opiate withdrawal

Complete Guide to Opiate Withdrawal: Timelines, Symptoms, and Treatment

May 29 Published by

Opioids are highly addictive substances that often lead to very serious health issues. Opioid withdrawal is a side effect many people with opiate addiction experience as the drug leaves the user’s system.

Because so few people understand the nature of opiate addiction, there are many questions left unanswered about the opiate withdrawal timeline. So let’s take a look at what to expect if you or a loved one experiences opioid withdrawal.

Complete Guide to Timelines, Symptoms, and Treatment

Before choosing a detox facility, you will want to read this article to find out how to choose the right facility for you.

Opiate Withdrawal Timelines

The length of opioid withdrawal depends on a number of things. The age of the user can be a major factor, as well as the length of time that a user has been abusing the drug. Typically the longer you’ve been using, the more intense you can expect the withdrawal symptoms will be.

Days 1-2

When you’ve stopped using the drug, it generally takes about 12 hours after your last dose for withdrawal symptoms to begin. This is because most opioids have a short half-life. Some less potent opiates like methadone have a longer half-life, and thus the user won’t experience withdrawal symptoms for up to 48 hours of the last dose taken.

Those first two days are typically the most difficult. When withdrawal begins, you’ll notice severe aches and pain in your muscles. Expect to experience diarrhea, trouble sleeping, panic attacks, tremendous anxiety, and even cold symptoms such as a runny nose.

Days 3-5

The worst is usually over by this point, but you’re still aren’t out of the woods. The user can expect vomiting, abdominal cramping, and body shivers. The good news is that the pain of the first couple of days should be noticeably diminished.

Day 6 and Beyond

If you’ve made it past the first 6 days, you’ve come a long way and survived the most difficult symptoms, but it’s still not over yet.

Your system is in a state of chaos, and your body is trying to learn how to function normally again. The drugs have been telling your brain how to it’s supposed to feel, and now that the drugs are gone, it’s time to rebalance the chemicals in the brain.

Withdrawal involves intense physical and emotional changes. It typically takes 2 or 3 weeks for the physical symptoms to fade, and several months for the emotional and psychological side of things to return to normal.

For most people, withdrawal from opioids lasts a minimum of a week. The duration depends largely on the length of use and the amount of drugs consumed by the user. Be aware that the number one reason that people continue to use is due to fear of the withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms of withdrawal from opioid abuse and typically intense and painful. It’s impossible to fully prepare yourself for the trauma of withdrawal.

Most people experience muscle spasms, impaired respiration, insomnia, tremors, muscle and bone aches, chills, and abdominal cramps, just to name a few.

Going through withdrawal might make you feel like you’re dying, but it isn’t generally considered life-threatening. Keep in mind that some of the symptoms can have complications that are serious enough for us to suggest seeking professional medical supervision during the detox process. This is why many choose to detox in an in-patient, medically supervised facility.


Now let’s take a look at treatment options.


We highly suggest detoxing at a drug rehabilitation facility. This is by far the safest option for the patient’s physical and mental well-being. It also has the highest success rate compared to alternatives like attempting to detox on your own.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that the detox process is safe. Death is a possible side effect. The patient needs constant supervision by trained professionals.

Addiction specialists generally recommend that addicts detox in supervised settings because it is such a dangerous process. There are numerous complications that can put the patient’s life at risk, including the tendency to breathe vomit into the lungs, which can cause infection or asphyxiation.

Medication for Withdrawal

When an individual is going through detox, their brain is craving a drug that it has become dependent on but is no longer receiving. Medically-assisted detox can make the process less painful by providing specific, regulated drugs that help ease the discomfort experienced during withdrawal.

Some of the drugs used during medically-assisted detox from heroin include Naltrexone, Naloxone, Methadone, and Suboxone.

Post-Detox Addiction Treatment

The detox process is only one step in recovery from addiction. Once detox is complete, the patient must then begin treatment. This generally involves therapy to help the addict delve into the underlying issues that caused their substance abuse.

The type and length of these therapy programs will depend on the individual treatment facility. Some facilities use the 12-step philosophy of recovery, while others use a variety of other proven methods. Behavioral therapy is a great way for therapists to help user begin to understand themselves and the motivations for their actions.

Therapy sessions can be designed to work with individuals, or as groups, and even as families when the therapist feels it would be beneficial for family members to become involved in the conversation.

During post-detox treatment, patients may choose to continue to take medications that assist them in recovery. These medications are intended to help the patient maintain sobriety while continuing therapy to work to address the reasons that set them on the path of addiction.

Getting Help

There is more than one way to seek help for addiction to opiates. Many people owe their lives to residential treatments that help them survive the opiate withdrawal timeline and then help them stay clean.

These programs typically range from 30 to 90 days, some last longer. They include detox, medication, and a staff of counselors that are there to guide patients through the process.

Outpatient is another option, especially if you can’t miss work or can’t afford residential treatment.

Detox is not a pleasant process, but it’s certainly more pleasant than a life of continued substance abuse and addiction.

Contact us with any questions you may have regarding the detox and treatment process.