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Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment

by | Last updated Jun 14, 2021 at 8:49AM | Published on Aug 17, 2020 | Drug Addiction, Opioid Addiction

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment

Opioids are prescription-strength pain medications. However, opiates are those drugs derived from the opium poppy, including morphine, codeine, heroin, and opium. They’re also available as synthetic versions, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, and methadone. The problem with opiates is that these drugs are highly addictive, resulting in physical and psychological opiate withdrawal symptoms that could be life-threatening.

With between 8 and 12 percent of people using opioids for chronic pain developing an opioid use disorder, it’s noticeable that the United States still has an opioid epidemic.

What are Opiates?

Opiates are substances derived from the opium poppy plant. These narcotics, both natural and synthetic, bind to opiate receptors in the brain, depressing the central nervous system, and relieving pain. Doctors prescribe opioids to treat moderate to chronic pain in the medical field, often the one that arises due to chronic illness or after an injury or accident.

However, opiates also include illicit substances such as heroin. Not to mention, the rising epidemic of prescription drug abuse makes opiates a hazardous substance for most people.

Opiates Withdrawal Symptoms

Opiates Withdrawal Symptoms

Opiates are drugs that come with a high potential for misuse and abuse. For example, when people take opiates for a long time or misuse them, their body develops opioid dependence and will need more and more drugs to feel the same effects. Opiates are initially meant for short-term use only because long-term use can rewire how the receptors in the brain work. To prevent dependence, long-acting opioids are usually prescribed since they require fewer dosages throughout the day.

Eventually, when someone abruptly stops taking the drugs after becoming dependent on opioids, they’re likely to experience withdrawal from opioids.

First, symptoms of opiate withdrawal include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Tearing eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Excessive sweating
  • Insomnia

Later on, symptoms become more intense, and these can be:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurry vision
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure

Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms

Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) can continue even after six months of someone’s last dose. These come and go as waves and might require medical attention to control. Usually, these are psychological symptoms that need medical advice to improve. However, they still happen to those who are physically dependent on the drug.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Intense and persistent anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty performing complex tasks
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Seizures
  • Depression
Opiates Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline

Opiates Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline for opiate withdrawal depends on various reasons, including the type of opiate abused, how long someone’s been taking them, and if they mix them with other substances like alcohol. However, opiate withdrawal symptoms can start as soon as a few hours after the last dose.

4 – 12 Hours

The first day after the last dose, most short-acting opiates will produce withdrawal symptoms. Most opiates that produce short-term symptoms include fentanyl, heroin, and codeine. People might experience headaches, aggression, muscular aches, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and cravings.

12 – 30 Hours

Here’s when long-acting opiates start to cause withdrawal symptoms. People that abuse oxycodone or other extended-release opioids will start feeling excessive sweating, runny nose, panic attacks, digestive problems, and insomnia.

48 – 72 Hours

By the second to the third day, withdrawal symptoms for short-acting opiates will peak. By this portion of the withdrawal process, most addicts will go back to using drugs when they don’t have medical supervision. This stage is critical as people can suffer an accidental overdose. In addition, people struggle with all previous symptoms and nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, all of these symptoms can cause severe dehydration if not correctly cared for.

4 – 7 Days

Here’s when long-acting opiates start to peak. Unlike short-acting opioids, those that abuse long-acting ones will experience severe symptoms, including cramping, shivering, fatigue, digestive discomfort, and more.

Opiates Addiction Treatment Options

Opiates addiction does not have to be a death sentence; people can seek treatment and find sobriety in many cases. However, because of the severe consequences of withdrawal symptoms, having the right support system is critical to prevent deadly outcomes.

Most people starting their opiate addiction treatment are recommended a medical detox program paired with a partial hospitalization program (PHP) that eases withdrawal symptoms and provides patients with a secure and supervised environment to begin their recovery. Many treatment facilities can help structure the right treatment plan. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our addiction recovery programs follow a comprehensive approach.

Addiction Recovery Programs

Inpatient Programs: These offer a temptation-free environment that’s designed to help people in recovery. In this case, people check into a living drug rehab facility, and they attend meetings and therapy sessions while remaining in a supervised environment.

Outpatient Programs: For those with a mild addiction, an outpatient rehab program might be an option. In this case, they have a more flexible program that allows them to maintain their daily schedules and responsibilities like attending school, work, or caring for their families.

Medication-Assisted Treatment: While rare, long-time addicts might experience worse withdrawal symptoms. To prevent these symptoms from harming them physically and psychologically, a physician might recommend specific prescription medications to help through the withdrawal process under a medically supervised program. Medications can also help control drug cravings that intensify withdrawal symptoms.

Individual Therapy: Beyond the detox process, it’s paramount to tackle the addiction by focusing on the addict’s mental health. Through individual therapy, people can understand what drives addictive behavior and see if there’s an underlying cause of their addiction.

Group Therapy: Building a strong and sober support group is a critical element of addiction recovery. By attending group meetings or 12-step programs, individuals can continue their sober life and continue to learn relapse prevention techniques, even months after detox.

Aftercare Programs: Addiction isn’t one thing people can shove under the rug. The remnants of addiction often stay with them for the rest of their life. To help users find happiness and purpose in their lives, aftercare programs offer relapse prevention classes, life skills, and other essential tools for a successful life after treatment. Preventing relapse is vital to give those in recovery the confidence they need to get back to life.

Seek Substance Abuse Treatment

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use disorders, ask for help immediately. Please, call Lighthouse Recovery Institute today and speak with our addiction specialists to learn more about our comprehensive and personalized addiction treatment programs.

Our addiction center offers unique and personalized treatment plans because we believe no two addictions are alike. The journey towards recovery is a long one, but together and with your family and friends’ support, we’ll make it.

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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