Understanding Fentanyl Detox and the Withdrawal Process

Overdosing is the leading cause of accidental and injury-related death in the United States, claiming more than 106,000 people in 2021, with approximately 68% of deaths being attributed to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Unfortunately, for some, quitting opioids can be almost as scary as living with the health risks they pose. Whether you’ve seen a loved one suffer from withdrawals or have seen withdrawal symptoms depicted on television as inescapable and long-lasting, it may seem easier to keep using the drug instead of dealing with fentanyl withdrawal.

However, opioid withdrawal doesn’t have to be so intimidating. With the help of a trusted addiction treatment center like South Shores Recovery, you can commit to achieving sobriety without enduring the full brunt of fentanyl withdrawal symptoms on your own.

South Shores provides addiction treatment programs that include a medical detox, medication-assisted treatment, and personalized treatment plans to give you the best chance at overcoming your addiction and staying clean after graduating.

Keep reading to learn more about the risks of fentanyl use, what to expect from fentanyl withdrawals, and how the right treatment can make opioid withdrawal easier.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s used as a painkiller. It’s up to 100 times as strong as morphine, so it’s reserved for severe pain or pain that doesn’t respond to other treatments due to the risks of overdosing. 

Doctors often administer fentanyl intravenously after surgery to relieve pain or prescribe patches that release small doses over time to treat chronic pain. It’s not prescribed for intravenous use outside of hospital settings, causing people who suffer from fentanyl addiction to seek it out illegally and put themselves at a greater risk of overdosing.

Synthetic fentanyl, the more commonly abused illegal form of the drug, comes in powders and liquids that can be mixed with other drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine, or heroin in capsules. In some cases, it’s also added to other liquids like nose sprays for discrete use.

Why Is Fentanyl Addictive?

Fentanyl is a fast-acting, high-potency drug that binds to the opioid receptors in your brain that regulate pain and emotions. It blocks pain signals and creates feelings of euphoria by triggering the release of dopamine, the “feel good” chemical. As you continue to flood your brain with artificially high levels of dopamine, your brain gets used to the pleasure and satisfaction, urging you to continue your fentanyl use.

But, if you stop supplementing your dopamine levels, opioid withdrawal symptoms begin.

What Is Fentanyl Withdrawal?

Symptoms of Fentanyl Withdrawal

Fentanyl withdrawal happens because of the dopamine imbalance that is caused by taking an opioid. Fentanyl creates more dopamine when you take it, which causes your brain to adjust its own dopamine production.

As you build this tolerance, your brain begins to expect the same level of supplementation constantly so it can maintain the correct balance in your brain.

The Typical Symptoms of Fentanyl Withdrawal

When you stop supplementing dopamine, your natural production can’t keep up with your brain’s demands for dopamine. You begin to experience an opioid withdrawal. As it attempts to restore the natural balance, you suffer from fentanyl withdrawal symptoms like:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Weakness
  • Trouble sleeping

Fentanyl withdrawals are not usually fatal, but the effects can be serious, making it important that you get help.

A Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline

Fentanyl has a short half-life of between three to ten hours, depending on how it is taken, how often it’s taken, and the dose taken. A shorter half-life for fentanyl withdrawal timing means that the drug needs to be taken more frequently to maintain the same concentration in your blood consistently.

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms begin after the drug’s effects have worn off and last until the drug is out of your body and your brain has had time to normalize its dopamine production.

Mild withdrawal symptoms begin approximately 8-24 hours after the last dose was taken. Symptoms are mild while the drug is still in your system, but they begin to increase in severity as more of the drug is eliminated.

Symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal grow stronger after the first 24 hours, peaking around the third or fourth day as your brain begins to adjust to the lack of dopamine once the drug is clinically eliminated.

After about five days, symptoms will begin to lessen as your brain gets used to receiving less dopamine and starts producing more on its own. 

After the first week, many begin to feel normal again, though the your fentanyl withdrawal timeline may vary.

Can You Withdraw From Fentanyl Without Help?

Some drug abuse can’t be stopped suddenly because of the severity of the withdrawal symptoms it creates. Alcohol and benzodiazepines are two substances that have a higher risk of death during withdrawal without medical supervision and intervention.

Fentanyl withdrawal doesn’t pose as much of a risk to your health as alcohol or benzodiazepines, but monitoring is highly recommended for safety and comfort. It’s possible to overcome your opioid addiction on your own, but it becomes harder to stay sober if you don’t develop the tools you need to resist the urge to relapse.

What Treatment Options Are Available for Fentanyl Withdrawal?

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

Effective fentanyl addiction treatment can make your path to recovery from fentanyl abuse safer, more comfortable, and more likely to last. Withdrawal symptoms can be debilitating, but substance abuse treatment can help.

One of the most effective methods of avoiding serious symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal is to lower the amount you take over time slowly. As you progressively wean off it, you allow your brain to slowly adapt to small changes instead of attempting to fix a major imbalance all at once. 

Medication-assisted treatment aims to address the side effects of substance abuse and withdrawal by helping you taper your opioid use. Drugs like Suboxone and methadone are long-lasting opioids that have a similar effect on the opioid receptors in your brain as fentanyl without the high addictiveness or euphoric feeling. They manage withdrawal symptoms so you can slowly reduce your fentanyl use and replace it with safer alternatives while you wean.

Once you’ve fully eliminated fentanyl from your system, you can more easily taper down your dose of Suboxone or methadone until you’re opioid-free.

The Importance of Rehab for Fentanyl Withdrawal and Addiction

Overcoming a fentanyl addiction is more than just being able to survive the withdrawal symptoms. Sobriety is a battle of mental, emotional, and physical feelings and urges that all try to convince you to relapse. If you’re not prepared to kick your opioid use disorder and live fentanyl-free, you may find yourself suffering from drug abuse again soon.

Our rehab gives you a safe place to overcome the physical and chemical aspects of your addiction. Medication-assisted treatment ensures you’re able to flush the fentanyl from your system safely while minimizing any discomfort that would cause you to start using again. The structure of rehab also eliminates your access to drugs, forcing you to stay sober through the most severe withdrawal symptoms without temptation.

Once You are Past the Fetty Withdrawal Symptoms

Once you’ve successfully undergone a medical detox, you’ll begin to learn the coping skills you need to stay sober when you leave the program. Effective substance abuse treatment works to identify the reasons for your opioid addiction and help you address them so you don’t have to use drugs to cope. 

Treatments like therapy can also help by changing the way you think about certain triggers or situations that caused you to abuse fentanyl. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps change the way you think so you can have more measured emotional responses to stress. You may also participate in group therapy, where you’ll meet others who are suffering from opioid use disorder and other substance abuse issues, giving you the chance to build sober relationships and feel less alone in your substance abuse disorder.

Once you’ve left the program, ongoing care plays a crucial role in staying sober. Your rehab should help you find group therapy local to you and help coordinate therapy, psychiatry, and other mental health services that can help you cope in a healthy way without drugs.

Overcome Fentanyl Addiction With South Shores Detox

Opioid Treatment Program

Fentanyl addiction is dangerous. It’s responsible for a staggering number of deaths from overdoses each year in the United States, so it’s crucial that you get help. Fentanyl withdrawal can also be intimidating, but with the right help, recovery can become much easier and more effective.

At South Shores Recovery, we are an Orange County drug and alcohol addiction treatment center offering personalized treatment plans in a safe, peaceful, and caring environment. We provide medication-assisted treatment as part of medical detox, inpatient, and outpatient programs, which makes it less stressful to commit to getting help.

Our caring staff will monitor your fentanyl withdrawal symptoms and help you slowly reduce your reliance on opioids until your mind and body are clear of its effects.

Don’t let concerns about fentanyl withdrawal stop you from potentially saving your life. Get in touch with a care coordinator today to learn more about our opioid treatment programs!


  1. https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
  2. https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/fentanyl
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459275