man sitting in couch grabbing his head with one hand
medication pills

Many people struggle with addiction and abuse of opioids like fentanyl. This is a synthetic drug that doctors can prescribe for pain relief. Fentanyl is also a medication that people abuse because of its powerful effects. If you or someone you know struggles with an addiction to fentanyl, you should learn how to recover from the withdrawal symptoms of fentanyl use.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used to treat pain for patients with cancer or other chronic conditions. Several types of fentanyl are available through a prescription, but they are also illegally bought on the street. Some examples include Actiq, Duragesic, Sublimaze, and others. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.1

How Addictive Is Fentanyl?

Due to its potency and the high it creates, fentanyl is a highly addictive drug. Other factors leading to fentanyl addiction might include:

  • Past addiction history
  • Emotional stability
  • Living environment

Many reasons can cause addiction to or dependence on fentanyl after using it for a short period. In addition, fentanyl is often cut into heroin and sold on the street, leading to a user taking more of it than they intended. This may cause them to overdose. The overdose could be fatal if not treated in time with naloxone, an opioid antagonist drug used to counteract fentanyl.

Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

If you or someone you know is struggling with a fentanyl addiction, watch for signs that may show physical dependence has developed. The following behaviors can lead to a dependency:

  • Taking higher doses than prescribed for extended periods
  • Out-of-control use despite negative consequences
  • Seeking prescriptions from multiple doctors
  • Using the drug in dangerous ways, such as snorting or injecting it, instead of taking as your physician directed
  • Secretive behavior when using
  • Tolerance building up over time
  • Change in lifestyle
  • Lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Giving false statements about how much you used

Side Effects of Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl can be highly addictive, and physical dependence can develop quickly. Physical side effects of fentanyl addiction include but are not limited to:

  • Itching, rashes, and hives
  • Sweating
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever or chills
  • Insomnia or drowsiness

Long-Term Health Risks of Fentanyl Use

Due to fentanyl’s potency, it is often deadly when combined with other drugs2 and used in ways outside what a doctor prescribed. If you or someone you know has been abusing this powerful drug, you might develop some long-term health risks. These health risks can include:

Respiratory depression

Respiratory depression happens when your breathing becomes very shallow or stops altogether. This can lead to:

  • Decreased oxygen flow to the brain
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness, which may have severe consequences if left unchecked


Fentanyl abuse can link to depression. This connection leads people into a cycle where they take drugs to feel physically, emotionally, or mentally pain-free. Severely depressed people often have suicidal thoughts that make it dangerous to use fentanyl. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee they will make it through an overdose unless they receive naloxone medication.

Brain damage

Opioids like fentanyl can cause severe brain damage if used for extended periods, especially for the very young or elderly. Fentanyl abuse may also decrease mental function, making it harder to decide or think clearly about the consequences of continued drug use.


Seizures can occur because of long-term fentanyl abuse, and they may also appear during the withdrawal process. The risk for seizures increases when people inject opioids like fentanyl into their veins. Injection is how many abusers prefer to take this drug instead of swallowing or snorting the pills. If someone has epilepsy, they might experience a life-threatening seizure if they also abuse drugs. This is because it could lead to unexpected injuries, such as head trauma.

Heart problems

Long-term fentanyl use can lead to heart damage and cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and stroke. If you injected fentanyl into your vein or artery, you might get severe inflammation that leads to decreased oxygen flow. This could cause permanent injury of the tissue around the injection site.

Kidney damage or failure

Kidney damage or failure may occur with long-term fentanyl abuse. It develops from decreased blood flow to the kidneys, leading to permanent damage.

Liver damage

The liver is one of the primary detoxifying organs in our bodies. Still, when someone abuses opioids long-term through injection, their liver often pays the price. This damage includes permanent scarring that interrupts the liver’s ability to metabolize toxins. The condition is known as end-stage liver disease3–procedures/end-stage-liver-disease-(esld).aspx (ESLD). It requires patients with chronic diseases to take prescription medications like N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) supplements.

Lowered immune system function

As fentanyl abuse continues, the body’s immune system becomes weak and can’t fight off infections. A weaker immune system leaves people more susceptible to getting sick with various diseases. This is especially true in individuals who already have chronic conditions. This includes conditions like HIV or hepatitis C, which make people vulnerable to further health issues.

Reduced pain tolerance

When you take too many opioids like fentanyl, you can’t handle even light amounts of discomfort. You could feel sharp pains from pressing on muscles or need less force when moving an arm. In the other extreme, people who use this drug long term may not feel any physical pain. This is because fentanyl can change how receptors in the brain process these sensations.

Withdrawal Symptoms From Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

Withdrawal causes many of the symptoms you experience when trying to stop using fentanyl. You can expect the following side effects during detox:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Spontaneous muscle contractions/twitching
  • Stomach cramps and pain
  • Runny nose or watery eyes
  • Yawning, sneezing, and coughing (from the runny nose)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle aches or joint pain (myalgia)
  • Diarrhea and upset stomach (gastrointestinal problems)

Detox Options for Recovery From Fentanyl Dependency

Detoxing from fentanyl is essential for overcoming addiction. Most people with fentanyl addiction will need medical supervision throughout the detoxification process. This is because of the dangerous side effects of stopping use without tapering off beforehand.

The following treatments for detox include:

  • Buprenorphine/Naltrexone therapy
  • Subutex/Suboxone has similar properties to Buprenorphine/Naltrexone but with less severe withdrawal symptoms
  • Acupuncture treatments during withdrawals
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapies

The most important thing to remember is that detoxification should happen under supervision. Fentanyl also has serious medical complications associated with it. These complications can become life-threatening without proper care during the withdrawal process. Different treatment options are available to help you deal with fentanyl addiction symptoms and allow for faster recovery.

Program Options for Long-Term Sobriety

Aftercare programs at Windward Way Recovery help people to get through withdrawal symptoms. You also learn how to stay sober for life by building a support group of people who care. With a support group, you’re never alone. If you have a long-term addiction to fentanyl, you may need extra support to:

  • Develop healthy relationships with family members
  • Re-learn social skills you lost while using drugs

Who can you turn to when going through fentanyl addiction recovery? Many sources of help are available during your journey toward sobriety, including:

12-Step Programs

12 Step Programs, like those at Windward Way Recovery, allow participants to meet regularly, work through the steps together, and share their stories. This is an excellent way to find people in similar situations who understand what you are going through.

Individual Therapy or Group Counseling Sessions

Counseling sessions help you learn new ways to deal with cravings on your own, without turning back to drugs. A professional will also help identify any underlying problems like depression or anxiety that may have contributed to your drug use. They will guide you toward treating the conditions effectively, so you don’t relapse in the future.

Family Therapy

This option is best suited for people who need guidance from family members while recovering. Still, it can work individually if needed by addressing each member during a different counseling session.

Meditation/Yoga Classes

These therapies can help reduce stress levels that often trigger cravings leading to relapse. They also provide long-term positive benefits for participants’ mental and physical health. Meditation and yoga therapies promote a healthy lifestyle by building routines and healthier relationships.

Signs and Symptoms of Relapse

You are likely to relapse if you don’t seek treatment for underlying problems like depression or anxiety. These issues will persist even after overcoming the addiction itself, leading to using drugs in the future. If you or a loved one has abused fentanyl long term, you may need more support during your recovery process. This includes counseling sessions that help you learn new ways of dealing with cravings.

A relapse occurs when you forget everything you learned about fighting your drug addiction and give in to old behaviors. Family members should identify any changes occurring within a loved one’s behavior. This will let them know what steps they could take next to help them recover.

You can’t overcome addiction on your own because it takes time for the brain to heal from fentanyl side effects. You’ll always be at risk of relapse if there are no other sources of support when things get tough again. This is why professional counseling sessions should become part of the recovery process as soon as possible.

Suppose you don’t have access to any professional treatment during detox. In that case, you may start using drugs again because nothing else will give you much-needed relief. This could lead to a fentanyl overdose that may become fatal without immediate medical help.

What You Can Do If Your Loved One Is Addicted to Fentanyl

It can be upsetting when you see a loved one becoming addicted to fentanyl or other opioids. They seem like an entirely different person who remembers nothing from the past.

Family members may be unsure of how to deal with someone addicted to fentanyl. In that case, it’s best for everybody to make professional counseling sessions part of the recovery process. Counseling professionals at Windward Way Recovery can help friends and family know what steps to take for recovery.

Tips to help a loved one through fentanyl addiction recovery include:

  • Be supportive without enabling destructive behaviors.
  • Try to divert their attention toward things that provide joy and pleasure without drugs (e.g., hobbies like painting or cooking).
  • Keep track of their whereabouts to ensure they are safe from dangerous situations.
  • Attend family counseling sessions together so you know how each step should help them recover faster.

Tips for Recovering from Addiction and Living a Healthy Life Again

People dealing with fentanyl addiction should detox as soon as possible. This can end drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms that may continue afterward.

Some tips for recovering from addiction include:

  • Be patient with yourself and stay committed to positive behaviors.
  • Avoid being around people who use drugs or alcohol (e.g., avoid bars or large parties).
  • Seek advice from family members or friends about dealing with cravings without turning back to drugs. This can be life-saving if things get tough again while recovering.
  • Continue attending counseling sessions to learn new ways to cope with cravings.
  • Take medications if needed so that you can overcome withdrawal symptoms faster. You’ll have an easier time staying away from fentanyl in the future.
  • Stay motivated throughout your journey toward sobriety by making long-term plans that keep you focused on the goal.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating balanced meals regularly.
  • Engage in sports or activities that offer pleasure without drugs (e.g., yoga).
  • Get plenty of sleep every night so your body can heal naturally.

Seeking Help

Fentanyl addiction recovery is possible with different treatment options for support and relief from withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to detect signs of addiction right away, so you can start the recovery process sooner. Treatment options like those at Windward Way Recovery can guide you to overcome underlying problems of your drug use.

We wish you all the best in your recovery process. If you are looking for additional information or guidance on fentanyl addiction recovery, please contact Windward Way Recovery at (855) 491-7694 or reach out to our admissions team for more information.

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