Understanding Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms – And How Manage Them in Detox
Opioid withdrawal symptoms are a variety of physical and psychological symptoms that can emerge when an addicted person attempts to stop using suddenly. The majority of opioid withdrawal symptoms aren’t considered life-threatening, but they can be severe and cause agonizing pain.
Most people associate opioid withdrawal symptoms with detoxing from illicit street drugs such as heroin. However, a person who has developed a physical dependency to prescription painkiller medications, such as morphine, OxyContin, Percocet or Vicodin will also experience almost identical symptoms of withdrawal if usage stops abruptly.
Common Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
Some of the more common opioid withdrawal symptoms include:
- Intensely powerful cravings
- Nausea and vomiting
- Flulike symptoms (runny nose, excessive sneezing, fever, and chills)
- Profuse sweating
- Abdominal cramps
- Muscle aches and bone pain
- Agitation and irritability
- Anxiety and panic attacks
The actual onset and severity of each of the symptoms mentioned will vary in severity and duration, depending on each person’s individual addiction.
What Causes Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms?
Prolonged abuse of any opiate drug can cause significant changes in the brain’s chemistry. Taking opioid drugs creates an artificial trigger that signals the brain to release an abnormally large amount of certain feel-good hormones into the system.
If a person continues to abuse opioid drugs, the brain eventually comes to rely on the artificial trigger in order to produce those same hormones. It also stops trying to produce those hormones naturally, as it has learned to depend on the regular intake of opioid substances.
When the person stops taking the drug suddenly, the brain can’t adapt and remains unable to produce certain hormones unless it receives more of the drug. The user experiences the lack of adaptation as severe physical and psychological opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Opiate drugs are powerful painkiller medications, so they switch off the body’s pain receptors so the user feels relief from symptoms of pain. When a dependent person stops taking painkillers, the body’s pain receptors are all switched back on again in full force, so the user experiences intense feelings of pain that can seem magnified after being inactive for so long.
How Long Does Opioid Withdrawal Take?
The actual opioid withdrawal timeline may vary, depending on a range of factors. The length of time a person was using opiate drugs, the dosage being taken, and the severity of the addiction will all play a part in how long it takes to complete the detox process.
Depending on the type of opiate drug being taken, the symptoms of early withdrawal can begin within hours of the last use. If the person was taking short-acting opiates, symptoms can emerge within 6 to 12 hours. If the person was taking long-acting opiates, symptoms may not emerge for up to 30 hours.
Symptoms of late withdrawal tend to peak within 72 hours of the last dose and can last for 5 to 7 days. By the end of a week, most of the physical opioid withdrawal symptoms should have disappeared.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
While the opiate withdrawal timeline tends to focus primarily on the first few days after stopping drug use, there are some people who may continue to experience psychological withdrawal symptoms for weeks or even months after completing detox.
Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS)is a protracted range of symptoms that can recur at random. Common symptoms that may persist include cravings, irritability, anxiety, and depression.
It’s possible to reduce the severity of many symptoms by seeking professional opioid withdrawal treatments. Drug rehab facilities provide medically-assisted detox programs and other opioid withdrawal treatments that help manage cravings, relieve symptoms of anxiety or depression, and make it easier to get through the detox process safely. Opioid withdrawal treatments may include administration of Suboxone or methadone.
When the detox process is complete, drug rehab centers integrate a range of behavioral therapies, individual counseling sessions and group support meetings that all begin to address the psychological triggers behind addictive behaviors.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.