Carfentanil Withdrawal and Detox

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Carfentanil is a derivative of the one of the deadliest synthetic opioids plaguing the country, fentanyl. This analogue of Carfentanil is actually stronger than its predecessor,fentanyl. Carfentanil was first synthesized in 1974 at Janssen Pharmaceutica by a team of chemists and is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times stronger than fentanyl. The substance is marketed under the name Wildnil and is actually intended for veterinary medicine, specifically for large animals, as a tranquilizer.

In 2016, Time published an article about heroin being laced with carfentanil. Heroin is often laced or sold with heroin because it’s cheaper, easier to obtain and easier to take than heroin is. Carfentanil came into the spotlight in 2016 due to 35 overdoses and six deaths in a span of three days in Ohio. The amount of carfentanil that can be cut with heroin is so small that forensic chemists often have a difficult time finding it. However, even that small amount still can result in an overdose or death.

Carfentanil is hard to distinguish from heroin and cocaine because it’s an odorless, white powder. Unlike morphine, heroin and other opioid derivatives, carfentanil use in humans doesn’t usually result in an addiction. The substance is so powerful that carfentanil misuse often results in an overdose or death. However, because the substance is often cut into other opioids, people who are misusing Carfentanil can still become addicted to the other opioids.  

Carfentanil Withdrawal

Even though the person misusing carfentanil doesn’t often become addicted to the substance itself, they can become addicted to whatever carfentanil is being cut into. Frequently, carfentanil is cut into another opioid like heroin. Carfentanil misuse often results in an overdose or death. If an overdose occurs, the person will probably experience a level of detoxification and withdrawal from the substance.

What Are Common Carfentanil Withdrawal Symptoms?

Carfentanil withdrawal symptoms would most likely be similar the symptoms of an opioid withdrawal.

Typical opioid withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose
  • Watering eyes
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever
  • Goosebumps
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depressed mood
  • Insomnia
  • Increased pulse
  • Increased blood pressure

Carfentanil Withdrawal Timeline and Symptom Durations

The carfentanil withdrawal symptoms are similar to an opioid withdrawal because the substance is a synthetic opioid and is often cut into other opioids. The timeline of opioid withdrawal and detox symptoms depends on several variables including the type of opioid, how it was ingested, the dosage amount, and the half-life of the substance. The timeline could also be influenced by the physical and mental health of the individual who is misusing. Typically, opioid withdrawal symptoms can begin anywhere from six hours after the last dose to four days later. However, because carfentanil is fast-acting, carfentanil withdrawal symptoms may occur as early as six hours after the last dose.

Some withdrawal symptoms may even last for weeks or months even after the initial detox and withdrawal. Lasting symptoms of carfentanil withdrawal may include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure)

Managing Withdrawal Symptoms of Carfentanil

While most opioid detoxes and withdrawals don’t result in death, carfentanil misuse usually concludes with an overdose or death. If an individual overdoses from carfentanil misuse, they’ll most likely experience some degree of withdrawal. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable, the following symptoms may be experienced:

  • Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Higher pulse rate
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Increased pain

Due to the severity of these symptoms, it is always suggested that when detoxing from any substance, an individual should seek a treatment facility to properly detox at. There are a few different settings in which a medical detox can take place including:

  • Physician’s office
  • Outpatient clinic
  • Hospital
  • Inpatient detox

Carfentanil Medications and Detox

Detoxification is typically the first step in treatment for a Carfentanil use disorder. The detoxification process can be challenging, but it is a necessary step on the path to recovery. During detoxification, the body is cleansing itself of all the toxins and substances from opiates that contributed to the substance use disorder.

There are medications that can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms during a detox. Medication-assisted detoxes should only be administered by medical professionals. A Carfentanil detox may include the following medications or treatments:

    • Medically-supervised, 24-hour observation: This type of detox is recommended by The Recovery Village, as it is the safest way to detox. Receiving treatment in the presence of a medical staff ensures that the patient is monitored for any dangerous complications that may occur during detoxification.
    • Methadone maintenance: methadone is an opioid that is used to alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms and reduce any cravings an individual may experience.
    • Clonidine and Buprenorphine Use: these medications are typically used to treat some of the symptoms of opioid withdrawal and help ease cravings.
    • Oral or intravenous fluids: ingesting fluids is commonly used to treat dehydration or electrolyte imbalances.

Whether or not an individual receives any of these medically-assisted medications depends on what type of detox or rehab facility they choose. Someone who is struggling with a Carfentanil use disorder should never try to go “cold turkey” and abruptly stop Carfentanil intake or try to detox at home. Medically-assisted detox is the safest and often the most-effective way to detox from carfentanil addiction.

The detox process involves three main steps:

  • Evaluation
  • Detoxification
  • Transition to next step of treatment  

At The Recovery Village, members of the medical and clinical teams evaluate the individual to determine the extent of their Carfentanil addiction. The Recovery Village’s staff acknowledges that every person’s addiction is unique, so they’ll have a discussion with each person about their experience with substance misuse. The medical staff will also inquire about the duration of misuse and what side effects they typically suffer from the most. An individualized treatment plan will then be created using this information and based on the individual’s specific needs. The plan may even include treatment for a co-occurring disorder like depression or anxiety. The evaluation process at The Recovery Village includes the following series of tests:

  • Individual assessment
  • Blood test
  • Co-occurring condition screening
  • Medical assessment
  • Psychological assessment
  • Risk assessment
  • Social assessment

How to Choose a Carfentanil Rehab Center

Just as a substance use disorder is unique to an individual, treatment for the disorder should be as well. One of the most difficult parts of someone seeking treatment for a Carfentanil use disorder is choosing the treatment facility that best suits them. The first step is knowing the options available and being able to choose the one that will be the most effective for long-term recovery.

At The Recovery Village, clients receive a full continuum of care from detox through intensive outpatient programs. Clients work with counselors and therapists to understand the reason for their addiction, recognize triggers, and develop sober living skills that will help them maintain long-term recovery. The goal at The Recovery Village is to help people struggling with addiction break the cycle and everyone on their staff  is determined to help clients establish and maintain recovery.

Burch, Kelly. “Record Amount of Cocaine Seized During 2016.” The Fix, 2 Mar. 2017, Accessed 10 Mar. 2017.

CESAR (Center for Substance Abuse Research). “Cocaine.” CESAR (Center for Substance Abuse Research), 29 Oct. 2013, Accessed 10 Mar. 2017.

Doward, Jamie. “Warning of Extra Heart Dangers from Mixing Cocaine and Alcohol.” The Guardian, 7 Nov. 2009, Accessed 10 Mar. 2017.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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