Fentanyl Detox Guide: Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline
Fentanyl is an extremely powerful prescription opioid that is 100 times stronger than morphine.1 But the recent rise in fentanyl-related harm, overdose, and death is mostly caused by illegally made fentanyl (IMF). 1,3,5 IMF comes in many forms, such as a powder or mixed into counterfeit painkiller tablets, nasal sprays, or eye droppers, or combined with other drugs such as heroin or cocaine.2,3,6 This page will help you understand the dangers of fentanyl use, including overdose, addiction, and withdrawal, as well as how to find help.
Fentanyl Overdose and Other Dangers
Illegal fentanyl and drugs that mimic fentanyl (known as fentanyl analogs) are behind much of the rise in opioid overdoses in recent years.2–4 Fentanyl-related overdose deaths have greatly increased from 2,666 a year in 2011 to more than 36,000 in 2019.2,3 Since fentanyl is much stronger than other opioids and is often mixed with other drugs without the person knowing about it, it can easily cause an unintentional overdose.1,5
Fentanyl overdose can lead to memory loss, brain damage, and even death.5 Common signs of a fentanyl overdose include:2,6,7
- Trouble staying awake.
- Feeling dizzy.
- Slowed or stopped breathing.
- Skin that is cold, clammy, or blue.
- Tiny pupils.
Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms
Long-term fentanyl and other opioid use can lead to physical dependence. 6,9 Dependence happens when your body gets used to a drug and as a result, you will go through withdrawal if you suddenly reduce your dose or stop taking it.6,9 Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can include:6,9,10
- Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
- Excessive sweating.
- Goosebumps and chills.
- High blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate.
- Muscle spasms.
- Bone and muscle pain.
- Dilated (enlarged) pupils.
- Runny nose.
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia).
- Strong cravings.
- Watery eyes.
You can still go through withdrawals even if you take prescription fentanyl exactly as your doctor tells you to. Being dependent doesn’t mean you’re addicted, but dependence can lead to addiction.6 If you’re worried about your fentanyl use, you are not alone and there is hope.
How Long Does Fentanyl Withdrawal Last?
How long fentanyl or other opioid withdrawal lasts depends on a number of factors, such as: 10
- How much fentanyl or other opioids you take.
- How long you have been taking it.
- How often you take it.
- If you use any other drugs.
- Your overall physical and mental health.
In general, fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can begin 8 to 24 hours after your last dose.12 Symptoms will generally get worse over the next 1 to 3 days, then slowly improve.12 Fentanyl withdrawal typically lasts about 5 to 7 days in total.12
How Can I Deal with Fentanyl Withdrawal?
Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable, making it hard to quit using fentanyl or other opioids on your own.8 But there is hope. A licensed medical detox program can help you manage your withdrawal symptoms while keeping you as safe as possible.10 Medical detox can take place in inpatient or outpatient settings. Talk to your doctor about which setting may be right for you.
After detox, most patients continue their recovery efforts with behavioral therapy, support groups, and rehab.11
Opioid Withdrawal Medicines
The FDA has approved a number of medicines to treat withdrawal symptoms for opioid use disorder (OUD). These include:10–12,14
- Methadone and buprenorphine, which help stop or reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. While these medicines are often started in detox, they can also be used after detox as part of long-term recovery to help prevent relapse (using drugs again after a period of not using).
- Clonidine helps manage most withdrawal symptoms, except insomnia, muscle aches, and cravings.
- Lofexidine can help ease withdrawal symptoms such as stomach pain, muscle pain, fast heartrate, insomnia, yawning, and watery eyes.
Other medicines that may be used to help ease specific withdrawal symptoms include: 10–12
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or hydroxyzine (Vistaril) to treat insomnia.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for bone or muscle pain or headaches.
- Mylanta, Maalox, or Pepto-Bismol to treat diarrhea or stomach pain.
- Dicyclomine (Bentyl) for severe stomach cramps.
Can I Detox from Fentanyl at Home?
Cold turkey withdrawal from fentanyl or other opioids is rarely dangerous but it can be helpful to talk to your doctor before trying to quit on your own. Your doctor can help you understand any risks you may face during detox. They can also help you find the right program to fit your needs so that you don’t have to go through withdrawal alone.
As noted above, withdrawal symptoms can sometimes be intense. To help ease these symptoms, some people start using opioids again to make the symptoms stop.9 This can increase your risk of overdose, because withdrawal lowers your tolerance, meaning you can overdose on a much smaller dose than you used to take.15
Finding Fentanyl Detox Treatment
Supervised medical detox can’t make all of your withdrawal symptoms from fentanyl or other opioids completely disappear. But treatment and medicines can ease your symptoms, making you feel much more comfortable and keeping you safer in the early phases of recovery.10,11 In some cases, detox medicines may even shorten the length of your withdrawal symptoms.13
American Addiction Centers is a leading provider of detox and addiction treatment in the United States. When you’re ready to stop using fentanyl, we can help. We have treatment centers across the country, making detox and treatment accessible no matter where you are. Call us today to learn how we can support you in your recovery at
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (2019, September). Fentanyl.
- Department of Justice/Drug Enforcement Administration. (2020, April). Drug fact sheet: Fentanyl.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, February 16). Fentanyl.
- Bettinger, J.J., Trotta, N.D., Fudin, J., Wegrzyn, E.L., & Schatman, M.E. (2018). Fentanyl: Separating fact from fiction. Practical Pain Management, 18(5).
- Zibbell, J., Howard, J., Clarke, S.D., Ferrell, A., & Karon, S.L. (2019, September). Non-fatal opioid overdose and associated health outcomes: Final summary report.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, June). Fentanyl DrugFacts.
- S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, January 15). Fentanyl.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, May). Prescription opioids drug facts.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). TIP 45: Detoxification and substance abuse treatment.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Principles of drug addiction treatment (Third edition).
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment Services Administration. (2020). TIP 63: Medications for opioid use disorder.
- Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. (2019, June 27). Treating opiate addiction, Part I: Detoxification and maintenance.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2018, August 15). Lofexidine.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020). Opioid and opioid withdrawal.