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Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline: How Does Fentanyl Detox Take?

Medically Reviewed by David Szarka, MA, LCADC

Fentanyl Withdrawal TimelineFentanyl was first created in the 1960s and became an effective form of pain management. Even a small amount of fentanyl can produce significant effects, which makes it an addictive and dangerous drug when it’s not obtained and used under the direction of a medical professional. 

Fentanyl is available in various forms, including patches, injections, and lozenges. Unfortunately, illegal production of the drug is one of the largest drivers of the increase in opioid overdoses in the U.S. There are examples of fentanyl being added to drugs like cocaine or heroin to increase their potency. This can be very dangerous if someone using those drugs doesn’t know they contain fentanyl. 

Like any opioid, fentanyl can cause significant withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it. There are several factors that affect the severity of withdrawal symptoms and the fentanyl withdrawal timeline. What can be said for certain is that having the guidance and support of an addiction treatment center can make all the difference. Footprints to Recovery has special programs for opioid withdrawal and treatment. We can support you through the entire process.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid medication that is used to manage severe pain. It’s often prescribed following surgery or to treat chronic pain, but it’s also classified as a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States because of its high potential for addiction and the risk of overdose. Common side effects of fentanyl use, whether medically prescribed or illicit, include: 

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Sedation

Fentanyl has become notorious, especially for being added to other drugs—most often heroin or cocaine—to increase their potency. This is dangerous because the dosages of fentanyl are more powerful than other drugs, opening the door for an overdose. Fentanyl overdoses can be lethal. 

What Is Fentanyl Withdrawal?

Fentanyl withdrawal refers to the set of physical and psychological symptoms that occur when you’ve developed a physical dependence on fentanyl and you stop using the drug. Fentanyl withdrawal can be uncomfortable, but it’s generally not life-threatening. The severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms vary depending on factors like how dependent you are on fentanyl, how long you’ve used it, and your overall health.

Withdrawal symptoms typically begin within a few hours to a day after the last use of fentanyl, and they tend to peak within the first two to three days. The intensity and duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary from person to person. Some people experience relatively mild withdrawal symptoms, while others may have more severe symptoms.

Some of the symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal include: 

  • Runny nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea 
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Dilated pupils 
  • Sweating
  • Cravings for the drug 

Medical Detox for Fentanyl

Medically supervised detox is often recommended for people who are dependent on fentanyl. Not only does it help manage fentanyl withdrawal symptoms and keep you comfortable, but medical professionals can help you taper off opioid medication. This is the process of gradually reducing your dosage, and it can help limit severe withdrawal symptoms. If you enter medical fentanyl detox, you may also get medication-assisted treatment, where health professionals use medications like buprenorphine or methadone to alleviate the intense cravings and physical discomfort of fentanyl withdrawal. 

What’s the Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline?

Struggling with an addiction to prescription opioids is no way to go through life. Fentanyl detox and withdrawal may seem daunting, but it’s not as long or as life-threatening as you may think. There are often two phases of withdrawal from fentanyl: 

  1. Acute 
  2. Protracted

The timeline and symptoms are different for each. Below is a general breakdown of the fentanyl withdrawal timeline. 

Step 1: Acute Withdrawal

The acute withdrawal phase of the fentanyl withdrawal timeline is the immediate set of symptoms that occur when you stop using fentanyl. They are a result of your body and brain adjusting to the absence of the drug, and they can be challenging. 

When does it start? Acute withdrawal symptoms begin soon after your last dose of fentanyl.

How long does it last? Acute withdrawal symptoms can take a few hours to appear and up to 10 days to subside. The peak occurs around day three for most people.

How does it feel? Many people report the symptoms feeling like a cold or the flu. It can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Shivering
  • Sweating
  • An excessively runny nose
  • Elevated heart rate 
  • Uncontrollable limb movements

The acute withdrawal phase is when medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is most often used. 

Step 2: Protracted Withdrawal

Those who experience symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal after 10 days are said to be in protracted withdrawal. It is also known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), and it’s the result of your brain and body continuing to adjust to the absence of fentanyl and the changes that occur during prolonged drug use. It varies in intensity and duration from person to person. 

While protracted withdrawal can be challenging and frustrating, it’s a sign that your brain and body are gradually healing. Protracted withdrawal is a challenging phase of the fentanyl withdrawal timeline, so having a team of substance abuse counselors at your side can make all the difference. 

When does it start? Protracted withdrawal begins 10 days after your last dose of fentanyl.

How long does it last? Withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even longer.

How does it feel? Symptoms tend to be more mental or behavioral than physical. They include: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Emotional sensitivity
  • Problems sleeping
  • Problems with memory or concentration

In some cases, individuals with severe and long-standing fentanyl addiction may benefit from long-term MAT to help maintain their recovery. This approach can reduce the risk of relapse and overdose.

What Happens After Fentanyl Withdrawal?

Following successful fentanyl withdrawal and detox, the next step of the process is equally important. Even after you stop taking opioids and get past detox, your body is still recovering from the effects of fentanyl use. Physical symptoms gradually diminish, and you may regain energy and experience improved overall health. You may still have lingering mood swings, anxiety, and depression, but these symptoms become less intense and more manageable over time.

The best course of action following fentanyl withdrawal is to get help from a recovery center with specific treatment programs for opioid addiction. Programs generally include inpatient and outpatient options for opioid use disorders. In fentanyl treatment you can engage in individual and group therapy sessions to address the psychological aspects of your addiction and develop coping skills. A treatment center clinician can also help you develop and implement a relapse prevention plan. This plan includes:

  • Identifying triggers
  • Establishing healthy coping mechanisms
  • Learning to navigate high-risk situations without returning to drug use

After a treatment program, participating in support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or SMART Recovery, can provide ongoing peer support and a sense of community. 

Opioid Addiction Treatment at Footprints to Recovery

Fentanyl abuse and addiction can affect every area of your life. A drug rehab center like Footprints to Recovery can help you make it through medical detox and manage the fentanyl withdrawal timeline safely and effectively. Opioid dependence can open the door for negative consequences, so get help now! The treatment programs at Footprints to Recovery can help manage opioid withdrawal syndrome and allow you to move on to a brighter future. 

Our levels of care for fentanyl withdrawal and treatment include: 

  • Medical detox: A medical detox center helps you safely, comfortably, and effectively cleanse your body of alcohol and drugs. It ensures you are treated with the latest medical, holistic, and therapeutic approaches. Our programs care for you no matter how long fentanyl withdrawal takes and ensure symptoms don’t get in the way of your sobriety. 
  • Inpatient treatment: When you enter inpatient treatment, you’ll live in a non-hospital, licensed residential facility, such as Footprints to Recovery, that provides safe housing and medical care. Our services include individual and group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dual diagnosis, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and more. 
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP): A PHP may be right for you if you need structured addiction treatment without 24-hour supervision. It’s considered the middle phase between inpatient and outpatient treatment. You’ll live at home or in a sober living residence while you recover from fentanyl.
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP): An IOP provides therapy and support at a treatment facility while you live at home or in a sober living home. IOPs are typically shorter than inpatient programs. They focus on re-integrating you into society and building relapse prevention skills. 
  • Outpatient rehab: An outpatient treatment is a safe, less intensive option that allows you to continue to receive addiction treatment for an extended period of time while you maintain a regular commitment to family, work, or school. 

The Footprints to Recovery approach to addiction treatment is simple: We listen and then meet you where you are. Your story with fentanyl is unique to you. From the first contact to individual, group, or family sessions, we work with you to develop a personalized plan that addresses your needs. Contact our team today and learn more about how we can help you make it through your fentanyl withdrawal timeline. 

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