Fentanyl Withdrawal: Symptoms and Timeline

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is usually prescribed to treat acute pain, especially following surgery. Its drug effects are similar to morphine, however fentanyl is 50–100 times more potent.1 Extended and/or heavy fentanyl use can result in the development of significant opioid dependence, at which point a person may experience difficult, and sometimes severely unpleasant, withdrawal symptoms after suddenly stopping or reducing their use.2

In this article, we will explore the fentanyl withdrawal timeline, identify symptoms of withdrawal, and discuss how to more comfortably detox from fentanyl with the help of medical withdrawal management.

How Long Does Fentanyl Withdrawal Last?

Though the fentanyl detox timeline can vary from one person to the next people may expect to experience some withdrawal symptoms within 12 hours after the last use.3

As with other short-acting opioids, withdrawal usually peaks in severity within a few days, and begins to resolve over the course of a week thereafter. Some people might experience less acute symptoms of withdrawal for several weeks afterwards.3, 4

Several factors can influence how long withdrawal lasts. These include:5

  • Average daily dose or amount of drug used.
  • Length and frequency of use.
  • Any concurrent use of other drugs or prescription medications.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Though withdrawal from fentanyl and other opioids can be extremely unpleasant, the syndrome is seldom life-threatening.However, in rare cases, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, caused by diarrhea and vomiting, may require the use of intravenous fluids or other medical interventions.5

Fentanyl Detox

Medical detox and withdrawal management can help ease and reduce a person’s unpleasant and often painful opioid withdrawal symptoms from substances such as fentanyl.2, 7 As an important first stage of treatment, medical detox can help to:7

  • End the physiological dependence that developed over time to opioids.
  • Reduce and ease the pain and discomfort of withdrawal.
  • Decrease relapse risk.
  • Identify and address other medical issues.
  • Facilitate the transition to continued medical treatment for opioid use disorder.

Withdrawal management can take place in inpatient, residential, and day or other outpatient program settings.7 According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, inpatient detox programs may have a higher completion rate than outpatient programs. But evidence also shows that the rates of relapse associated with both inpatient and outpatient withdrawal management programs are roughly the same.2

Treatment professionals may help to determine the appropriate setting and level of care based on an assessment of several individual factors, such as:5

  • Any remaining acute intoxication and the potential for significant withdrawal.
  • Co-existing health issues that may need treatment attention.
  • Co-occurring mental health issues.
  • An individual’s readiness to change.
  • The potential for relapse or continued, problematic use.
  • The home/living situation and recovery environment outside of treatment.

Medications to Ease Fentanyl Withdrawal

During medical detox, physicians may prescribe medication to ease some of the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms associated with fentanyl and other opioids. Currently, there are 3 medications approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for opioid withdrawal management:

  • Methadone, a long-acting opioid agonist medication used to manage opioid withdrawal. Methadone is highly regulated and can only be administered at an opioid treatment program certified by the Substance Abuse and Health Services Administration.5
  • Buprenorphine, another commonly used treatment drug used to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms. As a partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine has an upper limit to its opioid effects, which adds to its safety profile and limits overdose potential in instances of misuse. Buprenorphine may be relatively more accessible to some people, as it does not have to be administered at a designated treatment program and can be prescribed by waivered physician.5
  • Lofexidine hydrochloride (Lucemyra), the first and only non-opioid medication approved by the FDA for withdrawal management. It reduces certain types of nervous system activity believed to control some opioid withdrawal symptoms.8

Though not specifically approved for use in withdrawal management, an additional medication that may be used during detox is clonidine. With a similar mechanism of action to lofexidine, clonidine can help ease symptoms like sweating, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, chills, and anxiety.4

Medical detox can be considerably beneficial in managing opioid withdrawal at the start of treatment for fentanyl addiction—but detox cannot substitute comprehensive treatment. As the first stage of treatment, detox marks the beginning of one’s recovery journey. Without continued treatment after detox, a person may be at higher risk of relapse.2,7

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

If you or a loved one are struggling with fentanyl use or addiction there is help. At our inpatient rehab in Mississippi, our compassionate team of addiction treatment specialists use evidence-based addiction-focused healthcare to help people get on the road to recovery and back to living the life they deserve.

Contact our helpful and knowledgeable admissions navigators at to learn more about Oxford Treatment Center, our levels of care, and how to start admissions. If you’re worried about the cost of treatment, we offer several rehab payment options and can help you figure out how to use insurance for addiction treatment. Recovery is possible, make the call today.

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