Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline & Treatment

Dependence is a physiological adaptation of the body to a substance, wherein the body becomes so used to the drug being present in the system that when the individual cuts back on their use or quits, withdrawal symptoms emerge.1

In other words, a person feels like they need this drug to feel and function normally. With significant levels of physiological dependence, a person may continue to compulsively drink or use drugs to avoid unwanted withdrawal symptoms.1

This page will explain what opioid withdrawal is—including opioid withdrawal symptoms and the opioid withdrawal timeline—and look at treatment options for opioid addiction.

What Is Opioid Withdrawal?

Opioid withdrawal is a characteristic set of cognitive and physiological symptoms that occur as a result of stopping or drastically reducing heavy or prolonged opioid use.2,3

Over time, opioid use is known to result in physiological dependence. This means a person’s body has adapted to the presence of the drug and without it, withdrawal symptoms will emerge.4

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

All opioid drugs have similar withdrawal symptoms, with some differences in onset, duration, and intensity, depending on the specific drug used, how much was used, and how frequently the drug was used.2

Other factors that can influence someone’s experience of withdrawal include any existing physical health, mental health, and genetic factors.2

Typical opioid withdrawal symptoms include:2,3

  • Abdominal cramps.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Fever.
  • Bone and muscle pain or aches.
  • Anxiety.
  • Goosebumps, dilated pupils, or sweating.
  • Insomnia.
  • Lacrimation (watery eyes) or rhinorrhea (runny nose).
  • Yawning.
  • Dysphoria (feeling dissatisfied or unhappy).

Opioid Withdrawal Timeline

The following is a general opioid withdrawal timeline experienced by people who are physiologically dependent on opioids:3

  • Withdrawal symptoms begin within 6 to 12 hours after opioids were last used.
  • Acute withdrawal symptoms usually peak in severity within 1 to 3 days.
  • Opioid withdrawal symptoms gradually decrease over a period of 5 to 7 days.

In some cases, less acute symptoms can last for weeks to months.3

Opioid Detox

Although opioid withdrawal is not usually life-threatening, opioid withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable. Experiencing these symptoms can make abstinence from opioids difficult and can increase a person’s likelihood of returning to opioid use to avoid withdrawal symptoms.1,2

Attempting withdrawal without medical supervision (or self-detox) is not recommended and can be dangerous or result in greater discomfort.2 Medically supervised withdrawal, or medical detox, provides support and treatment throughout the withdrawal process to ensure a person is as safe and comfortable as possible.2

Medically supervised withdrawal involves the use of comfort medications as well as proven detox medications to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms—including cravings—and assist with the discontinuation of opioid use.1,2,5

Medications for Opioid Withdrawal

Effective treatment medications for opioid withdrawal management include:

  • Lofexidine. A non-opioid, lofexidine is FDA-approved to assist with the abrupt discontinuation of opioids by reducing symptoms of withdrawal.1
  • Clonidine (used off-label). A non-opioid initially used to treat high blood pressure, clonidine has been shown to be effective in helping with opioid withdrawal and has been used during opioid detox since 1978.1,2
  • Buprenorphine. A partial opioid agonist that is FDA-approved for use during opioid detox, buprenorphine reduces opioid withdrawal symptoms and craving.2,5
  • Methadone. A long-acting full opioid agonist that reduces symptoms of opioid withdrawal and craving.2,5

Some of these medications, such as methadone and buprenorphine, are also FDA-approved for use in the long-term as addiction treatment medications.2,5

Opioid Addiction Treatment in Oxford, MS

While detox and medically managed withdrawal can help people get through the difficulties of opioid withdrawal, sustained remission and recovery from opioid addiction often requires evidence-based, person-centered continuing treatment and support.2,5

For many people with opioid use disorder, a combination of medication and behavioral therapy can benefit their ongoing recovery.5 Comprehensive opioid addiction treatment in Mississippi is available.

At Oxford Treatment Center, our highly experienced clinical team provides customized, evidence-based inpatient addiction treatment in Mississippi as well as outpatient care.

The many levels of addiction treatment available include medical detox, residential treatment, multiple levels of outpatient treatment, and sober living. This allows us to support all stages of a person’s recovery journey.

Please don’t lose hope. We are here to help you or your loved one get through opioid withdrawal and on your way to recovery.

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