Fentanyl Withdrawal

First introduced in 1959, and circulated into medicinal use in 1960, fentanyl was originally manufactured as a pain relief medication, or intravenous anesthetic. As a synthetic opioid, fentanyl was found to be highly potent, nearly 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It was soon found that–like heroin–fentanyl could produce not only pain relief in patients, but strong feelings of well-being and euphoria. Soon individuals were using the medication illicitly, and the drug entered into Scheduled II classification. By the 1990s, the U.S. was experiencing its first wave of opioid-related overdoses and deaths. 

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms 

Fentanyl is a dangerous drug to use, even in medical settings, because of its high abuse potential. The drug and medication has many side effects that need to be watched out for during normal use, severe side effects in illicit use, and can onset withdrawal symptoms in both medical and non-medical uses. Opioids change the chemical makeup of the brain, and thus how the brain reacts to different substances. So, when fentanyl is removed from the brain suddenly, adverse effects can arise. Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms, which are very similar to other opioid withdrawal symptoms, can include:

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  • Muscle aches.
  • Agitation.
  • Anxiety.
  • Increased tearing. 
  • Runny nose. 
  • Fever.
  • Chills.
  • Insomnia. 
  • Sweating.
  • Yawning.
  • Abdominal cramping. 
  • Changes in pupil size. 
  • Goosebumps. 
  • Cold flashes. 
  • Diarrhea. 
  • Vomiting. 
  • Nausea. 
  • Mood swings. 

Fentanyl Withdrawal Duration

In both medical and “recreational” uses, it takes very little time for fentanyl withdrawal symptoms to begin occurring. Withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as 6 to 12 hours after your last dose of the drug or medication. The severity of the withdrawal symptoms will depend on the individual, the amount of the drug they have been taking, how suddenly they are coming off of the substance, and the individual’s personal metabolism. 

The time in which it takes withdrawal symptoms to begin surfacing also depends on whether or not the opioid is fast-acting, or takes longer to take effect. In the case of fentanyl, it would depend on the route of use. Fentanyl transdermal patches are considered to be slow-release forms of the drug, whether they are used in illicit circumstances or in medical practice, meaning they take longer to take effect. Meanwhile, in tablet or lozenge form, fentanyl can begin taking effect almost immediately. 

Typically individuals undergoing fentanyl withdrawal will see peak symptoms occurring within 30 hours, after their last use. Normally fentanyl withdrawal symptoms will not last more than 10 days, with effects tapering off to be milder as time goes on. 

Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline 

Knowing the symptoms and the duration of a fentanyl withdrawal can be very helpful to both individuals looking into getting off of fentanyl, and their family members. But, it is also important to note that most often, these withdrawal symptoms can occur at different times. Early onsetting withdrawal symptoms, occurring within anywhere from 6 to 12 hours after the last use and lasting up to 30 hours, include: