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Opioid Withdrawal: How Long Does It Last?

Opioid withdrawal refers to the range of symptoms experienced when someone stops or reduces their use of opioids after prolonged use. It happens as the body adjusts to the absence of the drug, leading to physical and psychological discomfort.

The duration of opioid withdrawal varies from person to person and depends on different factors. This article will delve into the timeline of opioid withdrawal, exploring influencing factors and offering insights into practical recovery approaches. 

Key Takeaways

Opioid withdrawal is the body’s response when someone stops using opioids, causing discomfort and various symptoms. Here is what you need to know:

  • Opioid withdrawal unfolds in distinct stages, each with its own set of symptoms and durations.
  • Various factors hold a significant influence over the severity and duration of opioid withdrawal.
  • Effectively managing the withdrawal phase involves various approaches, such as an opioid detox program.

The Haven Detox-South Florida provides hope and support for those with opioid use disorder (OUD). Call (561) 328-8627 for more information.

A bag of white powder being held by two fingers. Approximately 4.8 million people reported use in 2021.

Understanding Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal refers to the range of symptoms that occur when someone dependent on opioids abruptly reduces or stops taking them. Opioid drugs include prescription painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone, as well as illegal drugs like heroin.

Symptoms of withdrawal can be highly uncomfortable but are not typically life-threatening. However, they can be a significant barrier to quitting opioids and seeking recovery.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

The onset and intensity of symptoms can vary depending on various factors. Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Flu-like Symptoms: Individuals undergoing opioid withdrawal may experience flu-like symptoms, including fever, chills, and sweating.
  • Muscle Pain: Pain and discomfort in the muscles are common during opioid withdrawal. This can range from mild aches to more severe pain.
  • Gastrointestinal Distress: Opioid withdrawal can lead to digestive issues such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping.
  • Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep is a common symptom. Sleep disturbances are often part of the withdrawal process.
  • Anxiety and Restlessness: Feelings of anxiety, restlessness, and irritability are frequently reported during opioid withdrawal.
  • Excessive Sweating: Profuse sweating, even in cool environments, is a common withdrawal symptom.
  • Dilated Pupils: Opioid withdrawal may cause pupils to dilate (enlarge), a phenomenon known as mydriasis.
  • Runny Nose and Sneezing: Opioid withdrawal can mimic cold-like symptoms, including a runny nose and frequent sneezing.
  • Yawning: Excessive yawning is a characteristic sign of opioid withdrawal.
  • Goosebumps: Goosebumps, also called “gooseflesh” or “cold turkey skin,” may develop on the skin.

Withdrawal is a challenging phase for individuals seeking to end their dependence on opioids. Seeking medical support can help manage these symptoms and improve the chances of successful recovery.

Stages of Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal is a challenging process characterized by distinct phases, each with its own set of symptoms and durations. Here is the breakdown of these stages:

Early Symptoms (6-12 Hours After Last Use)

The onset of opioid withdrawal typically begins within 6 to 12 hours after the last use. During this phase, individuals might experience initial symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, insomnia, excessive yawning, sweating, and a runny nose. These signs often mimic flu-like symptoms but are the body’s reaction to the absence of the opioid substance.

Peak Symptoms (1-3 Days After Last Use)

The most intense phase of opioid withdrawal occurs between 24 to 72 hours after the last use. During this period, individuals may endure severe symptoms, including intense cravings, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, dilated pupils, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, and goosebumps. Psychological distress, such as depression and irritability, can be exacerbated during this time.

Subsiding Symptoms (5-7 Days After Last Use)

Around day 5 to 7, the acute withdrawal symptoms typically begin to lessen in intensity. Physical symptoms start to diminish, and the body starts to stabilize. However, individuals might still experience residual symptoms like insomnia, lingering cravings, mild anxiety, and muscle aches.

Lingering Symptoms (Week 2 and Beyond)

Even after the acute phase, some individuals might encounter lingering symptoms, including intermittent cravings, mood swings, disturbed sleep patterns, and overall discomfort. Psychological aspects of withdrawal, such as depression or anxiety, might persist and require ongoing support and management strategies.

Remember, it’s a challenging journey, but with support and determination, it’s possible to get through it and move towards a healthier, drug-free life.

Why Withdrawal Times Vary

Opioid withdrawal duration and severity vary significantly among individuals due to multiple interplaying factors. Here are those factors:

Type of Opioid

Different opioids have varying half-lives and potencies, impacting withdrawal duration. Short-acting opioids like heroin tend to induce more immediate and intense withdrawal symptoms that may resolve more rapidly compared to long-acting opioids such as methadone or buprenorphine, which can extend the withdrawal period.

Duration of Use

The length of time an individual has been using opioids can significantly influence the withdrawal process. Prolonged use often results in more profound physical and psychological dependence, leading to a more extended withdrawal period.

Dosage and Frequency

Higher opioid dosages and more frequent use generally correlate with a more challenging withdrawal process. Individuals on high doses may experience heightened withdrawal symptoms, making the detoxification process longer and more uncomfortable.

Individual Physiology

Variations in individual physiology contribute to differences in withdrawal experiences. Metabolism, genetics, and overall health can impact how quickly the body eliminates opioids and adjusts to their absence, influencing the duration of withdrawal symptoms.

Tapering Off vs. Cold Turkey

The method of discontinuation also affects withdrawal duration. Tapering off opioids gradually under medical supervision may lead to a milder and shorter withdrawal compared to abruptly stopping (going “cold turkey”), which can intensify symptoms and prolong the process.

Environment and Stress Levels

External factors, including the individual’s environment and stress levels, can influence the severity and duration of symptoms of opioid withdrawal. A supportive and stress-free environment may contribute to a smoother withdrawal process.

Support and Treatment

Access to appropriate support and treatment resources significantly impacts opioid withdrawal duration. Medical interventions, counseling, and emotional support can help manage symptoms and facilitate a more efficient and comfortable recovery.

These factors don’t act in isolation; they often intertwine and affect each other. Additionally, individual experiences with withdrawal can vary widely even with similar circumstances due to unique physiological and psychological factors.

Managing Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal can be a challenging and uncomfortable experience, but with the right approach, individuals can successfully overcome it and embark on a path to recovery. Here are essential steps to consider:

Medical Detoxification

The first step in opioid withdrawal is medical detox, often conducted in a supervised setting to manage severe withdrawal symptoms. Medical professionals administer medications to ease discomfort and ensure safety during the process. This critical phase aims to rid the body of opioids while mitigating the physical effects of withdrawal.

Inpatient Rehab

Following detox, an inpatient rehabilitation program provides structured support in a residential setting. This environment offers intensive therapies, medical care, and counseling to address the psychological aspects of substance use disorders (SUDs). Patients benefit from a controlled environment that minimizes triggers and provides round-the-clock care.

Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient rehab serves as a transition from inpatient care to independent living. Patients attend scheduled therapy sessions while residing at home. This setup allows individuals to apply the skills learned in rehab to real-life situations, fostering gradual reintegration into society while receiving ongoing support.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management (CM), are integral components of opioid addiction treatment. These therapies help those affected understand the root causes of their addiction, develop coping mechanisms, and modify behaviors associated with substance abuse.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) combines medications like methadone and buprenorphine with counseling and behavioral therapies. This approach reduces withdrawal symptoms and cravings, facilitating recovery. MAT plays an essential role in managing opioid and opiate addiction and improving treatment outcomes.

Support Groups

Participating in local support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or SMART Recovery, offers a sense of community and shared experience. These groups provide a non-judgmental place for individuals to share their struggles, receive encouragement, and build a support network. Peer support is invaluable in maintaining long-term recovery.

Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is vital in opioid recovery. This includes regular exercise, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and stress management techniques like meditation or yoga. These habits promote overall well-being and aid in the recovery process.

Remember, recovery isn’t a one-size-fits-all process; finding the right combination of treatments and support is key to successful recovery. Seeking help and staying committed to the recovery journey leads to a healthier, drug-free life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is one of the first signs of withdrawal?

Early signs of withdrawal often include restlessness, anxiety, irritability, sweating, and increased heart rate. These symptoms can manifest shortly after discontinuing a substance and may intensify over time, signaling the body’s adjustment to the absence of the substance, such as opiates.

What kind of assistance is available for someone going through opioid withdrawal?

For opioid withdrawal, various forms of support are available, including medical detox programs, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), counseling, and support groups. These treatment options aim to manage symptoms, address cravings, and provide emotional and psychological assistance during recovery.

What determines the length and severity of opioid withdrawal?

The duration and intensity of opioid and opiate withdrawal depend on factors such as the type of drug, amount of drug used, duration of use, individual metabolism, and any underlying physical or mental health disorders, all contributing to the withdrawal experience’s length and severity.

The Haven Detox-South Florida: Leading You to Sobriety

Struggling with opioid use disorder (OUD) can seem challenging, but remember, your inner strength can conquer any battle. The Haven Detox-South Florida stands by you, ready to guide you toward a brighter tomorrow.

Starting with our medical detox program, we help your body shed toxins, paving the way for comprehensive treatment. Our 24/7 residential care combines medication, therapies, IV treatments, and holistic approaches, giving you the support you need every step of the way. 

For those dealing with anxiety or depression alongside addiction, our mental health treatment is here to support you.

Contact us now at (561) 328-8627. Let our team of health professionals lead you toward a brighter, healthier future.

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