Opioid withdrawal symptoms are a natural part of the detox process, but these symptoms may need to be managed with medication or supervision by a medical professional.
Opioid withdrawal can be uncomfortable at the very least, and dangerous at the worst. Withdrawal is characterized by symptoms that occur when a person stops taking opioids after using or misusing them for an extended time.
Common opioid withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Dilated pupils
- Muscle aches
- Nausea and vomiting
Anyone experiencing the detox process should consult with healthcare experts to do it as safely as possible. Orlando Recovery Center has resources for people in the Orlando area to help with opioid withdrawal.
What Effect Do Opioids Have on the Body?
Opioids work by binding to opioid receptors in the central nervous system. When this happens, the opioids activate these receptors and change a person’s response to pain and how pain signals are transmitted.
At the same time, opioids could also trigger a flood of dopamine into the brain, which can cause a euphoric high. When the brain is repeatedly exposed to the effects of opioids, it is possible to develop a substance use disorder.
What Causes Opioid Withdrawal?
Opioid addiction is a chronic diagnosable disorder with a specific set of withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms are the body’s response to the absence of opioids.
As you continue to take an opioid, it will gradually change how your brain’s receptors work, and your brain will start to become dependent on the opioid’s effects to function normally.
With dependence, someone who is using opioids will go through withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop suddenly. Even if someone is taking opioids exactly as prescribed, their doctor may taper down the dosage schedule gradually rather than advising a patient to stop because of the potential for addiction.
Other FAQs About Opioid Withdrawal & Detox
The length of opioid withdrawal symptoms depends on a variety of factors. Most important is the type of drug that was used or abused. When short-acting opioids are involved, withdrawal symptoms typically last 4–10 days. For people taking long-acting opioids, the withdrawal symptoms can last 10–20 days.
Opioid withdrawal often includes symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and cravings. To treat nausea and vomiting, a physician may prescribe anti-nausea drugs like ondansetron. For diarrhea, a person may use loperamide. Clonidine is prescribed to manage cravings. Most importantly, it’s crucial to stay hydrated during withdrawal.
Typically, opiate withdrawal isn’t life-threatening, but complications can arise without medical care. Some people can go through opioid withdrawal at home, but this may depend on the use of medicine and a strong support system. This is the most difficult way to detox from opioid use. It’s recommended to follow an outpatient protocol for opioid withdrawal, or to consult a medical drug detox facility and check in to an inpatient program.
What Are the Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal?
Some early symptoms of opioid withdrawal can include:
- Muscle aches
- Teary eyes
- Runny nose
- Sleep disturbances and insomnia
Later symptoms of withdrawal from opioids can include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Dilated pupils
The symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be uncomfortable, but detox is a necessary part of addiction treatment and recovery.
Managing Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
A medical detox facility is a rehab center where someone can go through opioid withdrawal in a safe, comfortable environment. Some medicines that are approved specifically for opioid withdrawal can be provided to patients. Other medications can be used to treat symptoms as they arise. Medications that may be used during an opioid detox include:
- Methadone: This drug can be used to prevent withdrawal symptoms. It’s sometimes used as a long-term opioid maintenance drug, and some people continue taking it for long-term management during recovery.
- Buprenorphine: This drug can treat opioid withdrawal and shorten the opioid withdrawal timeline. Buprenorphine is sometimes used as a long-term opioid maintenance therapy, like methadone.
- Clonidine: This drug can be used to treat symptoms of cravings during opioid withdrawal.
- Naltrexone: This drug can be used once opioids have completely left the body. If a relapse occurs while the person is taking this drug, the opioid will not produce the intended effects, therefore preventing potentially dangerous or fatal side effects.
- Lucemyra: This drug was recently approved to help treat opioid withdrawal symptoms. It can lessen symptoms’ severity and is approved for up to 14 days of use.
How Long Does Opioid Withdrawal Last?
Just as the severity of opioid symptoms can vary depending on the person and their history with opioids, so can the detox timeline. Some factors that determine the length of opiate withdrawal include:
- The type of opioids used: Longer-acting opioids may have longer withdrawal timelines.
- The specifics of drug usage: This includes the dosage someone was regularly using, how often they were using it and how long they’d been using it.
- Other drug use: The presence of another substance may complicate the opioid withdrawal process.
Although specific details will vary in most people, the initial phase of opioid withdrawal will begin anywhere from 8–48 hours after the most recent dose of the drug is used.
Opioid Withdrawal Timeline
Opioid withdrawal is different for everyone, but an example withdrawal timeline may look like the following:
- Day 1–2: The early-stage symptoms of opioid withdrawal will occur, such as anxiety, teary eyes and a runny nose. Many people may begin to see more severe opioid withdrawal symptoms immediately after this period. For example, they may experience more pain, diarrhea and sleep disturbances. Anxiety may worsen, and some people may have panic attacks.
- Day 3–10: Many people will see improvement during this period. They may still experience some mild symptoms, but the worst is typically over by this time. Most individuals going through detox from opioids will find that their symptoms are significantly better within the first week.
- Days 10+: Beyond ten days, some people may have ongoing symptoms that linger for weeks or months. These are usually a result of the changes that opioids make to the brain’s neurotransmitters, and are emotional and psychological in nature. For example, it may take time for the brain to recover and experience pleasure in a normal way again.
Choosing Where to Detox in Orlando
There are many opioid detox options available in the Central Florida and Orlando area, but for the safest and most comfortable environment, we recommend a medically supervised detox program at our Orlando, Florida drug rehab. We offer inpatient and outpatient programs, so you can enroll in treatment as soon as you’ve completed detox. Our accredited Orlando facility is located just outside downtown Orlando. Contact us today to confidentially speak with a certified professional about your recovery journey.
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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).” November 2021. Accessed November 28, 2021.
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The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.