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How Long Does it Take to Recover From Opiate Addiction?

Anyone that has been addicted to drugs will know that withdrawing from that addiction is a different process for everyone. Whilst the symptoms are similar and the stories sound the same, each person’s recovery journey is different; it’s a very personal experience and how long it takes to recover is not set in stone.

There is no set answer as to how long it takes to withdraw from opiate addiction. The withdrawal timeline is dependent on different factors. Where one person’s withdrawal symptoms will last a few days to a week, another person’s symptoms may last for a month. In some rare cases, the timeline could be a lot longer.

Factors That Contribute to the Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

When it comes to prescription opiates, such as Morphine, OxyContin, Vicodin and Methadone, withdrawal symptoms occur around 8-12 hours from the last dose. It is worth noting that with Methadone, it takes longer for the symptoms to develop and they will last longer, possibly up to 4 weeks.

Opiate withdrawal is different for each person and contributing factors include gender, age and weight, the dosage level and how long the opiate abuse has been taking place. For people that are addicted to opiates for years, they may well experience a longer withdrawal period than people who have become addicted to opiates over a few months.

The older person may suffer withdrawal symptoms that are more severe and this could be down to their organs health and immune system. The older we get, the way our bodies function changes, becoming slower and weaker whereas a younger person may metabolize the drug more quickly and remove the opiate from their system more quickly.

How often you take the opiate and the level of dosage is another contributory factor when calculating the withdrawal timeline. The more dependent on the opiate the person becomes, the more the body adapts and starts to function differently, and the cravings are more intense. With prolonged use of opiates, the body is no longer able to function normally without the opiate and the drug takes over.

Another factor is that over time, if you are using opiates on a regular basis, the body may become immune to the opiates potency, building up tolerance levels and the only way to continue to feel that same euphoric high is to increase the dosage level. This will, in turn, prolong the withdrawal timeline and the severity of the side effects.

A downside of opiate withdrawal is the side effects, which usually start around 12 hours from the last dose. Because the side effects can be painful, there is usually a high rate of relapse in the first few days. The person has to not only deal with the physical side effects, they also have to overcome the psychological and emotional feelings, which can sometimes be extremely intense. It’s important to understand that recovering from opiate addiction is not going to happen overnight, and not something that should be tackled alone.

Using Medications to Withdraw From Opiate Abuse

Long term opiate abusers may be prescribed with a medication to help with the withdrawal process. Suboxone can be used to reduce the withdrawal symptoms. It copies the effects of the opiate and decreases the brain’s craving for the drug. Suboxone usually protects the person from opiates for approximately 24 hours, but can be as long as 3 days after it has been taken.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) say that these types of medications are usually prescribed to deal with pain, but can be illegally used and is addictive. When used to help opiate withdrawal, they can help a person to withdraw from opiate use.

How Long Does it Take to Recover?

To say it just takes time to recover sounds non-committal but that isn’t the case. How quickly the brain recovers and returns to its normal functioning takes time. Some people have said it takes 6 months to a year, others many years, but it is very individual. It is one of the most difficult addictions to recover from but it is worth it.

There is a correlation between addiction and a habit. An old belief that it takes 21 days to change a habit is now labeled as a myth. Psychologists now believe that whilst it takes around 21 days to create a new habit through consistent, conscious effort, to break an existing habit takes far longer. In 2007, a TIME article provided scientific evidence that it takes around 90 days for “the brain to reset itself and shake off the immediate influence of a drug”. This finding was backed up by Yale University researchers when they found that it is a 90 day time frame for the brain’s prefrontal cortex to start functioning properly.

A 90 day rehab treatment has proven to have a higher success rate than short-term treatments because it allows time for the brain to re-set itself, and allows the person to learn and get used to their new recovery skills.

Achieving any goal takes time; recovering from addiction is similar. It is not possible to put a timeline on how long it will take to recover; it is a daily battle.

Opiate Withdrawal Tips

When withdrawing from opiate abuse, many will find that getting sleep is difficult for a few weeks. A non-narcotic sleep aid prescribed by a doctor will help although the first 48 hours will be the hardest. It can take up to 6 months to start sleeping properly but if it is longer than that and sleep is still a problem, don’t panic, it can take longer.

Don’t go it alone. Talk to family and friends; they can be of great support and understanding.

Enter into a treatment or 12-step recovery program. There are great treatment centers in Colorado to choose from. Make sure you choose the best one that is for your needs. Working through opiate withdrawal will be more successful through a program and medical research emphatically backs up this method. But it doesn’t stop there. Once a detox program has been completed, long-term programs have been very successful in helping opiate abusers remain clean.

Options for Opiate Detox

Entering into an opiate detox program is a big step for opiate addicts. Here are a few tips to help ensure the program is successful. Although it will feel like life is ending, it’s not. A detox program is the start of a new life. If possible, enter a detox program at an inpatient medical facility or a qualified treatment/recovery center. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Get a sleep aid from a qualified medical practitioner, if needed.
  • Talk to family and friends about wanting to stop using opiates; they can be your greatest support.
  • Before starting a detox program, arrange treatment to take place once detox is finished.
  • Go straight to ongoing treatment following detox.
  • When a person wants to cease an addiction to opioid medications, such as Oxycontin or Vicodin, it is vitally important to know what the options are in order to help them come off the medication for good. The transition period is understandably the most traumatic. Many patients might benefit from becoming an in-patient at a detox or rehabilitation center that is fully equipped and experienced in dealing with opioid detoxification. Checking into a facility such as this is very beneficial because it will remove environmental stresses that might motivate the patient to seek out illegal supplies of the drug and relapse or form other addictions as a substitute.

Naturally, there are a variety of medications available on prescription that can help a patient withdraw more comfortably from an opiate such as Oxycontin, making it more tolerable. In some instances, medical professionals may prescribe doses of methadone – a heroin substitute - or buprenorphine to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

Clinically, it might be more successful for an individual to go through the withdrawal slowly with reduced doses rather than being forced into a ‘cold turkey’ situation. Further, it might be prudent to offer the patient psychiatric medication to treat depression or anxiety – a common side effect of opiate abuse and withdrawal.

For example, Clonidine is one of the more commonly prescribed medicines that can ease the patients’ psychological discomfort during Oxycontin withdrawal. These medications are useful because they help alleviate some of the more unpleasant symptoms like sweating, cold- or flu-like symptoms such as: muscle cramps and aches, agitation, and anxiety. Naloxone has not been recommended as a primary treatment for Oxycontin or other opioid withdrawal, but medical researchers are investigating the possibility that it might eventually be viable. The way this medication works is to bind the opioid receptors in the brain faster than the opioid medications themselves do. This drug is currently being used by paramedics in several states throughout America to halt overdose symptoms long enough for the user to be taken to the hospital.

In trials, Naloxone has been shown to leave the body faster than opioid drugs, so overdose symptoms aren’t eradicated, just temporarily stopped. Medical research is currently being conducted on how Naloxone could be used in association with withdrawal or addiction treatment, but so far, no guidelines have been approved.