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Opioid Withdrawal: Timelines, Symptoms, and the Treatments

Addictive PillsOpioid drugs, including the prescription pain medications and heroin, can cause withdrawal symptoms only hours after taking the last dose. The symptoms of withdrawal may last 1 week or more. It is important to know that without getting luxury drug and alcohol addiction treatment center help, having unassisted withdrawal could lead to a relapse. Getting medical detox help, along with therapy, can reduce your chances of relapsing.

Withdrawal Symptoms from Opioids

As noted, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using opioids. Some of the symptoms of withdrawal you might experience include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Muscle cramps
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings for opioids

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA, there are between 26 ½ and 36 million people around the world that abuse opioids. This includes prescription pain medications and illegal heroin.

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Workings of Opioids

Opioids alter the way someone’s brain responds to pain. In addition, these medications will cause the person to feel high. This disrupts the natural reward and pleasure seeking centers of one’s brain.

The user’s central nervous system, including the brain, respiratory system, and cardiovascular system, has receptors that will receive the drugs. The drugs will cause the user to have a variety of emotional and physical effects. Some of these effects include the following:

  • Reduced body temperature
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced respiration’s
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Increased pleasant feelings

Repeatedly using or abusing opioids can alter the way someone’s brain chemistry will work. This can lead to them becoming physically and psychological dependent upon that drug. The body won’t feel normal any longer without the use of the drug. The user may even start to experience symptoms of withdrawal between their doses as well.

Half-Life of Opioids

Every opioid has its own half-life. This is the amount of time that it takes for the half of the drug to leave the body. Due to this fact, symptoms of withdrawal may begin at varying times, based on what drug it is and the method that the drug was taken in. Heroin is the quickest acting type of opioid. With that being said, heroin also has the shortest half-life as well. The half-life for heroin may be minutes to a couple of hours. The opioid drugs that are short-acting, like hydrocodone and OxyContin have a half-life between 4 to 5 hours, according to the American Pain Society. According to the FDA, the half-life for methadone is a lot longer than that, being around 30 hours.

Smoking, snorting, and injecting drugs make the effects happen much quicker. However, using these methods of using opioids can make the effects last for a shorter amount of time as well. The beginning of the withdrawals is very dependent upon the method used and the type of opioid used as well.

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Opiate Withdrawal Signs

medicine bottleThe signs of opiate withdrawal can range from being mild to more severe. This depends on the dependency of each individual on the drug they are taking. The dependency to any certain drug can also be connected to the length of time someone was using the drug, medical conditions they may have, dosage they took, mental health issues they may have, biological factors, and environmental factors. Previous trauma, family history of addiction, and living in a stressful are some of the environmental factors that may play a role in the addiction and withdrawal process. While it can vary, withdrawing from any type of opioid drug does have a similar timeline.

Earlier Symptoms of Withdrawal

The earlier symptoms of withdrawal will generally begin around 6 to 12 hours for the shorter-acting opioids and within 30 hours for the longer-acting opioids. Some of the symptoms you may encounter include the following:

  • Muscle aches
  • Tearing up
  • Trouble getting to or staying asleep
  • Agitation
  • Severe yawning
  • Runny nose
  • Anxiety
  • Heart racing
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Hypertension

These are some of the most common earlier withdrawal symptoms you might experience. There are some later symptoms of withdrawal you may encounter as well.

Later Symptoms of Withdrawal

As just mentioned, you might have some withdrawal symptoms that come later after your last dose. These symptoms generally will peak around 72 hours and might last for about 1 week. These symptoms include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Goosebumps
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramping
  • Drug cravings
  • Depression

It should be noted that the psychological symptoms of withdrawal and the drug cravings might last more than 1 week for some people. Receiving psychological support and therapy from a professional mental health specialist, as part of addiction treatments, might be able to decrease your withdrawal symptoms.

Detox Information

inpatient facilitiesYou will find that there are several options for detox and addiction treatment as well. If you need to overcome an opioid addiction, you can find a comprehensive treatment plan that will fit your needs. For instance, medical detox, has both psychological and pharmacological treatments available to you. You can get the supervision you need for both your addiction, mental health issues, and other medical issues as well. The detox programs are safe and can make you more comfortable. When you are in a medical detox, there are various things that will be monitored. Some of these things include the following:

  • Blood pressure
  • Respiration levels
  • Body temperature
  • Heart rate
  • Mental health state

You will be monitored closely while in the medical detox center program. Some patients need to be prescribed medications to help make them more comfortable and to make them safer during the detox process as well. The doctor on-staff will let you know if this is something you need. You will also see mental health professionals to make sure your mental health is stable throughout the process too. While there isn’t just one set timeline for detox, the medical detox programs generally go for about 5 to 7 days. Keep in mind that you should never quit taking opioid drugs without emotional and physical support, as well as professional supervision. There are side effects to withdrawing that can be severe or even dangerous.

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Medical Professionals and Medications

You might be prescribed a variety of medications including antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and other medications. These might be helpful during the medical detox program to help you ease through the withdrawal symptoms.

The medical professionals you see can help you taper off from the opioid drugs. They will slowly take you off the medications during your detox program. This will help to keep your opioid receptors intact while also preventing the more severe symptoms of withdrawal. The drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms might be managed by medications such as methadone. Buprenorphine, a partial agonist, is another medication that can be prescribed during the detox process. It stays in the system for longer and you won’t need as high of a dosage. In addition, the partial agonists don’t create the high you get from opioids. This means they are much less likely to get abused. It should also be known that buprenorphine won’t be effective long-term, so this reduces the chance that it will be abused.

Naltrexone and Naloxone are two of the opioid antagonists that will connect to the opioid receptor sites in your body. These will block the effects from the opioids. This means if you try taking something such as heroin, while taking the opioid antagonist, you won’t get the same desired effects from the drug. Instead, you may experience precipitated withdrawal syndrome, which can be quite uncomfortable. This syndrome is the rapid and sudden onset for symptoms of withdrawal.

Naloxone is often used in combination with buprenorphine to act as a relapse prevention agent. The purpose of detox is to help stabilize someone who is dependent upon or abusing opioids. The detox program helps to stabilize people physically and emotionally. Both psychological and pharmacological methods might be used in the detox center programs.

Entire Treatment Plan and Medical Detox Usage

Addictions are chronic, relapsing diseases. Those with an addiction can feel negative side effects both emotionally and physically. This is why the treatment programs need to be comprehensive. Medical detox is not a short process. People need the time to get the drugs out of their system and recover. However, it should be noted that without the use of a rehab program after detox, many people will relapse. They will continue struggling with their addiction. If someone has gone some time without drugs and then relapse, they are much more likely to have a fatal overdose.

Do you suffer from an opioid addiction? Do you know someone who is addicted to or abusing opioids? These drugs can be very dangerous. Now that you know a bit more about the opioid withdrawal and detox process, you can make the best decisions for your life. There are detox programs and rehab programs that can help you to overcome an addiction to opioids. These programs are comprehensive and beneficial to those with addictions. You don’t have to keep suffering in silence.

Make the call to get the help you need today. Soon, you will be well on your way to recovering from the opioid addiction that took so much control over your life.

Want more information about how Chapters Capistrano can help? Feel free to call 949-371-4198 and one of our addiction specialists will help get the information and help you need.