Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

How Long Does It Take?

How long opiate withdrawal lasts depends on several factors from opiate dosage and length of use to the age of the opiate user. Opiate withdrawal can be mild, moderate, moderately severe, or severe and this is usually determined by using a diagnostic tool, such as the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scales (COWS) to evaluate the specific symptoms and the opiate user’s history.

Stage 1: Acute Withdrawal

The early withdrawal symptoms in the first or acute withdrawal phase are predominantly physical and usually the worst; sometimes lasting only a matter of hours or a few days but can be as long as 4 weeks. These include:

Muscle aches and tearing up.
Anxiety and agitation.
Problems with sleeping and sleep patterns.
Excessive yawning.
Hypertension and a racing heart rate.
Fever and sweats.
Nose running.
Restless leg syndrome.
Digestive discomfort or pain.
Dilated pupils.

It is at this stage that most addicts may give up as the headaches, body pains and aggression elements of the withdrawal take effect.
Sleep may help and is a great cure-all but this might be difficult in the early stages of opiate withdrawal. The aim is for around eight hours of sleep a night but this may not be accomplished until the later stages of opiate withdrawal. However, the more the person can try to relax, rest and sleep, the more energy will be created to focus on opiate detox. If working, aim to reduce the workload for a short while to allow the body to recover from any physical symptoms.

Stage 2: Post-Acute Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms for the second phase of post-acute withdrawal, usually last a week to 10 days – although this phase can be as long as 2 years, and include:

Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Drug cravings
Stomach cramps

At this point, some of the psychological withdrawal symptoms start to appear and these may well continue far longer than the physical signs. It is important to ensure that there is plenty of therapy and mental health support for the opiate user in withdrawal. Over a short period of time, the physical pains will start to dissipate. Healthy foods will help as well as some form of light exercise and plenty of support. Withdrawing from opiate use can be a painful experience and some people may need the help of a medical detox program under close supervision, including the monitoring of blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and respiration levels, in order to regulate the body’s brain function.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Opioid Symptoms

At first, the symptoms when withdrawing from opiates are fairly mild. These include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sleeplessness
  • Restlessness

However, these symptoms may get worsen after a couple days and could include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Blurred vision
  • Rapid heartbeat

As with any addictive substance, the longer one has been using and the larger the amount used, the more dependent the body becomes on the substance. In severe cases, withdrawal from opiates can include extreme sweating and anxiety.

Heroin Symptoms

Cravings for heroin are much stronger when withdrawing from the drug. This is often why it’s so hard for addicts to get out of the using cycle. Withdrawal can be extremely unpleasant and may include:

  • Depression, anxiety and irritability
  • Aches and pains
  • Excessive sweating, tears and runny nose
  • Diarrhea and stomach pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Restlessness

Factors That Contribute To The Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

Opioid drugs

The symptoms of opiate withdrawal can range from mild to severe, depending on how addicted to the drug the user is. A person’s dependency can be linked directly to a number of factors:

How long the drug user has been taking the opiate.
The level of the dose. Which particular opiate was being taken.
How the opiate was being taken.
Any underlying medical conditions and/or any mental health issues.
Some environmental and biological factors, i.e. any family history of addiction.
Any previous trauma experienced and/or unsupportive, stressful surroundings or lifestyle.
The age of the person. The older person may suffer withdrawal symptoms that are more severe and this could be down to their organs health and immune system.

Learn More About Opiate Detox

Medications To Help With Opiate Withdrawal

Opioid Addiction Treatment Options

Like other chronic diseases, addiction takes ongoing care and attention to prevent relapse.

Individuals who go through and complete at least a 30-day addiction treatment program have a higher success rate in achieving long term recovery. Those who leave a treatment program with a comprehensive aftercare plan, such as sober living, outpatient program, or AA will transition to long-term recovery more successfully.

Can You Quit Opioids Cold Turkey?

Suddenly stopping opioid or heroin use is not recommended. It can cause an onset of very severe withdrawal symptoms. Those who do try to taper off of these types of drugs seldomly succeed. Relapsing during withdrawal is one of the causes of overdose. If is important to experience withdrawal in a medically assisted detox where it is safe.

Opioid Rehab Services

Detoxing from opioids or heroin is the first step toward recovery. However, the evidence is clear that the longer a person distances themselves from their last use of opioids or heroin, the greater chance of recovery. At Peaks Recovery Centers, the next step in our recovery process is transitioning into our residential inpatient rehab.

5 thoughts on “Opiate Withdrawal Timeline”

    1. You will get a little restless but nothing major if only 3 days. Please consider the toll it takes on your health. I’ve been in methadone for 12 years, yes it has helped me live a “ normal” life. But it’s a leash, and it’s always the clinic visits are always having to be planned for.

  1. I’m on day 6 of methadone detox. Been taking 4 gabapentin & 1 tramadol during the day, and a xanaflex & 1 gabapentin at night to sleep. This is the best day I’ve had yet. I’m still weak, weak, weak, but I was actually able to get up & walk around & eat a little today. The first three days are always the worst for me, then it seems to ease off a little except for the diarrhea which I’m now controlling with Imodium AD. (And a really cool best friend to help me thru the hardest days!)
    For anyone who really wants to get clean, it ain’t easy, but it does get better! You can do it!

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