The amount of media attention being devoted to the current COVID-19 pandemic may obscure the longevity and potential danger of another national problem: the opioid epidemic. Indeed, addiction to opioid drugs—including fentanyl, an extremely potent opioid—has continued to rise in recent years.
According to the latest figures reported by the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, “Opioids are responsible for over a hundred deaths every single day” and “The number of opioid-related deaths continues to increase.”
If you’re currently encountering an opioid dependency, specifically here, on fentanyl, there are a number of important considerations worthy of your attention.
First, fentanyl is a drug that was developed for treating people requiring intensive pain relief. However, those who take fentanyl regularly or often are likely to experience dependence on the drug, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms—some of them painful, potentially severe and even deadly—especially if the person is suddenly unable to obtain more.
Detoxing from fentanyl is the necessary treatment for fentanyl dependence, and those who require detox are strongly urged to seek professional medical care to assist and monitor the process. Per the website, Opiates.com, attempting to detox from fentanyl at home—i.e., without a medical specialist’s supervision—is dangerous and can lead to a seizure or coma. This is why seeking professional treatment at a local detox center or drug rehab facility is so crucial to a safe recovery.
Being a powerful, synthetic opioid drug, fentanyl is a Schedule II substance (according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse), which can be safely prescribed by a medical doctor to address severe pain. But because it is 50 times stronger than heroin, many do not realize how dangerous this type of drug is, especially in terms of how addictive it can be.
Anyone who takes fentanyl regularly can become dependent on the drug. And if the drug suddenly becomes unavailable, the person may experience severe withdrawal symptoms, because the brain and body can no longer cope without the drug.
Medically-assisted fentanyl detox allows patients to slowly be weaned off the drug or to be treated with and/or stabilized by medications during withdrawal. However, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), those who are grappling with fentanyl addiction will require rehab after a detox program, since detox alone is only one part of addiction treatment.
There are many different symptoms associated with fentanyl withdrawal syndrome. This syndrome is extremely intense and can be very uncomfortable, painful, even dangerous. Because fentanyl is such a potent opioid, many people relapse back to abusing the drug just to make these symptoms stop.
According to the Mayo Clinic, these symptoms can include:
- Runny nose, watery eyes and yawning
- Restlessness or anxiety
- Irritability or mood disturbances
- Increased pain
- Goose bumps on the skin, chills or sweating
- Stomach cramps
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Muscle cramping or aches and joint pain
- Tremors or muscle twitching
- Rapid heart rate
- Blood pressure changes
- Trouble sleeping
- Thoughts of suicide
During withdrawal from fentanyl, many people feel excruciating pain in their muscles, joints and bones. In addition, some intense psychological symptoms may occur as well, such as extreme fear, depression or agitation. Any of these symptoms, including those bullet-pointed above, can become severe at any moment. Medical supervision at a detox center or drug rehab facility can make the experience of withdrawal from fentanyl much more manageable and less potentially dangerous.
Detox patients can be given medications that are used to stabilize them, so they will not experience the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. According to SAMHSA, the most commonly used medications for opioid detox are methadone, buprenorphine and Naltrexone. It should be noted, the stabilization process may take up to a few weeks.
Before entering detox for fentanyl, it is suggested you ask questions to help you prepare and be well-informed for the detox process. Some of the questions you may ask before your first detox appointment are:
- What should I bring?
- How long is the detox process expected to last?
- What withdrawal symptoms should I expect?
- What will you do to minimize withdrawal symptoms?
- What, if any, medications will I need to take?
- Do you provide 24-hour monitoring of patients?
- Do you provide counseling during the detox process?
You should not hesitate to ask any other questions you may have. Being informed will allow you to have realistic goals and maintain optimism leading up to detox.
SAMHSA has also found and points out that hope is the foundation of recovery. Doing your best to remain optimistic about your detox and follow-up treatment—and focusing on why you chose to seek help for your addiction—can mean the difference between success and failure.
In order to safely detox, it is important that you find a detox center that understands what you need and is able to provide it, so you can start down the road to a successful recovery. Doing whatever research is required will help ensure you locate the right detox center and treatment facility to suit your needs.
 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2006). 1 Overview, Essential Concepts, and Definitions in Detoxification- Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.