Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug that is estimated to be 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It is estimated that in 2021, 71,238 people in the US died as a result of an overdose involving synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl).
People often begin using fentanyl after they have developed a tolerance to other opioids such as oxycodone or heroin. Fentanyl is also found in many illicit street drugs including heroin, cocaine, and counterfeit pills. Since fentanyl is so incredibly potent, people can get physically and mentally addicted quickly.
One reason fentanyl addiction is so difficult to overcome is because of how painful the withdrawals can be. How long fentanyl withdrawal lasts and how severe symptoms become depends on how long you’ve been using the drug and other factors. Typically, symptoms appear 8-12 hours after your last dose and can last 7-10 days.
Learn what to expect during the fentanyl withdrawal timeline and why attending a detox center can help.
Symptoms of Fentanyl Withdrawal
If you have been using fentanyl regularly for any period of time, you may go into withdrawal when you stop taking it. Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Dilated pupils
- Body aches
- Abdominal cramping
- Restless legs
- Increased sensitivity to pain
Although these symptoms are usually not life-threatening, they can lead to relapse, especially if you try to detox by yourself.
How Long Does Fentanyl Withdrawal Last?
While the symptoms may stay the same, everyone’s experience with fentanyl withdrawal may vary. For example, some people may feel better after 5-7 days while others are still in acute withdrawal. In most people, fentanyl withdrawal starts 8-12 hours after your last dose, peaks around 36-72 hours, and begins to subside after 5-6 days.
The fentanyl withdrawal timeline may be more severe and longer lasting if you:
- Are older in age
- Have a slow metabolism
- Have been using fentanyl for extended periods of time
- Use fentanyl more often throughout the day
- Have developed a fentanyl tolerance
- Have detoxed from fentanyl before
- Are also detoxing from other substances such as alcohol or benzodiazepines
Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline
Fentanyl is a short-acting opioid, so symptoms can appear fairly early after your last dose. While everyone’s experience may vary, most people experience the following:
8-24 Hours After Your Last Dose: Symptom Onset
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms will appear 8-24 hours after your last dose. If you have been using illicit fentanyl by snorting or injecting it, symptoms are likely to appear sooner. If you are detoxing from transdermal fentanyl patches, symptoms may not appear until closer to the 24 hour mark.
Early withdrawal symptoms include yawning, watery eyes, runny nose, anxiety, cravings, and body aches and pains.
36-72 Hours: Symptoms Reach Peak Intensity
Symptoms are usually most intense between 36-72 hours after your last dose. You may experience flu-like symptoms along with insomnia, sweating, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. Expect these symptoms to persist for 1-2 days.
Days 5-6: Symptoms Subside
Symptoms will begin decreasing in severity 5-6 days after your last dose of fentanyl. How quickly they subside may vary and symptoms may fluctuate in intensity.
Days 7-10: Acute Fentanyl Withdrawal Ends
After 7-10 days most acute symptoms will resolve, however, it is normal to continue experiencing sleep difficulties, anxiety, depression, and cravings.
Some people who have been using fentanyl or other opioids for extended periods of time may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS is a condition where protracted withdrawal symptoms persist for weeks or months after discontinuing a drug.
Detoxing From Fentanyl Safely
Fentanyl withdrawal is usually not life-threatening, but it can produce uncomfortable symptoms as well as complications like dehydration or relapse. The safest way to detox from fentanyl is to do so under medical supervision.
Drug and alcohol detox centers can prescribe opioid replacement medications like Suboxone or methadone to reduce the intensity of your withdrawal symptoms. Medical staff can monitor your vitals and your symptoms as they change to ensure your safety. Additional symptom-specific medications such as clonidine for high blood pressure or medications for gastrointestinal upset may also be available to you.
Detoxing in a medical facility will not only make the process less agonizing, but it will also reduce your risk of relapse and give you the opportunity to speak with a substance abuse counselor about continuing treatment for your recovery.
Get Help for Fentanyl Abuse and Dependence Today
Despite its ability to alleviate pain, fentanyl is a powerful, dangerous, and addictive drug, and if you’re trying to recover from fentanyl addiction, detox is only the first step. In order to maintain long-term recovery, most people need comprehensive behavioral and holistic heroin rehab treatment as well as aftercare support.
At Next Step Recovery, we give you the tools and support you need to get through early sobriety and find lasting healing. It is our goal to empower our patients to be their best selves and live the life they deserve. If you or a loved one are struggling with fentanyl addiction, please call now to learn about your treatment options.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Fentanyl DrugFacts, Retrieved March 2023 from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): U.S. Overdose Deaths In 2021 Increased Half as Much as in 2020 – But Are Still Up 15%, Retrieved March 2023 from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2022/202205.htm
- Journal of Pain and Symptom Management (JPSM): Withdrawal symptoms during chronic transdermal fentanyl administration managed with oral methadone, Retrieved March 2023 from https://www.jpsmjournal.com/article/S0885-3924(03)00495-0/fulltext