical withdrawal symptoms persist for up to ten days.
These numbers are estimates based on typical fentanyl detox experiences. For some people recovering from drug abuse, the physical symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal last for a more extended period.
The emotional and psychological fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can persist for far longer, frequently a few months. During this time, you are at increased risk of relapse if you aren't receiving addiction treatment for substance abuse.
Emotional support and follow-up treatment are essential for long-term recovery. If a relapse occurs, and you use the same dose taken before your fentanyl detox began, you are at high risk of an accidental overdose. This is because your body will no longer be as tolerant of the substance.
If you detox from fentanyl in a medically supervised rehabilitation center, many treatment options to reduce sweating, stomach cramps, nausea, and other symptoms of withdrawal will be available to you.
Medical supervision and a detox program are vital to help people recover from fentanyl addiction. Not only will the fentanyl detox process be more comfortable, but by following a detox program and then entering rehab, you are more likely to have a successful recovery.
Treatment Options for Lasting Recovery
A great advantage of going to a detox facility to overcome fentanyl abuse is that the staff will know how to help people detox. Their training and experience will benefit you by making detoxing easier for you.
Staff at a treatment center will know about the withdrawal symptoms that come with different kinds of drugs. If you also abuse alcohol or misuse other medications or street drugs, their knowledge will support your recovery. When you arrive at the detox facility, medically trained staff will be able to tailor a detox program that takes into account what drugs you have been taking. This will be beneficial for you if you are likely to experience severe withdrawal symptoms.
Another advantage of going to a detox facility is that you may be able to attend rehab at the same place. Here at Cornerstone, we offer detox programs and rehab. Taken together, these programs get the substance out of your body and help you to develop the tools needed to say goodbye to fentanyl addiction and drug abuse.
Cornerstone: Your Gateway to a Life Free From Fentanyl
At Cornerstone, we are committed to providing our clients with the very best treatment available. Using our years of experience, we can take every step possible to make your fentanyl withdrawal detox process as easy and comfortable as it can be.
Related: Fentanyl Rehab Orange County
We also understand that many clients use substances to cope with mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Our mental health services enable us to support clients who have a mental illness alongside a substance use disorder.
We recognize that each client is an individual with their own story, and we tailor treatment to fit each person. We have specialist knowledge in recovery from a wide variety of substances, including but not limited to alcohol, ketamine, legal highs, prescription drugs, cocaine, spice, and marijuana.
Before your fentanyl detox begins, we will carry out an assessment to find out about your needs, including your medical situation. This assessment has a number of benefits.
- You can ask questions about the addiction treatment program.
- We can support you with any uncertainty that you feel.
- We can plan your treatment together.
- We can hear from you how your addiction began.
At Cornerstone, we also offer services to support you in your journey after detox. These services include therapies that will help you to understand the root causes of your substance abuse and develop ways to maintain your sobriety in the future. Our services include:
- One-to-one therapy
- Group therapy
- Families therapy
- Couples therapy
- Clients further on in their recovery journey can also join Cornerstone's alumni program.
If you are worried about your own use of fentanyl or have concerns about a loved one, contact us today. We are available to talk about available treatments and answer your questions. Recovery from fentanyl addiction is possible with the right medical support.