How Long Does Opiate Withdrawal Last

How Long Does Opiate Withdrawal Last

It can seem like an easy feat – just stop taking opiates and everything will be fine, right? Those who have managed opiate withdrawal know that this type of advice is meaningless. Those who have tried to stop are met with pain in both the physical and mental sense, often leaving them to wonder “How long does opiate withdrawal last?” Most don’t get to find out, as taking opiates is the only way to relieve symptoms.

Over 70,000 Tennessee residents are managing an opioid use disorder, including opiates such as morphine. ReVIDA® Recovery is well-versed in opiate and opioid use disorders as well as understanding how withdrawal works. Our program offers medication-assisted treatment because we have seen the benefit in those who have tried to stop using opiates previously but have not found success. Our blog serves as a free resource for those looking to better understand how opiates and opioids work, and how they lead to dependence. Today, we are looking into how long opiate withdrawal lasts.

Opiate Withdrawal – Understanding Why Symptoms Occur

Opiate withdrawal occurs when the person has become dependent on opiates and suddenly stops taking them. The brain and central nervous system have opioid receptors in certain areas that are naturally triggered by stress or pleasure. When opiates are introduced, they bind to these receptors and activate them. While this causes feelings of euphoria and relaxation, over time the receptors only become stimulated by taking opiates, no longer producing effects naturally. This is how dependence develops, and once opiates are taken away, the brain and body attempt to restore balance, causing withdrawal symptoms.

The Difference Between Opioids & Opiates

Opioids and opiates are close to the same thing as they all are derived from the opium poppy plant. However, opiates are considered to be natural as they still contain traces of the plant. Opioids are further processed in laboratories and become either semi-synthetic or fully synthetic. Opioids no longer have any traces of the poppy plant and are often much stronger than opiates. While the term opiate could be used to describe an opioid, it is not interchangeable the other way around. Common opiates include morphine and codeine, while common opioids include heroin, fentanyl, and methadone.

How Long Does Opiate Withdrawal Last?

Opiate withdrawal can vary from person to person and with factors such as:

  • How long the person has been taking opiates
  • The dose of opiates taken
  • Body fat percentage
  • Mixing other opioids or substances with opiates

On average, withdrawal lasts around 5-7 days. However, some experience lingering withdrawal symptoms for months after the last use.


The Three Stages of Opiate Withdrawal

Opiate withdrawal is often experienced in stages, including a peak period followed by fading symptoms. However, there are some who experience the third stage for longer, increasing cravings and the risk of a return to use. Let’s take a look at the stages further.

Stage One – Early or Beginning Withdrawal

The first stage of withdrawal is the early stage, and symptoms are typically mild and manageable during this time. Runny nose and eyes, increased sweating, excessive yawning, and muscle aches are common. Symptoms begin 6-8 hours after the last use of opiates, and the early stage transitions to stage two after around 24 hours.

Stage Two – Peak Withdrawal Period

Stage two of opiate withdrawal is the peak period and begins 24-48 hours after the last use. This is where symptoms are at their most intense, and comfort levels are tested. Joint pain, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and tremors begin during the peak period. These symptoms are accompanied by mental health distress and increased anxiety and depression. As physical discomfort rises, anxiety begins to spike and it is during this time a return to use is likely. It is important to have a strong support system during the withdrawal process or to seek treatment in a facility to ensure a return to use does not happen.

Stage Three – Late Acute and Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

At stage three, physical symptoms begin to dissipate and the person will begin to feel better. However, they may still experience lingering mental and mood symptoms during this stage. Cravings, irritability, depression, and insomnia are all symptoms during the late acute stage of withdrawal. These typically get better within a week or two.

For some, post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) may develop. PAWS is a condition where the late acute symptoms of withdrawal continue for months after detoxing from opiates. PAWS symptoms are mainly psychological but can manifest as physical symptoms such as fatigue and pain. Those who experience PAWS may find benefits in medication-assisted treatment alongside a support program.

Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

The opiate withdrawal timeline does not look the exact same for everyone, but the standard of going through each stage is as follows:

  • Stage one – 6-8 hours after the last use
  • Stage two – 24-48 hours after the last use
  • Stage three – 5-7 days after the last use
  • PAWS – months after the last use

Coping With Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

The best way to ensure comfort during opiate withdrawal is to do so in a detox facility. However, over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen can be taken to help with pain during withdrawal. Staying hydrated, eating healthy meals, and getting adequate sleep can help ease withdrawal symptoms. Establish a strong support system before going through withdrawal so you will have someone to turn to if mental health begins to decline.

Because opiate withdrawal is unpleasant – especially when done at home – it is recommended to taper off the medication. Slowly reducing the amount taken will help keep withdrawal mild and more manageable. However, because of dependence, this can be difficult to do outside of a supervised setting. Having medical professionals monitor your dose and ensure you taper properly will be the most beneficial to cope with withdrawal.

Opiate Detox and Withdrawal Treatment

Opiate detox and withdrawal treatment take place under the care of medical professionals. Your vitals are monitored to ensure safety while symptoms are managed with medications. A detox stay typically lasts 7 days and is the safest way to manage withdrawal until it passes. Not all withdrawal treatments will involve medications and assessments will be performed daily for proper treatment. Therapy is also often a part of the detox process and the next steps are discussed after withdrawal has ended.

Opiate Withdrawal Medications

Common opiate withdrawal medications include methadone, Suboxone, Subutex® (buprenorphine), and clonidine. Methadone, Suboxone, and Subutex® (buprenorphine) are forms of opioids with far lower potency than morphine or codeine. Not only do these medications treat withdrawal, they can also be used long-term in a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program. MAT helps to curb cravings and prevent returns to use, allowing the person to achieve their recovery goals. Clonidine is used to treat anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, and sweating during the withdrawal period and is not typically seen as part of MAT.


Getting Help for Opiate Use Disorder Today in Tennessee

Opiate use disorder can quickly take over your life, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms keeps the cycle forever continuing. The good news is there are treatments available to end the cycle from spinning and allow you to take back your health. If you have tried programs in the past and have not had success, it may be time to try something new. Suboxone treatment can be the difference in finding a lasting, fulfilling recovery. There is not one path to recovery, and discovering new treatments can be the difference you need.

If you or someone you love is managing an opiate use disorder and looking for help, ReVIDA® Recovery is here. We offer same-day appointments so there is no wait to begin. Our facilities are located throughout Tennessee and Virginia, and treatment can be covered by commercial insurance or Medicaid. Flexible outpatient programming with medication-assisted treatment is available right now at ReVIDA® Recovery. Call us today at 423-631-0432 to learn more about our program offerings.

Reclaim your life.