Fentanyl is a very dominant opioid similar to morphine but more than 50 times as potent. The government classifies it as a Schedule II drug meant to treat patients with severe pain. In some cases, patients with chronic pain who have developed tolerances to other opioids will receive fentanyl as a treatment.
However, fentanyl is both highly addictive and dangerous. Nearly 68 percent of the 4,698 reported overdose deaths in Florida in 2018 involved some kind of opioid. About half of those deaths involved fentanyl and fentanyl analogs. Fentanyl detox can help wean you off this powerful drug and get you back to living a normal life.
Fentanyl is an opioid that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and at least 50 times as potent as heroin. Though its primary purpose is medical, it is a drug that is often made and used illegally.
Like with morphine, doctors prescribe medical fentanyl to patients who suffer from severe pain, especially that which develops after surgery. In some cases, patients with chronic pain who have developed physical tolerances to other opioids can also benefit from prescription fentanyl. When prescribed safely, fentanyl can be given to a person as a tablet, a patch to put on the skin, or as a shot.
Illegally made fentanyl is dangerous because it lacks the quality oversight that pharmaceutical grade is subject to; it’s a significant contributor to the sudden rise in deaths related to synthetic opioid overdoses. Illegal fentanyl is sold on the street as a powder, put into nasal sprays and eye droppers, dropped onto blotter paper, or manufactured as counterfeit pills disguised as other prescription drugs.
Notably, illegal fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs, including MDMA, methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. It’s especially risky when someone doesn’t realize that the drugs they used may have fentanyl, which significantly increases their risk of overdose.
When a doctor prescribes fentanyl, they may provide tablets, a shot, or a patch to put on the skin.
Illegal fentanyl associated with the increase in overdoses is made in a lab. This synthetic drug is usually sold as a powder but may also be put into nasal sprays, eye droppers, blotter paper, or manufactured into pills that look like other opioids.
Some drug dealers mix the opioid with other dangerous illegal drugs, including methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. They do this because people need so little fentanyl to produce a high, making it an affordable way to “dilute” other drugs. However, mixing these drugs is especially dangerous because a person can consume a more potent dose than they’re used to, making them more likely to overdose.
Like morphine, heroin, and other opioids, fentanyl attaches to the body by way of the opioid receptors. These are found in the parts of the brain that control emotions and pain. After repeated exposure to opioids, the brain adapts to the feeling, reducing sensitivity and making it more difficult to feel pleasure from anything else. Once addiction occurs, drug-seeking behavior becomes a primary concern.
The effects of fentanyl include:
It is possible to overdose on fentanyl. An overdose occurs when a drug produces life-threatening symptoms. For fentanyl, that means breathing can slow or stop altogether, leading to hypoxia, which is reduced oxygen to the brain. This condition can lead to permanent brain damage or even death. It is crucial to undergo fentanyl detox before overdose occurs.
According to the DSM-5, a person suffers from substance use disorder if they experience at least two symptoms in the same 12-month period. The more symptoms that emerge, the greater the severity of the disease.
There is little risk of fentanyl overdose when a person uses it as part of a medically supervised management plan. However, fentanyl abuse continuously exposes someone to ongoing risks. The most common sign of overdose is acutely shallow breathing that slows or stops altogether. If any of the following symptoms emerge and persist, medical attention may be necessary:
As fentanyl intake rises, so too does a person’s risk of severe side effects. The brain transforms into an engine bent on getting more fentanyl to the detriment into everything else.
Someone who abuses fentanyl or is suffering from withdrawal will display various symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal, which can include:
According to the National Library of Medicine, withdrawal usually begins between 12 and 30 hours after a person’s last dose.
Fentanyl, in patch form, is a medication on extended release with effects that can increase for the first 24 hours, lasting up to 72 hours, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Withdrawal from the patch usually begins about a day later. The FDA also reports a list of possible side effects that can occur when fentanyl finally leaves the bloodstream:
Symptoms usually pass within a week in mild cases. However, medically supervised detox is usually necessary for moderate and severe addictions.
Removing fentanyl from the body in a safe way is detox. Usually, this process occurs at a specialized substance use treatment center.
Fentanyl detox can be part of any rehab program, such as inpatient or outpatient, depending on a person’s needs. Typically, residential detox is known as medical detox because it includes all the support from a team made of medical and mental health professionals. The team monitors your vital signs to ensure your safety, and they provide medications to manage emotional and physical withdrawal symptoms. It’s often recommended that fentanyl users attend residential detox because it’s such a powerful drug.
Detox usually lasts about a week on average, but it can last as long as ten days if necessary. Some people may require more or less time; ultimately, treatment is unique to everyone. An evaluation allows the detox team to figure out how long a person needs to complete his or her own treatment.
It’s a good idea to undergo medical supervision to comfortably and safely eliminate the drug from the bloodstream. When followed with a complete treatment program that includes pharmaceutical and therapeutic tools to tackle the negative behavioral symptoms, detox can be the first step to a healthier life with a better balance.
Suddenly discontinuing fentanyl can lead to opioid withdrawal, which can produce a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms. It is often better to slowly taper a person off the drug instead, which means gradually reducing levels over a more extended time period.
Tapering must be performed under medical supervision by a professional who is capable of developing a strict tapering schedule. The goal is to keep the symptoms from manifesting by allowing a decreasing amount of fentanyl to stay in the system. Avoiding the cold turkey approach can lead to a much more manageable detox.
In some cases, the medical team may switch a fentanyl user to a different opioid, such as long-acting methadone or morphine. After the switch, these opioids are reduced by up to 50 percent every day until the amount is finally zero.
After detox, physical activity during rehab is a holistic addition that is essential to healing the whole person. Exercise rebuilds muscles that withered due to addiction, improves cardiovascular health, and makes you more flexible in preventing injuries. Likewise, physical activity on a daily basis promotes a healthy sleeping schedule.
Exercise also benefits the brain by improving the mood and increasing dopamine levels, promoting relaxation. Your treatment team can help you create a customized plan that factors in your current level of fitness or any injuries and health conditions.
Meditation and gentle yoga are also beneficial for holistic fentanyl detox. During treatment, a team of experts helps teach best practices for reflection, a proven technique to help people achieve improved self-awareness, allowing them to manage stress, depression, and anxiety better.
At Intrepid Detox, we offer personalized advice on the best course of treatment to meet you where you are. Our team is ready to discuss your personal treatment goals, your unique history, and possible payment options. At Intrepid Detox, we accept many forms of insurance coverage, so don’t hesitate to contact us today to find out more. You’re on your way to a journey free of substances.