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Carfentanil Withdrawal

Carfentanil can potentially cause withdrawal symptoms that are similar to other opioids. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, fever, body aches, and other flu-like symptoms. However, carfentanil is so powerful that it’s unlikely a person would take it regularly enough to cause chemical dependence without overdosing. 

Still, carfentanil is a powerful opioid that can cause chemical dependency and addiction if you’re able to take it in small enough doses to avoid a fatal overdose. However, such doses are difficult to achieve through illicit use, and the drug is not legally prescribed for human use.

Carfentanil Withdrawal Symptoms

Carfentanil is an analog of fentanyl, which means its chemically similar with slight variations. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid on its own  that is reported to be 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. However, carfentanil is said to be 10,000 times more powerful than morphine, though such numbers are difficult to confirm. 

Carfentanil is used to sedate large animals like elephants and rhinos, but it was never intended to be used by humans. In some cases, carfentanil is used to increase the potency of heroin and other illicit drugs. 

However, that often ends with deadly results. Carfentanil works like other opioids in the brain. It binds to opioid receptors and activates them, causing sedation, pain relief, and euphoria. However, it’s so potent that it can also suppress breathing and induce a coma. Deadly overdoses can cause you to stop breathing, or it can slow your heart rate.

If you can use small enough doses of the drug without experiencing a fatal overdose, you might become chemically dependent like you would with other opioids. Dependence causes your brain to adapt to the drug in your system. It may alter your natural chemical levels to rely on the opioid to maintain balanced brain chemistry. 

When you stop, you’ll start to experience full-body symptoms that are often compared to the flu. Symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Watery eyes
  • Excessive yawning
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Drug cravings

Carfentanil Withdrawal Timeline

The carfentanil withdrawal timeline you experience will depend on several factors. Plus, the exact nature of withdrawal is unknown because the drug hasn’t been widely studied in humans. 

Your specific timeline for withdrawal will depend on the size of your typical dose, the size of your last dose, and the amount of time you’ve been using the drug. Still, based on carfentanil’s half-life and the nature of withdrawal from other opioids, your withdrawal timeline may look something like the following:

  • 12 hours: Withdrawal symptoms may begin within 12 hours of your last dose. If you were used to a high dose, it might start as early as six hours. Early symptoms might include fatigue, nausea, and body aches.
  • 3 days: Symptoms will worsen over the next few days. They’ll eventually peak around the second or third day. Peak symptoms might include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and changes in heart rate and blood pressure. 
  • 2 weeks: After symptoms peak, they’ll start to fade. The worst physical symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea may be the first to dissipate. However, some symptoms can continue.
  • 2 months: Psychological symptoms like anxiety, depression, and drug cravings may linger after the acute withdrawal phase. Some people will need to address these symptoms in treatment to prevent relapse. 

Do I Need Detox?

If a medical professional examines you and determines that you need medical detox, then that’s the safest option for you. Medical detox is the highest level of care in addiction treatment, so not everyone has to go through it. Opioids like carfentanil aren’t known for deadly withdrawal symptoms. However, some people may have medical needs that require 24-hour medically managed treatment. Through detox, you will be given medication to help ease uncomfortable symptoms. In some cases, people are given medication to help taper them off the drug, but this can make the withdrawal period longer. When in doubt, seek medical advice from your physician.

Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Opioids. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016, February). 8: Medical detoxification. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, July 12). Notes from the Field: Overdose Deaths with Carfentanil and Other Fentanyl Analogs Detected – 10 States, July 2016–June 2017. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6727a4.htm?s_cid=mm6727a4_w

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, May 31). Fentanyl. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/fentanyl.html

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2005, March 28). Carfentanil. Retrieved from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Carfentanil

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