Like other opioids, withdrawal occurs when the brain attempts to adjust to real life without the chemicals brought in by fentanyl, which the brain has developed a dependency towards. For physical effects of fentanyl withdrawal, these include and are not limited to body aches, muscle pain, nausea, diarrhea, restlessness, anxiety and intense cravings for more fentanyl or other drugs.
Psychologically, the brain has a difficult time responding to pleasure naturally, as it has been rewired to only accept artificial spikes of dopamine as proper pleasure. Those going through fentanyl withdrawal can easily become depressed, anxious or irritable as a result, and can last for weeks if not properly treated.
Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT) is an effective method of detoxing, similar to other opioid addictions. Methadone, which is a much weaker opioid, can be prescribed to help diminish the symptoms of withdrawal from fentanyl. The problem, however, is that fentanyl is such a strong opioid that in some cases, the patient may become addicted to these weaker opioids instead. The goal with ORT is to slowly reduce the amount of chemicals from opioids the brain receives until it is able to readjust to functioning without them.
Like other opioids, behavioral therapy is very effective in treating fentanyl addictions. Because opioids rewire the brain’s reward system, behavioral therapy counters those stigmas by finding new ways to trigger the reward receptors without abusing substances.
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