Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

By In Addiction Recovery, Addiction Withdrawal, First Steps
Posted March 9, 2015

How long does heroin withdrawal last?
Is OxyContin withdrawal the same as heroin withdrawal?
What is the timeline for opiate withdrawal?

If you’re currently researching information about opiate withdrawal, you may be asking these questions. Below is a concise description of the most common drugs which fall under the classification of opiates / opioids, as well as a typical opiate withdrawal timeline.

Which Drugs Are Opiates or Opioids?

The term opiates is often used for close relatives of opium, such as morphine, codeine, and heroin. The term opioids is used for the entire class of drugs, including synthetic opiates such as Oxycodone and OxyContin.

Common opiates include:

Heroin, oxycodone (OxyContin and Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, methadone, codeine, buprenorphine, suboxone, clonidine, and dilaudid.

Fear of withdrawal can keep opiate users locked in active addiction. If you’ve made the decision to stop, you’re already aware that you’ll be going through an uncomfortable period. Opiate withdrawal severity and timeline include factors such as age, amount of use, length of use, specific opiate involved as well as current health, so there isn’t an exact timeline, although the following information will help clarify the withdrawal process.

Onset of Opiate Withdrawal

How long until I experience the first signs of opiate withdrawal?

Opiate withdrawal onset is generally connected to the half-life of the drug involved, so those with a longer half-life, such as methadone, will take more time for first signs of withdrawal to present than heroin, which has a much shorter half-life.

For example, methadone’s half-life ranges from 15-60 hours, so withdrawal symptoms can be expected to present themselves within 24-48 hours of last use. Heroin withdrawal symptoms, on the other hand, can be felt anywhere from 8-16 hours after last exposure.

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

The Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS), as detailed in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs includes both psychological as well as physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal.

Psychological opiate withdrawal symptoms include:

  • drug cravings
  • insomnia
  • agitation/irritability
  • anxiety/panic attacks
  • loss of appetite
  • malaise (a feeling of uneasiness)
  • depression/dysphoria

Physical opiate withdrawal symptoms include:

  • headache
  • muscle aches and cramps
  • goose bumps
  • runny nose and increased eye tearing
  • bone and joint pain
  • muscle cramps and body aches
  • nausea, vomiting
  • diarrhea and/or abdominal cramps
  • sneezing
  • restless leg syndrome
  • weakness and/or fatigue
  • tremors
  • yawning
  • alternating cold and hot flashes
  • sweating
  • an overall antsy or restless feeling
  • rapid heartbeat
  • dilated pupils

Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

The following is an approximate withdrawal timeline along with common symptoms:

Day 1-2 – Irritability and agitation generally present themselves as the first symptoms. Muscle aches and body pains appear, along with loss of appetite, sleeplessness, sweating and diarrhea. Anxiety and panic attacks may be experienced as well. A runny nose or general flu-like symptoms can also be anticipated.

Day 3-5 – Diarrhea generally stops during this period, but be aware that this may be due to an inability or lack of desire for food. Try to eat, even if you’re not hungry. Shivers, goosebumps, nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramping are all common during this phase, as is a feeling of general restlessness.

Day 6+ – While most of the other symptoms should have greatly subsided, nausea and anxiety may still be experienced beyond day six.

How to Get Through Opiate Withdrawal

Anything that gets you up and moving will help make the process more tolerable. Exercise increases blood flow, and in turn, helps expel toxins from the body. Alternating hot and cold showers has been said to help, as is getting outside in the sun. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids during the withdrawal process as well.

Meditation, prayer, yoga (and other stretching-breathing exercises) can also help calm your mind and relieve your body.

Imodium can also help with diarrhea symptoms and amino acid supplements can assist with mental clarity as well as overall anxiety and feelings of restlessness. (Always consult your doctor.)

The best advice is to avoid going through the process alone. Whether you decide to check into a detox facility or have a family member or friend stay with you, withdrawal will be much easier with solid support. The temptation to turn back to opiates in an effort to avoid the symptoms can be overwhelming. Without support, you may find yourself stuck in a repetitive cycle that doesn’t get past “wanting to quit.”

The Benefits of Medical Detox for Opiate Withdrawal

A stethoscope on an open book.

Detoxification is the first step to breaking-free from opiate addiction. A detox facility can greatly reduce unpleasant side-effects with medication that will be gradually tapered off over the course of a week or more. Choosing medical detox can also provide professional support to help you make it through a difficult part of the recovery process. Once you are past the detox period, you’ll be ready to transition on to the next phase of your recovery.

For more information on medical detox and addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, call The Shores Treatment and Recovery today. You are valuable, and worth being free from opiate addiction.

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