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Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms and Risk Factors During Detox

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Why do many people avoid treatment for fentanyl addiction?  This timeline of fentanyl withdrawal symptoms and what to expect during detox may provide a better understanding of their reluctance to begin the process.

The synthetic opioid, fentanyl, is available in pharmaceutical and illicit forms. Most cases of fentanyl-related overdose are caused by the illicit form of the drug.  According to the CDC, 71,238 fentanyl-related overdoses occurred in 2021, up from 57,834 fentanyl-related overdoses in 2020.  

Many other commonly abused drugs contain fentanyl, often without the user’s knowledge, which contributes to the high overdose death rate. 

Timeline of Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms 

One of the reasons people resist fentanyl addiction treatment is the fear of withdrawal.  However, while detoxing is uncomfortable, the risks of continued fentanyl use are far greater.

This is timeline of what to expect may prove helpful for those who fear withdrawals:

  • Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms begin within 8 to 24 hours after the last dose.
  • Symptoms generally peak in intensity within 36 to 72 hours.
  • Some of the symptoms can last for a week or two.
  • Post-acute withdrawal symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and cravings can remain for months or years.

Also, a person’s age, weight, metabolic rate, and overall health may influence the withdrawal timeline.

Common Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms Experienced During Detox

Depending on the duration and severity of fentanyl use, the withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person.  However, some symptoms are common such as:

Physical symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal:

  • Chills and sweating
  • Aches and pains
  • Stomach distress
  • Trouble breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Insomnia, exhaustion
  • Hypertension

Emotional issues during fentanyl withdrawal:

  • Intense cravings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Memory or cognition problems

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can range in intensity and duration and some may become life-threatening.  For this reason, attempting to quit fentanyl by going cold turkey without professional supervision is not wise. An increase in blood pressure or heart rate can result in a heart attack or stroke.  Someone who experiences long-lasting emotional issues is at risk of relapse and possible fentanyl overdose.

Risk Factors for Severe Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Fentanyl addiction progresses quickly with increasing tolerance which leads to needing dangerous levels of the drug to get the desired effects.  As higher doses are ingested, the person is at greater risk of overdose.  They will often endure repeated or severe withdrawal symptoms when attempting withdrawal.

Factors that increase the risk of dangerous withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Method of administration
  • Frequency and duration of fentanyl abuse
  • Underlying physical or mental health conditions
  • Polysubstance use

It is crucial for anyone with these risk factors to receive proper medical support and treatment for a safe withdrawal process.  

Early Warning Signs of Fentanyl Overdose

Unfortunately, only small amounts of fentanyl can be too much.  Two milligrams can be lethal for some individuals.  This amount is equivalent to about five grains of salt.  Sometimes fentanyl overdose is difficult to spot.  With that in mind, it’s important to know the following warning signs of a fentanyl overdose.  

Recognizing these overdose warning signs may help save someone’s life:

  • Constricted “pinpoint” pupils
  • Unconsciousness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Blue-tinged skin, lips, or nails
  • Choking or gurgling sounds
  • Limp body

If an overdose is suspected, call 911 right away and stay with the person.  Administer naloxone if it is available, lay the person on their side to prevent choking, and try to keep them awake until help arrives.  

Benefits of Professional Detox for Fentanyl Addiction

The primary benefit of professional detox is that skilled clinicians and medical personnel provide 24/7 supervision and monitoring to ensure a safe and effective withdrawal process.  

In a professional detox facility, withdrawal symptoms can be managed and minimized with medications such as methadone and buprenorphine. Other medications may be used such as sleep aids, beta-blockers, and antidepressants.  

Medical detox involves a “weaning off” period supervised by trained addiction specialists.  This process allows the body to eliminate all traces of the drug gradually to help lessen the uncomfortable or potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

Proven Fentanyl Addiction Treatment Programs at Design for Change

Successful treatment of fentanyl addiction involves a combination of methodologies.  The program includes targeted, evidence-based therapies that address the physical, emotional, and mental factors concurrently.  With this approach, clients gain improved confidence, self-esteem, and motivation to succeed in maintaining sobriety.

Design for Change Recovery understands the complexity of fentanyl addiction and provides clients with long-term addiction recovery solutions.  We strive to create a safe environment that is staffed by caring, skilled professionals.  Our goal is to help clients recover from addiction so they may reach their full potential in life.  

If you would like to learn more about our unique, customized addiction treatment programs contact our Lancaster, CA facility today.  One of our representatives will be available to assist you in choosing a treatment plan based on your specific situation and needs.


  • – U.S. Overdose Deaths in 2021 Increased Half as Much as in 2020 but Are Still up 15%
  • – The Facts About Fentanyl
  • – Fentanyl Safety for First Responders
Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms and Risk Factors During Detox