What Are the Symptoms of Fentanyl Withdrawal?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 16 June 2018
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Fentanyl is a strong prescription narcotic often used by cancer patients when their main pain medications cannot alleviate all of their discomfort. In most cases, doctors who administer fentanyl set a dosage plan that helps the patient avoid withdrawal symptoms. Should a patient experience withdrawal, however, there is a wide variety of symptoms, including complete loss of appetite, joint pain, and vomiting. Withdrawal symptoms fall into a plethora of categories, from mental symptoms like insomnia, general physical symptoms such as sweating, and specific physical symptoms like teary eyes.

One set of withdrawal symptoms associated with fentanyl involve localized pain and discomfort. Patients often report muscle aches, though the particular location of the aches varies. Joint pain is another common type of localized pain associated with fentanyl withdrawal. A particular spot of the body that is often painful during withdrawal is the back, which may experience different types of pain or simply a dull ache.

Some symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal are gastrointestinal in nature. For example, diarrhea, stomach pains, and vomiting are often noted by patients experiencing withdrawal. Other possible symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal do not fall easily into a category. A complete loss of appetite, also known as anorexia, can be a dangerous symptom of withdrawal if not resolved. Both a rapid heartbeat and rapid breathing can also indicate withdrawal, in addition to patients feeling as if their hair is standing on end.


A few other symptoms of fentanyl withdrawal are mental in nature, and can at times be harder to detect. Difficulty staying asleep or falling asleep can be symptoms of withdrawal. Nervousness or anxiety can be symptoms, and so can feelings of irritability. Restlessness or a feeling of cabin fever or stir craziness can also indicate withdrawal. To diagnose such general symptoms as fentanyl withdrawal, a health professional normally ensures that these symptoms are new and not obviously caused by other factors.

Sometimes, physical symptoms such as teary eyes, sneezing fits, or a runny nose can simply be allergies or the common cold, but these symptoms may also indicate withdrawal from fentanyl. Chills and sweating, whether at the same time or experienced separately, can also be indicative of withdrawal. A feeling of general weakness, shivering even when not cold, or a feverish state are a few other general signs that can sometimes indicate withdrawal. Finally, yet another tell-tale sign of fentanyl withdrawal is unusually large pupils.



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