Opiate Withdrawal and Detox

Opiate withdrawal symptoms can be extremely intense and uncomfortable. As a result, medical detox is the safest and most effective way to undergo withdrawal from these drugs. Find out what to expect during detox, and why additional treatment is so important for achieving a full recovery.

Start the road to recovery

(877) 746-0480

    Call Now

    Treatment Center Locator

    What Is Opiate Withdrawal?

    Opiates, or “opiate painkillers,” encompass a number of prescription drugs such as codeine, Dilaudid and tramadol. Individuals who take these drugs in larger doses, or for longer periods than initially prescribed, have a high risk of forming a physical dependence.

    A person who becomes physically dependent on opioid painkillers will feel a need to continue using the drugs in order to function normally. If they quit taking the drug “cold turkey,” they will experience various uncomfortable symptoms as the body tries to adjust without the substance.

    Withdrawal occurs when a person suddenly stops using a drug, or significantly reduces the amount they were taking. The symptoms of withdrawal depend on the type of painkiller being abused and a person’s established tolerance to the drug. Most symptoms of withdrawal are flu-like, such as fever, sweating and vomiting.

    While withdrawal symptoms are generally not life-threatening, they can still cause tremendous physical and psychological distress to the person suffering. Because of the intensity of symptoms, people who are trying to end their drug use on their own may resort to using again to avoid the withdrawal process. However, the continuous cycle of stopping and resuming drug use can make it much more difficult to quit later on. This is because the cycle can spiral into uncontrollable abuse patterns that eventually lead to an addiction.

    Trying to quit painkillers “cold turkey” is difficult and dangerous to do on your own. It is highly recommended to seek the help of medical detox professionals in order to overcome opioids safely and effectively.

    Medical detox programs are structured, safe environments designed to help guide patients through the withdrawal process. Doctors help patients overcome their symptoms by slowly easing them off an addictive drug until they are no longer physically dependent on it. In some cases, doctors may prescribe medications to reduce the severity of certain symptoms and curb cravings.

    After a person finishes a detox program, their medical team may advise them to seek further treatment at an inpatient rehab center. This is a crucial step toward ensuring long-term sobriety and avoiding a relapse. Many detox programs are located inside inpatient rehab centers so that patients can make a smooth transition into further addiction treatment.

    Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

    The symptoms of opiate withdrawal range from mild to severe. Symptoms are most intense in patients suffering from extensive drug abuse or addiction. This is defined by consuming large doses of a substance, over a significant period of time.

    There are other factors that may also play a part in the types of withdrawal symptoms a person experiences. These factors include a person’s current health and well-being, any underlying mental or behavioral disorders, and whether their family has a history of drug dependence.

    Within 24 hours after their last dose, a person will typically begin to experience a combination of the following withdrawal symptoms below:

    • Agitation
    • Anxiety
    • Muscle spasms
    • Insomnia
    • Runny nose
    • Sweating
    • Abdominal cramps
    • Stomach aches
    • Diarrhea
    • Constricted pupils
    • Fluctuating blood pressure
    • Nausea
    • Tremors
    • Vomiting
    Get started on the road to recovery.

    How Long Does Opiate Withdrawal Last?

    There are four stages of withdrawal from opiates: anticipatory, early acute, fully-developed acute and protracted abstinence.

    Depending on the type of addiction, acute withdrawal typically occurs within a few hours of a person’s last dose. The acute withdrawal period involves flu-like symptoms that are commonly associated with painkiller withdrawal. After acute withdrawal ends, the protracted abstinence period sets in, which can last up to six months. This period is when people in recovery are most vulnerable to triggers that can lead to relapse.

    Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

    Stage of Withdrawal

    When It Occurs

    Description of Symptoms

    Anticipatory3 to 4 hours after last doseThe anticipatory stage is marked by increased anxiety or fear related to oncoming symptoms of withdrawal. This stage is also characterized by cravings and drug-seeking behavior.
    Early acute8 to 10 hours after last doseAnxiety and restlessness begin to increase during this time. A person may experience flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sweating and stomach aches. Cravings and drug-seeking behavior still persist.
    Fully-developed acute1 to 3 days after last doseSymptoms have reached their peak at this stage. Individuals will typically experience body tremors, muscle spasms, diarrhea, insomnia and increased blood pressure. Cravings are strongest during this period.
    Protracted abstinenceUp to 6 months after last doseAcute symptoms are no longer present in this stage. However, individuals may have low blood pressure, recurrent insomnia and a loss of energy. A person is still highly susceptible to environmental triggers that may encourage them toward relapse.
    Background image

    Ready to get help?

    Our phone number is available 24/7 to help you or your loved one find a treatment center that suits your needs. It only takes one call to start your new life in recovery.
    Don’t waste another second. Call now to speak with a compassionate treatment expert.

    Speak with an expert (855) 826-4464

    - OR -

    Let us call you
    (877) 746-0480

      Medications Used in Opiate Detox

      Doctors will sometimes prescribe medications during the detox process. These medications help treat the long-term issues associated with opiate withdrawal, such as drug cravings. Over time, a doctor will gradually taper down the dosage of these medications until the patient recovers from acute withdrawal symptoms. Medications may continue to be prescribed while the patient is continuing treatment in an inpatient rehab center.

      See how Jerry
      overcame his
      addiction.
      Jerry Lawson sitting in a chair

      Here are some of the most common medications used during opiate detox:

      • Clonidine

        Clonidine is often prescribed to suppress withdrawal symptoms and treat high blood pressure. It is available as an oral tablet or patch that is worn on the skin. Clonidine is an adrenergic agonist, meaning that it does not cause the euphoric feelings commonly associated with opioid painkillers. As a result, the drug also has little potential for abuse and physical dependence. This makes it easier to discontinue the use of the drug once withdrawal symptoms subside.

      • Methadone

        Methadone is a widely used medication in detox settings. It is typically prescribed to help patients ease off of the drug they originally became dependent on. As a long-acting opioid, methadone is most effective as a long-term treatment method for patients struggling with chronic opiate addiction.

      • Buprenorphine

        Buprenorphine is commonly used for the treatment of alcoholism, but this medication is also shown to be a highly effective treatment for opiate withdrawal. As a partial agonist, buprenorphine does not mimic the full effects of stronger opiates, such as hydrocodone. The drug helps to decrease symptoms of withdrawal and opioid cravings, which helps patients stay motivated in treatment.

      • Get Help for an Opiate Addiction

        Detox alone cannot help you gain freedom from an opiate addiction. After successfully completing a medical detox program, it is highly recommended to pursue further treatment at an inpatient rehab center.

      Inpatient rehabs are equipped with resources that can help you understand the root cause of your addiction. Some treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy, 12-step programs, one-on-one and group counseling sessions, and creative expression activities such as art and music therapy. The services that inpatient rehab offers, combined with the high levels of around-the-clock care will help you stay focused and motivated during treatment and beyond.

      Get help today

      Don't go through the process of recovery alone. Get in touch with someone who can help.

      (877) 746-0480

        What does it mean that this site is brought to you by Delphi Behavioral Health Group?

        We strive to be fully transparent in all of our relationships. To that end, we want you to be aware that AddictionCenter is compensated by Delphi Behavioral Health Group for the work AddictionCenter does in the development and operation of this site. Delphi Behavioral Health Group was carefully vetted and selected to be a trusted provider and partner with AddictionCenter, based on the quality of treatment that Delphi provides and their rigorous commitment to ethical practices. Learn more about why Delphi Behavioral Health Group is a trusted provider with AddictionCenter.

        All calls to numbers on individual facility listings will always go to the facility listed. All calls to general contact numbers and contact us forms on this site are routed to Delphi Behavioral Health Group. If Delphi Behavioral Health Group is unable to assist with a particular need they are committed to providing direction and assistance in finding appropriate care.

        Get 24/7 help now. All calls free and confidential.

        (855) 826-4464

        Take control of your life

        Our treatment specialists offer 24/7 assistance.

        • Access to top treatment centers
        • Caring, supportive guidance
        • Financial assistance options

        Call now:

        (855) 826-4464

        OR

        Have us call you:

        (877) 746-0480

          Where do calls go?

          Calls to numbers dedicated to a specific treatment center profile will be routed to that treatment center. All other calls will be routed to Delphi Behavioral Health Group.

          Rehab experts are available 24/7/365 to answer and return calls routed to Delphi.

          All calls are private and confidential.

          How do we choose our partners?

          Find out more about AddictionCenter.

          A treatment facility paid to have their center promoted here. Learn more about how to be featured in a paid listing.