The opioid withdrawal and detox process can be intensely uncomfortable, but the process is short-lived and can be streamlined with medications. 

Taking opioids triggers a variety of side effects, including: 

  • Drowsiness
  • Relaxation
  • Reduced sensation of pain
  • Slowed rate of breathing

Additionally, ingesting opioids delivers a surge of euphoria. This pleasurable and rewarding high is the primary reason for the abuse and addiction potential of these powerful painkillers. 

Opioids target opioid receptors in different areas of the brain, spinal cord, and GI tract. This serves to relieve pain and induce pleasurable feelings simultaneously. 

As opioids stimulate the receptors in your brain, your cells produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasurable feelings. Often, the habitual use of opioids is grounded on a desire to recreate this high. 

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

If you take opioids long-term, even as directed and with a supporting prescription, your body soon becomes desensitized to the opioid effects. As tolerance swiftly builds, you need more opioids to achieve the same pain-relieving and rewarding effects, or you need to increase the frequency of doses. 

The sustained abuse of opioids leads to functional changes to the nerve receptors in your brain, altering brain chemistry. As these nerve receptors become opioid-dependent, withdrawal symptoms will manifest in the absence of opioids. 

The signs of opioid withdrawal are broadly similar regardless of the type of opioid being abused. These include: 

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Increased body temperature
  • Racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Bone pain
  • Muscle pain 

Can You Die From Opioid Withdrawal?

While withdrawal can be fatal, the risks can be almost entirely mitigated with supervised medical detox. 

Abruptly discontinuing the use of opioids using a cold-turkey approach is not only inadvisable but also potentially dangerous. 

The more you understand about what’s involved with the opioid withdrawal process, the more confidently you can navigate the week or more it takes to purge all opioids from your system.

Opioid Withdrawal Timeline

The first symptoms of opioid withdrawal typically manifest anywhere from 8 hours to 36 hours after the last dose. Variables impacting the onset of opioid withdrawal include: 

  • Type of opioid
  • Dosage
  • Length of use

Once symptoms start presenting, opioid withdrawal usually lasts from 4 to 10 days, although in some cases symptoms linger for a month or more. 

A standard opioid detox will unfold as follows: 

Day 1 of opioid detox

The withdrawal process for short-acting opioids such as fentanyl, codeine, and heroin typically begins from 8 hours to 24 hours after the last dose. 

The most common immediate symptoms triggered are as follows: 

  • Cravings for opioids
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Headaches
  • Muscular pains
  • Muscular aches
  • Appetite loss
  • Disrupted sleep patterns

Day 2 of opioid detox

With long-acting opioids like extended-release oxycodone tablets, by contrast, withdrawal begins anywhere from 24 hours to 48 hours after the last dose. 

In addition to the above symptoms, you may also encounter: 

  • Excessive sweating
  • Stomach complaints
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Panic attacks

Day 3 of opioid detox​​

Withdrawal symptoms peak during the third day of detox with short-acting opioids. 

Vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea are the most prevalent symptoms during this phase of opioid withdrawal. All the symptoms above may also persist. 

Day 4 of opioid detox

Withdrawal symptoms peak during the fourth day of detox with long-acting opioids. 

Expect the following symptoms in addition to those listed above: 

  • Gastrointestinal disturbance
  • Fatigue
  • Shivering
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Cramps 

Day 7 of opioid detox

All withdrawal symptoms should start subsiding after a week or so. Fatigue, insomnia, and depression may linger for some time. 

In the event of post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), symptoms persist for months after discontinuing the use of opioids. The most common symptoms of PAWS include: 

  • Cravings for opioids
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depressed mood
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue

How Long Does Opioid Withdrawal Last

Both the onset and duration of opioid withdrawal hinges on the type of opioids as well as the following variables: 

  • Duration of opioid use
  • Severity of symptoms
  • Time between doses
  • Onset of symptoms

With short-acting opioid and heroin, withdrawal symptoms manifest shortly after the last dose, peaking during the first 3 days of detox and continuing for roughly a week. 

This process is delayed with long-acting opioids, and withdrawal is also typically more protracted with this class of medication. 

Other factors also impact withdrawal, such as: 

  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Opioid levels in system
  • Length of opioid use
  • Extent of opioid use
  • Genetics
  • Type of detox (home or clinical) 

Opioid Withdrawal Medication

FDA-approved medications for opioid dependence and opioid withdrawal help to reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. These medications can also minimize the severity of cravings for opioids during detox, bolstering your chances of avoiding relapse. 

Methadone and buprenorphine are proven effective for mitigating the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Both medications also work well throughout MAT (medication-assisted treatment) for opioid use disorder. 

MAT is most effective if combined with counseling and psychotherapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). 

Other medications can be beneficial for the relief of: 

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety

The medications used to achieve this include those from the following classes: 

  • Opioid antagonists
  • Opioid agonists
  • Partial opioid agonists
  • Non-opioid agonists
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Antidepressants
  • Tapering medications

Opioid Detox

 Medically-supervised opioid detox treatment makes the process more comfortable and also minimizes complications. 

Around-the-clock clinical care and supervision combined with medications can help you to negotiate withdrawal safely while purging all toxins from your body. 

What is Opioid Detoxification?

Opioid detoxification is not a cure for opioid use disorder. Rather, it addresses the physical component of opioid addiction and lays the foundation for sustained treatment, ideally in an evidence-based program utilizing MAT and psychotherapies. 

Recovery from opioid abuse is a process not an event, but detox is the most crucial event without which nothing else begins.

Get Help at The District Recovery Centers

If you need help with an opioid addiction problem, our team at The District Recovery Centers is here to take your call and get your new sober life started. Please give our team a call today to get the process going, overcome opioid withdrawal, and start your new life today.