Actiq is a brand name for fentanyl. It is an opioid medication that provides pain relief for so-called “breakthrough pain” in cancer patients who are already tolerant to opioids.1
Over time, Actiq users develop tolerance to the drug, needing more to achieve the same effects.1 After continued, regular use of Actiq, many people become physically dependent on it, and stopping the drug may result in withdrawal signs and symptoms, such as abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms, and diarrhea.2 These symptoms usually begin 6-24 hours after the person's last use and fade over 5-10 days.
The withdrawal effects of Actiq are not usually life-threatening. But they can be hard to tolerate, and in rare cases, dangerous – particularly if the person relapses. Therefore, it may be safest to undergo Actiq detox under medical supervision to manage withdrawal signs, symptoms, and any serious side effects that may occur.
Signs, Symptoms, and Effects
Actiq Withdrawal Treatment
Find out how Actiq withdrawal is treated, including treatment options, medications, and detoxing cold turkey.
Actiq withdrawal signs and symptoms can include:
- Muscle spasms.
- Abdominal cramps.
- Excessive tearing of the eyes.
- Runny nose.
- Goose bumps.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Loss of appetite.
- Vomiting. 2
Typically, a person begins to experience the Actiq withdrawal effects within about 6-24 hours of last use (see “Withdrawal Timeline” section below).4
Each person is different, and various factors can affect how severe Actiq withdrawal symptoms will be. For example, people who use higher doses over longer periods of time may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms.3,6
Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms
Many people who have abused opioids such as Actiq for a long time may develop protracted or post-acute withdrawal symptoms. 4 These symptoms can last for months and include: 6
These symptoms can be frustrating and lead some to relapse. People who are recovering from Actiq addiction should continue with some form of treatment or therapy after detox to maintain sobriety.
Withdrawal symptoms begin 6-24 hours after last use and peak around 24-48 hours.
Actiq withdrawal timelines vary from person to person, and a range of factors can affect them, including a person’s genetic, physical, and mental characteristics. In addition, not all opioid drugs are the same, and the form of opioid drug can affect the withdrawal timeline.
Different opioid drugs can be broadly classified as short-acting or long-acting. Short-acting opioids such as Actiq result in acute withdrawal signs and symptoms 6-24 hours after last use, with a peak of withdrawal symptoms at around 24-48 hours and a gradually fading of symptoms that lasts between 5-10 days.4
Long-acting opioids, such as methadone, tend to result in peak withdrawal symptoms at about 36-48 hours after last use and can last for 3-6 weeks.4
These differences in withdrawal timelines highlight one benefit of entering a detox program in which the staff understands the nuances of withdrawal symptoms and can ensure the best possible outcome for recovery from Actiq addiction.
In some cases, people develop medical complications from Actiq withdrawal. When a person is using other drugs in addition to Actiq, or has a co-occurring medical or psychiatric condition, the withdrawal and detox process is potentially more dangerous.
In many instances a person will experience physical withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- Gastrointestinal issues. Nausea, extreme vomiting, and diarrhea can occur, which can make a person very weak.
- Dehydration. A person can become dehydrated after vomiting and/or diarrhea. At times, the balance of electrolytes can become dangerous to a person’s well-being. 4,5
Other concerns about detoxing include:
- Cardiac problems. Withdrawal can aggravate underlying heart conditions and lead to high blood pressure, increased pulse, and sweating. 5
- Anxiety. Withdrawal may trigger symptoms of anxiety disorder and panic disorder. 5
- Overdose. People who have stopped using Actiq can overdose if they return to using their previous dose. 7
- Suicide. Some people may become depressed and suicidal during withdrawal. 7
- Pregnancy. Actiq withdrawal can also lead to spontaneous abortion and pre-term labor. 7
One of the biggest concerns about Actiq withdrawal is that the cravings are extremely powerful. Many people are not able to stop using the drug without medical help and quickly relapse to alleviate the withdrawal effects.
Instead of trying to go it alone, call 1-888-935-1318Who Answers? and speak to a treatment support specialist about facilities that can help you or a loved one detox in a safe and comfortable environment.
Read next: Actiq Withdrawal Medications and Help
. Food and Drug Administration. (2011) Actiq.
. U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2013) Tapering and Discontinuing Opioids.
. Government of South Australia. (2012) Opioid Withdrawal Management.
. New South Wales Government. (2008) Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Clinical Practice Management.
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2011) Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.
. Miller, N. (2004) Treatment of Dependence on Opiate Medications. Virtual Mentor 6(1).
. Butt, P., McLeod, M., and Becker-Irvine, C. Opioid Withdrawal Protocol. Saskatoon Health Region.