Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

Heroin, morphine, codeine, and opium are all classified as opiates. Opiates are different from opioids, as they are naturally occurring and derived directly from the poppy plant. Opioids, like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl are either semi-synthetic or fully synthetic. This means that they are able to produce the same effects as opiates but they are developed from man-made substances.

Despite the differences between the two, opiates are just as dangerous as opioids are. They are highly addictive and can cause severe physical, mental, and emotional destruction, as well as death. Unfortunately, getting addicted to opiates can happen both easily and quickly. 

When opiates enter the body, they interact with certain areas of the brain that eventually become damaged to the point where stopping is nearly impossible to do on one’s own. People who abuse opiates often talk about how profoundly satisfying the high they get from using is. This high is what keeps people coming back for more until they reach a point of tolerance. When tolerant on opiates, the user must increase the amount they are using in order to get that desirable high. As they continue to do this, their bodies grow dependent on opiates, meaning that they need to always have opiates in their system in order to avoid painful withdrawal symptoms. 

Reaching this point in opiate addiction is incredibly risky, as the potential for a fatal overdose dramatically increases. Despite knowing this, many people addicted to opiates continue to use because they know that when they stop, the pain they will endure when detoxing may be too much to bear. But, if an opiate addiction is ruining a person’s life, getting sober is critical, even if the detox is distressing.

Detoxing from Opiates

If you are addicted to opiates, detoxing may need to be the very first thing you do on your road to recovery. Detox, which is the process of clearing all addictive substances from the body, is ideal for those opiate addicts who:

  • Experience withdrawal symptoms when unable to use their normal amount or at all, signifying physical dependence
  • Have made one or more efforts to get sober before but have been unable to stop using
  • Are abusing other addictive substances along with opiates
  • Have a history of mental illness or a physical health problem that could be agitated by the detox process

If any of the above apply to you, detoxing from opiates prior to receiving any other form of addiction treatment is critical. Doing so in a professional facility can make the process easier to manage. 

So, exactly how long will it take for you to fully detox from opiates? In general, it takes up to one week for withdrawal symptoms to start subsiding and they will continue to fade as time passes. But the time you spent detoxing can be shorter or longer than that depending on specific factors, such as:

  • Your age
  • The state of your physical and mental health
  • A family history of substance use disorders and/or mental illness
  • Any simultaneous substance abuse occurring alongside the opiate abuse

Most people tend to experience opiate withdrawal within the follow timeline:

  • 8 to 24 hours after last use: In the early stages of opiate withdrawal, a handful of minor symptoms develop, such as:
    • Headaches
    • Powerful cravings
    • Muscle pain
    • Problems sleeping
    • Anxiety
    • Irritability
  • 24-48 hours after last use: The symptoms that developed in the first 24 hours can persist and get stronger 24-48 hours after last use. Other withdrawal symptoms set in,including:
    • Runny nose
    • Sweats
    • Insomnia  
    • Panic attacks
  • Day 3: All of the symptoms that have been occurring for the past 48 hours continue while nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea begin. These newer gastrointestinal symptoms can stick around for the following days.
  • Days 4-6: New symptoms develop by this time and include:
    • Abdominal cramping
    • Shivering
    • Fatigue
    • Enlarged pupils

Plus, the symptoms that have been happening for the past three days can keep occurring while these new symptoms develop. It is during 4-6 days after one’s last use that symptoms tend to peak.

  • One week: By the one week mark, symptoms begin to subside and the most common symptoms that remain include fatigue, insomnia, and depression. With the appropriate attention, these symptoms can fade from this point on. 

Some opiate users who complete their detox will see all of their symptoms peter out completely in the coming weeks. However, the majority of this population tends to develop post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS, at the end of their initial detox.

PAWS is said to occur in up to 90% of all recovering opiate addicts. This is a condition where specific withdrawal symptoms do not fade away, rather persist for weeks or months after a person last used. The most commonly experienced symptoms of PAWS include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cravings
  • Problems sleeping

It is believed that PAWS occurs in response to the physiological changes that occurred in the brain while opiates were being abused. These changes can cause several complications, such as affecting the brain’s ability to handle stressful or trying experiences. Therefore, those who struggle to manage stress well or who get stressed easily are often the most likely to experience PAWS. Thankfully, this condition can be treated with continued therapy and prescription medications such as buprenorphine and methadone. Each one of these medications can help minimize withdrawal symptoms and cravings, making it less likely for a person to battle with prolonged PAWS symptoms. 

How Can I Help the Detox Process Go By Faster?

If you are about to detox from opiates, know that the best remedy for your pain is time. As time passes, opiates are continually flushed from the system so that eventually they are no longer present. There are things that you can do, however, that can help you limit the distress you experience during this time. Consider the following:

  • Get enough rest
  • Eat well
  • Utilize over-the-counter medications to help manage common symptoms such as headaches and nausea
  • Practice mindfulness

Enrolling in a professional detox center is the best and most effective way for you to detox as comfortably as possible. When detoxing in the company of professionals, you can benefit from connecting with mental health professionals and doctors, nurses, etc. Their assistance can help you manage your symptoms and keep you focused on the ultimate goal of recovery.

Opiate Detox in Nashville

We understand how dark and dismal it can be to live with an active opiate addiction. The good news is that you do not need to stay in this place, no do you need to try to come out of it alone. We can help you end your opiate use and develop a strong foundation to support everlasting recovery.

Do not wait any longer. Call us right now to get started on a bright future.

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