Over the last decade, Fentanyl abuse has risen while the number of prescriptions for the medication has remained low. To get the drug, some people are buying or stealing other individual’s Fentanyl patches to use for themselves.
The problem with this is that the person who has been prescribed the drug has built up a tolerance to the medication. As a result, when someone else takes the medication, the drug is too strong. When someone who has not built up a tolerance uses the drug, they may develop seizures or overdose. These seizures and overdoses end up resulting in ER visits and potential death.
Another potential for Fentanyl abuse is when a person has been prescribed the medication and abuses their prescription. People with chronic pain can develop tolerance and dependence. When the drug no longer relieves their pain, they increase their medication dosage or frequency of use.
Brain Changes with Fentanyl Abuse
When a person takes an opioid, there are changes that occur in the brain. As the opioid fills the opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system, the way some of the brain’s neurotransmitters work is altered. After a certain time, when dependence sets in, the brain no longer produces the neurotransmitter dopamine. Instead, the brain depends on the drug to produce the neurotransmitter.
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During the detox, the brain will fight to restore balance. Moreover, the person will experience both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Many of the physical symptoms will mimic flu-like symptoms.
It is not recommended to quit Fentanyl “cold turkey”. It is important to detox from Fentanyl under the supervision of a professional and with medical intervention. Tapering is the preferred method of detox for Fentanyl which is the slow removal of the drug over time.
Fentanyl Withdrawal Timeline
When withdrawing from Fentanyl, a person will begin to experience symptoms within 12-30 hours. However, with Fentanyl patches, withdrawal symptoms may not occur for up to 72 hours due to the extended release design of the product. Some withdrawal symptoms include:
- Tearing up,
- Runny nose
- Stomach cramps
- Joint or muscle pain
Furthermore, due to the neurotransmitters no longer producing the appropriate amount of chemicals, there is a disruption in the dopamine production. Dopamine is the pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter. As a result, many people experience unhappiness, depression, or loss of joy while detoxing off Fentanyl.
Fentanyl Tapering as Detox
Again, the preferred method of Fentanyl detox is tapering. If weaned off the drug under the direction of medical professionals, withdrawal symptoms can be manageable. One option when tapering off Fentanyl is to have a long-acting morphine or methadone added to the person’s prescription medications. The goal is to reduce the dosage of these medications each day or every few days until detox is complete.
Medical Detox from Fentanyl
A medical detox is the removal of a toxic substance, in this case Fentanyl, from the bloodstream. When a Fentanyl detox is done in a residential setting with medical professionals monitoring vitals, mental health, and physical symptoms, the process is generally called a medical detox. It is highly recommended that a person dependent on Fentanyl participate in a medical detox inside a residential substance abuse treatment facility. It is safer, and the chances of success are higher. The detox process generally lasts for 5 to 7 days but may extend to 10 days depending on the individual.