In 2012, 169,868 people who sought addiction treatment cited opioids like fentanyl as their primary substance of abuse, per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Since so many people abuse opioids such as fentanyl, many wonder how long it might take to get through withdrawal or pass drug screenings after abusing fentanyl.
Timeline of Events
How fast fentanyl is absorbed into the body depends on the method of abuse. There are several methods of abuse, such as:
- Injecting the drug
- Snorting crushed pills
- Smoking crushed pills
- Swallowing pills, lozenges, films, and lollipops
- Applying multiple transdermal pain patches or extracting the drug from the patches
People who inject the drug will have it coursing through their bloodstream right away. Snorting is second in line to injecting, though not all of the fentanyl is absorbed this way because much of it is swallowed and enters the bloodstream later by way of the stomach and digestive tract. The drug is absorbed through the mucosal membranes inside the nose and meets the bloodstream soon after. Both of these methods generally produce a lasting high that people who abuse fentanyl prefer.
Pain patches allow fentanyl to be absorbed through the skin. Transdermal absorption rates are slower to allow for a paced release of the drug over a long period of time, per the National Capitol Poison Center.
Smoking crushed fentanyl may take longer to produce a high, but it is hard to determine this without controlling for the dose being used. Subcutaneous absorption through abusing films and lollipops occurs in the stomach and digestive tract just like swallowing pills does and typically takes the longest to start producing a high effect. From the point of administration, fentanyl spreads through the body into tissues and organ systems. How long it takes to leave the body is also dependent on the method of administration, as well as the metabolism of the individual abusing it.
Side Effects of Abuse
Withdrawal involves the physical and mental events that occur as a result of the weaning process once a dependence on fentanyl has formed. While withdrawal can lead to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, the process can be effectively managed via medical detox.
The biggest risk posed by fentanyl is overdose, and it really matters how often the drug is used and which method of administration applies. For example, doses are far more controlled for users who just swallow the pills as they come. Individuals who inject a liquid form of the drug can even more easily control the amount taken. However, someone who crushes pills and snorts them or dilutes them with liquid to inject cannot properly control for how much of a drug they’re actually using. If they don’t feel like they are achieving the high they were after, they may be more tempted to reach for another dose, making overdose more likely.
Often, withdrawal symptoms drive people to want to use again in order to make these uncomfortable symptoms go away. During medical detox, this isn’t an option. Instead, appropriate treatment medications can be used to lessen the side effects of withdrawal and make the detox process more comfortable. These replacement medications are used in conjunction with therapy to address the issues that led to the initial substance abuse.
The elimination half-life of fentanyl varies depending on how it is administered. Injected fentanyl leaves the body more quickly than when it is received through snorting, films, or pain patches.
It can take as long as 22 hours for the blood plasma to clear itself of fentanyl when it’s injected. It generally takes closer to 1.6 days for fentanyl to be eliminated from the body through other methods of administration, according toMental Health Daily.
It is a common misconception that the body is free of addiction once the substance is fully eliminated from the body. Addiction is not just physiological, but psychological. For this reason, it must be treated on both fronts. Clients need to go through detox to deal with the physical aspects of dependency, but withdrawal won’t address psychological addiction or the desire to use fentanyl as a crutch when triggers arise. Therapy and the support that clients garner from their peers and treatment professional serve as a great foundation for the kind of psychological rehab they need to experience to truly overcome addiction.