What are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Opiates?

Written by Chloe Nicosia

What are the withdrawal symptoms of opiates? Learn everything you need to know here

If you have made the decision to get clean and break free of an opiate addiction, you have taken your first, very brave step toward recovery. You can find out what to expect on your journey toward recovery here. Learn what are the withdrawal symptoms of opiates and how they can be less severe for those who undergo a medically supervised detox in an inpatient rehab facility. Many addicts who consider entering rehab ask, how long does opiate withdrawal last? To understand this answer, it is essential to become familiar with the stages of opiate withdrawal.

What are the withdrawal symptoms of opiates?

Once you know what to look for, symptoms of withdrawal are easy to recognize. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, once a person with an opiate dependency cuts back on drugs after being a consistent and heavy user, symptoms of withdrawal will start to become apparent. Opiates include these types of drugs:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Methadone
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone (Percocet or Oxycontin)

None of these drugs should be used for an extended period of time as they can lead to physical dependence. Physical dependence means that the individual must take the drug in order to avoid going through physical withdrawal. Also, a person who uses opiates for an extended period of time will develop a tolerance. This means that they will need to take more of the drug as time passes to achieve the same desired effect. Each individual differs with regard to the amount of time it takes to become physically dependent on opiates. What are the withdrawal symptoms of opiates? During the early stages of opiate withdrawal, symptoms include:

  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Muscle pain
  • Body aches
  • Lethargy
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating

Later stages of opiate withdrawal begin at approximately 72 hours into the detoxification process. Symptoms at this stage become more severe. What are the withdrawal symptoms of opiates during the later stages of withdrawal? They include:

  • Chills
  • Stomach ache / abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

How long does opiate withdrawal last?

While the first week of withdrawal is typically the worst, some symptoms can last as long as a month, and some can linger for several months. Symptoms that last longer than a week include tiredness, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. There are medications that can assist individuals going through withdrawal. Individuals who enter an inpatient rehab facility can undergo detox treatment that can help shorten the withdrawal process and also make the symptoms less severe.  Detox treatment that is available in inpatient rehab facilities are monitored by licensed medical staff, making this first stage of recovery safer and more comfortable for patients. Medication that is used to assist in the stages of opiate withdrawal include:

  • Clonidine hydrochloride, which is used to treat symptoms.
  • Naloxone, which is used to treat and reverse a heroin overdose.
  • Naltrexone, which is used to prevent relapse.
  • Buprenorphine, which is used during and sometimes after detox to lessen the severity of symptoms and prevent relapse.

In some cases of withdrawal, individuals may experience severe diarrhea and vomiting, which may cause dehydration and loss of essential electrolytes. There are possible risks of aspiration and seizures in severe cases as well. While these risks do exist, it is much riskier to continue abusing drugs.

Professional medical care in an inpatient rehab facility can reduce these risks with trained medical professionals present to keep patients safe and as comfortable as possible. Many addicts express apprehension, wondering how long does opiate withdrawal last? When patients enter an inpatient rehab facility for treatment, the medications mentioned above are often used to lessen the intensity of withdrawal, making it a safer process overall. Of course, it is also important to remember that detoxification is only the first step in the recovery process. In order to maintain sobriety, emotional support and mental health treatment are necessary to aid individuals in their journey to recovery.