Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment - ARISE

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “More than 760,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose. Two out of three drug overdose deaths in 2018 involved an opioid.”[1]

Opioid addiction is an epidemic in the United States. With thousands of people struggling with addiction and eventually suffering from a life-threatening opioid overdose, the need for treatment awareness is at an all-time high.

One of the biggest barriers to opioid addiction treatment is the fear of withdrawal symptoms. While the opioid withdrawal timeline can be difficult to cope with, opioid detox centers can provide patients with the relief they need to overcome them.

Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms an individual will experience depends on the severity of their opioid use disorder. Additional factors play a role in how long those symptoms will last. For example, a person’s overall health, age, the type of opioid they were using, and how much of the drug they were using at once all contribute to how long opioid withdrawal will last.

The early symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Yawning
  • Teary eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Excessive sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings for opioids

The later symptoms of opioid withdrawal may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps in the abdomen
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Blurry vision
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure

While the symptoms of opioid withdrawal are uncomfortable and unpleasant, they tend to begin to subside after 72 hours. Detox programs can provide patients with medications to help soothe the severe symptoms of withdrawal and prevent cravings from occurring.

Opioid Withdrawal Timeline

Opioid withdrawal occurs when someone who was physically dependent on the substance abruptly stops taking them. This happens because their body grew accustomed to the presence of opioids, causing their system to go haywire due to their absence.

Many people worry about how long the withdrawal process will take when they attend medical detox. Thankfully, the opioid withdrawal timeline only lasts about 72 hours for most people.

Early Stage

A person will begin craving opioids shortly after they stop taking them. The half-life of the drug the person was taking can help predict when the cravings will begin. For example, oxycodone has a half-life of 3 to 5 hours, so cravings should begin sometime between 6 to 10 hours.

The early stage of opioid withdrawal usually includes intense cravings for opioids and feelings of anxiety or frustration. Some of the symptoms an individual may experience include:

  • Anxiety
  • An intense desire to use opioids to feel “normal”
  • Frustration or agitation
  • A preoccupation with opioids
  • Slight physical symptoms like body aches or runny nose

These symptoms can be uncomfortable and people with more severe opioid use disorders may require medications during this stage to soothe cravings and physical symptoms of withdrawal.

Peak Stage

During the peak stage of opioid withdrawal, the symptoms will begin to become severe as the opioids leave a person’s body. If someone was taking short-acting opioids like oxycodone, these symptoms should begin around 1 day after their last dosage. On the other hand, people who were taking long-acting opioids like methadone may experience these symptoms 30-72 hours after their last dosage.

At the peak stage, individuals will feel very sick. This is when medications like buprenorphine or methadone are usually dispensed in a medical detox program.

Some of the symptoms people will experience include:

  • Mood changes
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression
  • Intense drug cravings
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling hot and cold
  • Excessive sweating
  • Flu-like symptoms

Anti-nausea pills, sleeping medications, anti-anxiety medications, and anti-diarrheal medications may be given to soothe the symptoms of opioid withdrawal during the peak stage. Additionally, methadone may be given as a tapering medication to prevent withdrawal symptoms from becoming severe.

This is the point at which an individual is at the highest risk of experiencing a relapse due to the severity of symptoms, so attending a professional medical detox program is of the utmost importance.

Late Stage

For most people, the symptoms of opioid withdrawal subside about a week after their last dose of the drug. Depending on the type of opioid, the last of the severe symptoms will happen before the 72-hour mark. The physical symptoms will no longer occur, while the psychological symptoms will be less severe.

It is possible for withdrawal symptoms to persist for a couple of months longer than expected. This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome. People who experience this condition will be provided with medications that help them overcome their symptoms and focus on the behavioral aspects of addiction treatment.

During the late stages of opioid withdrawal, people in an addiction treatment program may:

  • Be given medications for opioid use disorder
  • Receive support from their peers, friends, and family
  • Attend psychotherapy and group counseling
  • Receive treatment for any underlying physical or mental health conditions
  • Join an addiction support group

Get Connected With a Top-Rated Opioid Detox Program

If you or a loved one suffer from opioid addiction, it’s time to consider professional addiction treatment. Opioid addiction places you at a high risk of experiencing a fatal overdose, highlighting the importance of professional help. At Arise Treatment Center, our comprehensive, private, and secure opioid rehab center in Vista, California can provide you with the medical care, psychosocial support, and resources you need to stay sober.

Contact us today to find the help you deserve.


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