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Opioid Withdrawal Timeline, Symptoms, and Detox Treatment

opioid withdrawal timeline symptoms and treatment
Opioid addiction is a serious problem in the United States, so much so that it has been declared a public health emergency. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, “In 2019, an estimated 10.1 million people aged 12 or older misused opioids in the past year.”[1] When someone becomes addicted to opioids, their body begins to adjust to the presence of the substance. Over time, their body will rely on opioids to function correctly. If the person decides to stop taking opioids, they will experience symptoms of withdrawal. While the symptoms of opioid withdrawal are not as severe as alcohol or benzodiazepines, they still need to be treated at an opioid detox center. Without proper medical intervention, individuals may experience severe symptoms that cause them to relapse in an attempt to feel better. This could be extremely dangerous, as their body is no longer accustomed to large amounts of opioids. Attempting to detox from opioids at home puts you at risk of experiencing severe symptoms and even life-threatening overdoses in the case of relapse. Being aware of what the opioid withdrawal timeline looks like and how a detox center can help you might motivate you to seek the support you need.

The Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal symptoms may vary in severity depending on the particulars of your addiction. Whether your opioid use disorder was mild, moderate, or severe will play a role in how uncomfortable the symptoms of withdrawal will become. Additional factors also play a role in the severity of your withdrawal symptoms. Some of these factors include your overall health, age, the type of opioid you were using, and how much of the drug you were using at once. The common symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:
  • Muscle aches
  • Yawning
  • Teary eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Excessive sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings for opioids
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps in the abdomen
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Blurry vision
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure

While opioid withdrawal can be uncomfortable and painful, medical detox centers will provide you with medications that soothe your symptoms. Accepting help from one of these programs can be the difference between long-term recovery and relapse.

Opioid Withdrawal Timeline

The opioid withdrawal timeline can begin shortly after your last dosage. Most individuals begin experiencing cravings for opioids 6-10 hours after their last use of the drug. For the first 24 hours of opioid withdrawal, individuals will experience mild symptoms such as anxiety, frustration, agitation, body aches, runny nose, and cravings to use opioids.

Between 30 and 72 hours, your symptoms of withdrawal will begin to peak, meaning they will be most severe and require medical attention during this time. Opioid replacement medications like buprenorphine or methadone may be used to soothe the severe symptoms of withdrawal and keep you medically stable.

After 72 hours, most individuals experience a lessening of symptoms. Most people’s symptoms completely subside after 4 to 10 days of their last dose of opioids. If you are a long-term opioid user, you could develop a condition known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which is characterized by mild symptoms of withdrawal for an extended period.

The common symptoms of PAWS include:[2]

  • Trouble remembering or concentrating
  • Cravings to use opioids
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Insomnia and vivid dreams
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to stress
  • Depression
  • Impaired ability to focus
  • Mood swings

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome can last for several months, however, it is completely manageable with the help of a medical detox facility. Medications can be dispensed to treat specific symptoms of PAWS, allowing you to focus on the other aspects of addiction recovery.

The opioid withdrawal timeline may be impacted by several factors, including:

  • How long you’ve been addicted to opioids
  • The type of opioid you are detoxing from (short-acting vs. long-acting opioids)
  • Your tolerance level and regular dose
  • How frequently you use opioids
  • Whether or not you were abusing other drugs in addition to opioids
  • Your age, weight, and overall health

How Do Opioid Detox Centers Manage Withdrawal?

Opioid detox centers can guarantee your comfort and safety during withdrawal. Detox generally involves a comprehensive medical assessment, 24-hour monitoring, support groups, and medications. There are several different methods when it comes to treating opioid withdrawal, however, the tapering method is the most common. Tapering is a type of medication-assisted treatment that uses safe opioid medications to slowly reduce your dosage over time. This means that your body will have ample time to adjust to lower and lower doses of opioids until your system is completely cleared of the substance. Typically, medical detox programs use one of two opioid abuse treatment medications: buprenorphine or methadone. These medications attach to opioid receptors in the brain without getting you high, effectively reducing symptoms of withdrawal and drug cravings. Throughout detox, you will have 24/7 access to medical and psychiatric support. Nurses will monitor your vitals consistently to ensure that you are medically stable throughout the entire process. If you experience any psychological symptoms, you have the option to speak with a licensed psychologist who can help you overcome any uncomfortable emotions. Once you complete detox, you will receive referrals for additional opioid addiction treatment programs. Medical detox is only the first step in treating opioid addiction, so it is always recommended to attend an inpatient or outpatient program directly after.
opioid withdrawal timeline

Get The Care You Need and Deserve

Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment is a leader in the addiction treatment field, with proven success in facilitating long-term recovery. Our team of top clinical & medical experts specializes in treating addiction coupled with mental illness, ensuring that each person receives individualized care. Call us – we’re available 24/day, 7 days/week.

Regain Control of Your Life With the Help of an Opioid Detox Center in Massachusetts

If you or a loved one suffer from opioid addiction, the thought of experiencing withdrawal may be preventing you from getting sober. While withdrawal can be a difficult process, a licensed opioid detox center in Massachusetts can provide you with the treatments, medications, and support you need to recover.

The dedicated admissions coordinators at Woburn Wellness are available now to help you find the right opioid detox center for you. After detoxing, we’ll help you transition to one of our supportive outpatient opioid rehab programs. Call now to get started with a risk-free consultation.


Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC
Clinical Director

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