Fentanyl Withdrawal: What to Expect & How to Cope

Opioid withdrawal is an often misunderstood experience. The prevailing, albeit wrong, sentiment is that opioid withdrawal is similar to a bad case of the flu and not something that is life-threatening. With the pervasiveness of fentanyl into the drug market, opioid withdrawal is becoming more and more serious and has effects physically, mentally, and emotionally. This blog will serve as a general guide on what to expect from fentanyl withdrawals and the best ways to cope. 

The Withdrawal Process


Due to the potency of fentanyl, its withdrawal process comes on quickly and is quite intense. Symptoms typically come on within a few hours of the last dose and can ramp up in severity quickly. The detox process can last for several days up to weeks depending on the level of dependence, dosage, previous detox attempts, and overall health. Once begun, the only way to arrest the symptoms is through the use of more fentanyl.


Physical Symptoms


  1. Discomfort and Restlessness: The beginning of fentanyl withdrawal has characteristics familiar to the flu. Runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, muscle aches, and joint pain are common. Eventually this progresses into deep bone aches, skin that is painful to the touch and an achy, skin crawling sensation that runs over the entire body. It becomes impossible to get comfortable which is then exacerbated by restless leg syndrome and an inability to sit still. 

  2. Gastrointestinal Issues: While all the above is going on, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps are also occurring. This can be especially concerning as dehydration and hyponatremia can occur leading to heart failure and death. 

  3. Sweating and Chills: Cold sweats, chills, sweating and the overall inability for the body to regulate its temperature is also a normal part of fentanyl withdrawal. 


Mental and Emotional Symptoms


  1. Anxiety and Irritability: What typically begins as a deep seated anxiety over where the next fix will come from, settles into an overwhelming desire to not get sick no matter what. As the anxiety permeates into every thought and the withdrawal symptoms kick in, users can become extremely irritable and angsty.
  2. Depression: During fentanyl detox, your thoughts can succumb to extreme feelings of hopelessness, depression, and anhedonia. If there has been trauma in the patient’s past, it is not uncommon to slip into a cycle of re-living the experience. 

  3. Insomnia: Sleep disturbances, night terrors, and insomnia are customary during fentanyl withdrawal. As sleep deprivation occurs, detox symptoms are intensified leading to a high rate of relapse. 


How to Cope


Medical Assistance: The most important part of dealing with fentanyl withdrawal is utilizing professional medical assistance. Making use of a detox facility, treatment center, or healthcare providers allows for access to medication-assisted treatment and medical monitoring to ensure health and safety. 

Support System: Because of the intense mental and emotional toll that fentanyl withdrawal takes, it is paramount to have family and friends around. The headspace of someone going through fentanyl detox can get very dark, very quickly. Ensuring support is around can alleviate some of this mental anguish and make sure no rash decisions are made. 

Stay Hydrated and Nourished: Consuming plenty of liquids and nutritional foods and/or supplements can combat dehydration, malnutrition, and help to reduce certain withdrawal symptoms. 

Medications: There are plenty of medications which can be provided by a healthcare provider which will manage specific withdrawal symptoms. These meds can make the overall process of detoxing much more bearable while reducing the possibility of relapse. 

Therapy/Treatment: Therapeutic modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy can be used to deal with the mental and emotional aspects of withdrawal and addiction. Engaging in therapy even after the withdrawals are over can teach effective coping strategies, offer emotional support, and give advice on relapse prevention. 

Stay Busy: To take your mind off the discomfort of withdrawal it can be beneficial to distract yourself. Engaging in hobbies or activities you enjoy will ease the negative effects of fentanyl withdrawal and help to pass the time.


The journey to recovery from fentanyl addiction will look different for everyone. While professional medical guidance is always the first recommendation, being aware of the symptoms and complications of fentanyl detox can help to navigate the challenges of withdrawal management. Fentanyl withdrawal and recovery don’t have to be done alone. Call Sunflower Recovery today to learn more about our fentanyl detox programs and treatment facility. We are here to help. 


How to Deal with Fentanyl Withdrawal