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Opioid Withdrawal: Symptoms And Timeline

Fear of the unknown can keep people trapped in dangerous situations. In the case of opioid addiction, worries about the pain of withdrawal may prevent people from getting the help they need. As is so often the case, access to accurate information can make a world of difference. Educating yourself about the symptoms and timeline of opioid withdrawal can help you separate the myths from the facts. As you increase your knowledge, you will be in a better position to make informed decisions about treatment and recovery.

What are Opioids?

Opioids are very powerful and extremely dangerous substances. They are also highly addictive.

Some opioids have legitimate medical uses, primarily to ease pain. Opioids can also cause a person to feel extremely relaxed or euphoric. Many people who abuse opioids do so to experience this effect. Examples of opioids include heroin, opium, morphine, and fentanyl. OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet are some of the many prescription painkillers that contain opioids. 

One of the reasons why opioids are so dangerous is that they affect the parts of the brain that control breathing, heart rate, and other automatic functions. If a person takes too many opioids, they can die. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), opioid overdoses caused more than 68,000 deaths in the United States in 2020.

The Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction can be difficult to detect. Most people will try to hide evidence of their substance abuse. Also, the symptoms of opioid addiction aren’t the same for everyone. However, if you pay close attention, you may notice certain changes in how a person looks, feels, and acts. These changes might be evidence of opioid addiction.

Common signs of opioid abuse and addiction include:

  • Drastic mood swings
  • Sleeping at odd hours
  • Being unable to follow a conversation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Significant weight loss
  • Ignoring their appearance and personal hygiene
  • Pulling away from their friends and family members
  • Trying to borrow or steal painkillers that are prescribed to someone else
  • Lying to doctors so they can get a prescription for an opioid
  • Using opioids at the same time they’re using alcohol or other drugs
  • Lying about how often they use opioids
  • Trying to stop using opioids, but being unable to do so

If someone has been showing signs like the ones listed above, you should encourage them to see a doctor or another qualified professional. Being diagnosed with opioid use disorder (the clinical term for opioid addiction) is an important step toward getting treatment.

Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal

When a person becomes addicted to an opioid, their body adapts to the presence of this drug. If this person can’t get opioids, or if they try to stop using them, their body may react with several unpleasant symptoms. This is known as opioid withdrawal. The symptoms and timeline of opioid withdrawal can include physical pain and mental distress.

Common signs of opioid withdrawal include:

  • Intense cravings for opioids
  • Powerful cramps
  • Pain in muscles and bones
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Exhaustion
  • Tics and tremors
  • Racing heart rate
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

It’s no exaggeration to say that opioid withdrawal can be incredibly painful. If someone tries to stop using opioids on their own, they may quickly become overwhelmed by their symptoms. They may start to abuse opioids again, simply to make the pain go away.

Timeline of Opioid Withdrawal

The exact timeline of opioid withdrawal can vary a great deal from person to person. It can be influenced by which type of opioid the person has become addicted to, as well as how long they’ve been abusing this drug. 

In general, the timeline of opioid withdrawal follows a series of stages:

  • The first stage may be referred to as early withdrawal or the onset of symptoms. If a person has been abusing heroin or oxycodone, symptoms of opioid withdrawal can begin to occur within six hours of a person’s last dose. For extended-release versions of painkillers that contain opioids, it can take two or three days before symptoms start to occur.
  • The next stage is when a person’s opioid withdrawal symptoms are at their most severe. This may happen a day or two after a person has stopped using certain opioids. In other cases, it may take four or five days before a person feels the most painful symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
  • In the third stage of the opioid withdrawal timeline, symptoms will gradually become less intense. Some people finish this stage within a week of the last time they took an opioid. Other people may continue to experience some symptoms of opioid withdrawal for multiple weeks. 

People can relapse at any point during the opioid withdrawal timeline. The risk of immediate relapse is much higher if they are trying to get through withdrawal on their own. Those who get medical help have a much better chance of completing this process.

Benefits of Medical Detox for Opioids

Detoxification, or detox, can help a person completely rid their body of opioids. Here are a few of the many benefits of taking part in medical detox for opioid addiction:

  • Detox programs are safe places where people do not have access to addictive substances. If a person tries to get through withdrawal at home, the powerful cravings and other symptoms might quickly push them back into the downward spiral of active opioid abuse.
  • Detox programs are staffed by addiction experts. These professionals understand the symptoms and timeline of opioid withdrawal. They are prepared to provide the care and supervision that can prevent a person from relapsing before they complete the withdrawal process.
  • In a medical detox program, a person can receive prescription medications to ease some symptoms of opioid withdrawal. This can make the process much more comfortable.
  • Medical detox programs may also offer therapeutic support. Certain types of therapy can help people manage any distress that isn’t alleviated by medications. Therapy can also prepare people for the next part of their treatment.

When a person successfully completes opioid detox, their treatment team can recommend the best type of follow-up care. During the next phase of their treatment, people can begin to make the behavioral changes that will prepare them to resist relapse and maintain their recovery. 

Get Treatment for Opioid Addiction in Nashville, TN

Brentwood Springs Detox is a trusted source of effective treatment for people in the Nashville area who have become addicted to heroin, prescription painkillers, and other opioids. If you have become trapped by untreated opioid addiction, our medical detoxification program can unlock the door to a healthier and happier future. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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