Protracted renal clearance of fentanyl in persons with opioid use disorder

Andrew S. Huhn, J. Gregory Hobelmann, George A. Oyler, Eric C. Strain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Introduction: The illicit opioid supply in the U.S. is increasingly adulterated with fentanyl. As such, persons with opioid use disorder (OUD) may be regularly exposed to fentanyl, however, the pharmacokinetics of repeated fentanyl exposure are not well understood. The current study aimed to quantify renal clearance of fentanyl in OUD patients presenting to residential treatment. Methods: Participants (N = 12) who presented to a 28-day residential treatment program were enrolled if they tested positive for fentanyl at intake. Urine samples were collected every 2–3 days and were quantitatively tested for fentanyl, norfentanyl, and creatinine via liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC–MS). Fentanyl clearance was defined as the time since last illicit opioid use and the median time between last positive and first negative fentanyl urine screen. Results: Participants had a mean and standard deviation (SD) age of 28.9 (11.0), were 67 % male, and 83 % white. The mean (SD) time for fentanyl and norfentanyl clearance was 7.3 (4.9) and 13.3 (6.9) days, respectively. One participant continued to test positive for fentanyl for 19 days and norfentanyl for 26 days following their last use, and left treatment without testing negative for norfentanyl. Conclusion: Fentanyl clearance in persons with OUD is considerably longer than the typical 2–4 day clearance of other short-acting opioids. The findings of this study might explain recent reports of difficulty in buprenorphine inductions for persons who use fentanyl, and point to a need to better understand the pharmacokinetics of fentanyl in the context of opioid withdrawal in persons who regularly use fentanyl.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108147
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin
  • Opioid
  • Opioid use disorder
  • Pharmacokinetic
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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