Whether you are just beginning your journey toward opioid addiction recovery or have been on the path for a while, you may wonder how long it takes to recover from opioid withdrawal.
It’s essential to remember that everyone’s experience with opioids and levels of dependence can vary significantly, and no single timeline applies to everyone. However, understanding the physical symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal and commonly employed treatments can give insight into what you can expect regarding the duration, intensity, and frequency of withdrawal symptoms.
This knowledge and understanding can help you prepare for your opioid withdrawal journey and better understand how long it may take to recover from opioid withdrawal.
In this blog post, we take an in-depth look at what recovering from opioid withdrawal looks like – both physically and emotionally – so you can start charting a course forward toward better health. Let’s get started.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are a class of drugs that interact with the opioid receptors in the body, producing pain relief and calming effects. They can be natural—substances originating from opium poppy plants—or synthetic, created chemically in a lab.
Opioid drugs are usually prescribed by doctors to relieve moderate to severe pain and can be incredibly helpful when used correctly as part of medical treatment. However, opioids can be abused or misused due to their rewarding effects on the body, leading to potentially serious consequences such as addiction or overdose.
Common examples of opioids include morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl, Percocet, and codeine.
How Do Opioids Affect the Brain?
One of the most complex and critical systems in the human body is the brain, and it has been known for some time that opioids significantly affect its processes.
Opioids bind to specific receptors in the brain, which then trigger chemical signals. These signals release pleasant sensations while dampening painful sensations, leading opioid users to be more tolerant of physical pain.
Unfortunately, these effects also can lead to addiction as a user develops a tolerance to opioids and needs ever-increasing doses to achieve their desired effect. The long-term effects of opioid use can be especially damaging, with chronic effects on the brain’s structure and chemistry, leading to increased depression, lower levels of impulse control, weakened cognitive function, and even mental illness.
With all of these factors in mind, it’s essential for anyone considering using opioids to educate themselves about this powerful drug and its potential consequences.
Now, for someone already using opioids and who wants to stop, it’s essential to know that quitting cold turkey can be very dangerous and potentially fatal. That is because the body has developed a dependence on opioids, and suddenly stopping can cause opioid withdrawal symptoms.
As such, opioid withdrawal should always be made under the supervision of a medical professional.
Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
Opioid withdrawal can cause intense physical and psychological effects on users. People who attempt to stop using opioids abruptly three to four days after last use may experience symptoms such as:
- Body aches
- Poor concentration
- Cravings for opioids
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty sleeping
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
- Runny nose
- Loss of appetite
The length of time these symptoms last depends on the amount used and the type of opioid. The discomfort caused by withdrawal can vary from mild to severe and usually peaks between 48-72 hours after the last use.
People should seek professional support if considering stopping their use of opioids to reduce the chances of relapse and successfully achieve sobriety.
What Causes Opioid Withdrawal?
Opioid withdrawal occurs when a person whose body has become accustomed to the presence of opioid drugs suddenly stops using them.
Common causes may include abruptly dropping their prescribed dosage, using other unprescribed opioids to increase effects, or replacing opioids with another medication or drug without tapering off.
In addition, those suffering from opioid use disorder find it difficult to decrease usage since their bodies have become reliant on the drugs and must relearn how to function without them. Without proper clinical treatment, this cycle of addiction can be challenging to break.
Opioid Withdrawal Timeline
The timeline of opioid withdrawal varies depending on the type of opioids used. There are short-acting opioids such as heroin and oxycodone. And there are long-acting opioids like methadone.
Opioid withdrawal typically starts 8-30 hours after the last dose, with the intensity increasing within 1-3 days and peaking around days 3-4. The withdrawal symptoms can last for days, weeks, or even months, depending on how long the person has been using opioids and their physiology.
The general timeline of opioid withdrawal is as follows:
- Day 1: The onset of withdrawal symptoms begins for short-acting opioids (fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone), and cravings, irritability, anxiety, and restlessness may start.
- Day 2: Withdrawal begins for long-acting opioids (morphine,oxcontin).
- Day 3: Symptoms are at their peak for short-acting opioids
- Days 4-6: Symptoms start to peak for long-acting opioids
- Day 7 onwards: Symptoms generally subside but can last up to 10 days or longer.
It’s important to remember that everyone will experience withdrawal differently, and the timeline can vary significantly. In some cases, withdrawal symptoms may last for weeks or months, so seeking professional support is crucial.
How Do You Treat Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms?
Opioid withdrawal can be an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience. Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to help lessen the symptoms and increase comfort.
One of the most popular treatments is medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) recommends as a safe, effective, and evidence-based way to treat opioid withdrawal.
This approach combines medications, such as Suboxone, with psychosocial support and counseling to reduce opioid cravings and relieve withdrawal symptoms. Thus, committing yourself to MAT can increase your chances of recovery and reduce the length of opioid withdrawal.
Suboxone, in particular, is an effective medication used in MAT, as it is specifically designed to ease opioid cravings while helping to restore normal brain function without causing more addiction problems.
Suboxone is an opioid partial agonist-antagonist, meaning that it can activate opioid receptors in the brain similarly to other opioids such as heroin. However, it has a ceiling effect which means that after a certain dose, its effects stop increasing. It makes Suboxone a safe and effective way to treat opioid withdrawal and reduce relapse risk.
It’s essential to remember that MAT takes time and effort, so seek professional help if you need assistance managing your opioid withdrawal symptoms.
How Long Does It Take to Recover From Opioid Withdrawal?
Now that we know how opioid withdrawal works and what treatments are available, how long does it take to recover from opioid withdrawal?
Well, it varies depending on the type of opioid used, how long the person has been using it, and their physiology. Generally speaking, it can take several weeks or even months to recover from opioid withdrawal fully.
However, if you are seeking professional assistance with your opioid addiction and using evidence-based treatments like Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) with Suboxone, the recovery process can be much quicker.
In conclusion, opioid withdrawal can be an uncomfortable but necessary step toward recovery. With professional help and evidence-based treatments, you can reduce your recovery time and increase your chances for success. Talk to a Suboxone doctor to learn more about your options today.