Detoxification (or “detox”) for fentanyl becomes necessary when an individual is addicted to the drug. Fentanyl is an opiate used as an analgesic to treat pain; the drug is almost 100 times more potent than morphine, and it is highly addictive – both mentally and physically. Though fentanyl is often prescribed to patients with legitimate chronic pain and is used prior to performing medical procedures, its highly addictive properties make it difficult for individuals to stop using the drug. In fact, fentanyl is more addictive than heroin because its effects last for a shorter period of time. Fentanyl derivatives that are procured unlawfully tend to be extremely potent – even more so than the drug used for medicinal purposes – and the risk of overdose in individuals taking the drug is relatively high.
Fentanyl is also dangerous because it causes severe side effects that include respiratory depression. Because the median lethal dose in humans is unknown, there is a greater risk of respiratory failure and death. Other side effects of the drug include anxiety, headaches, depression, and fatigue. In an addict, these symptoms persist or worsen in the form of withdrawal symptoms when s/he stops taking the drug. Fentanyl addicts are not only physically dependent on the drug, but they also develop a mental dependency on the drug. The physical dependence worsens the addiction, as the body’s system relies on the drug in order to maintain a state of normalcy; thus, the individual is pushed to not only continue taking the drug, but also to take higher doses of fentanyl in order to achieve the desired effects.
The intensity of this type of addiction makes the detoxification process more complex. Usually, fentanyl addicts undergo the detox process and treatment under medical supervision. Because detoxification involves removing the drug from a person’s system, it can be painful and potentially life threatening. The temptation to use the drug in order to avoid the side effects of detox can be incredibly strong, which is why physician assistance is recommended. The detoxification process for fentanyl can involve medication that lessens the withdrawal symptoms. After detox, the addict proceeds with additional treatment in order to fully recover from the mental addiction.