If withdrawal is your greatest fear related to quitting opioids, you certainly aren’t alone. Although opioid withdrawal symptoms can be hard to bear, this shouldn’t stop you from getting sober. Learning more about opioid withdrawal and treating withdrawal symptoms can help you prepare for your recovery and ease your fears.
Keep reading to learn about some of the most important things you should keep in mind when quitting opioids, including common opioid withdrawal symptoms and their timeline.
What is Drug Withdrawal?
Drug withdrawal is the process your body goes through once you stop or reduce the use of addictive substances, such as alcohol, prescription medication, and recreational drugs. Also known as detoxification, it occurs when the drug is being cleared out of your system.
If the body and brain are used to the presence of the drug, its absence may induce painful, uncomfortable, and, at times, potentially life-threatening mental and physical withdrawal symptoms.
Contrary to popular belief, various drugs—not just those used recreationally or obtained illegally—can cause withdrawal symptoms. Simply put, any substance known to have a potential for dependence can lead to withdrawals, including but not limited to:
- Illicit and prescription opioids
Nonetheless, not everyone experiences withdrawal symptoms after quitting these drugs. Essentially, withdrawal signifies that your body has become dependent on the drug and thus needs to adapt to the lack of it.
While anyone can become dependent on certain drugs, taking them for medical purposes only and adhering to the doctor’s instructions can minimize the risk of dependence and addiction. In turn, safe and responsible drug use also reduces the likelihood of experiencing intense withdrawal symptoms after quitting the drug.
Drug Withdrawal Symptoms
Drug withdrawal symptoms can vary based on the drug you’ve been taking, how long you’ve been taking it, and other similar factors.
As a general rule, drug withdrawal usually induces the opposite symptoms you feel after taking the drug.
For instance, if alcohol makes you feel relaxed, alcohol withdrawal may cause you to feel restless. Alternatively, if you get constipated after taking oxycodone, you may experience diarrhea during oxycodone withdrawal.
With that in mind, here are the most common physical drug withdrawal symptoms:
- Appetite loss
- Increased body temperature
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
- Sleep disturbances
- Watery eyes
Besides physical symptoms, drug withdrawal may cause you to experience the following psychological symptoms:
- Drug cravings
- Impaired memory
- Inability to focus
- Loss of motivation
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
At worst, drug withdrawal can lead to severe, life-threatening symptoms, such as:
- Delirium tremens (DT)
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Suicidal thoughts
Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
While every person may experience different opioid withdrawal symptoms, the most common ones include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Depression, anxiety, and mood swings
- Dilated pupils
- Drowsiness and excessive yawning
- Flu-like symptoms (runny nose, watery eyes, chills, etc.)
- Impaired memory, concentration, and problem-solving abilities
- Joint and muscle pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Opioid cravings
- Slowed or shallow breathing
More often than not, opioid withdrawal feels like a combination of severe flu, depression, and digestive issues all at once.
How Are Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms Treated?
Since opioid withdrawal symptoms can be not only uncomfortable but also dangerous, seeking professional help is much safer than treating withdrawal symptoms at home. Besides, home remedies for opioid withdrawal, such as over-the-counter medication, only reduce the severity of these symptoms to a certain extent.
That said, not all opioid withdrawal treatments are equally safe or effective.
For instance, one study followed up on patients who have received inpatient opiate detoxification. It found that 5 out of 137 patients relapsed and died within a year after being discharged due to decreased tolerance. Interestingly, all five people completed the treatment and stayed in the inpatient unit longer than other patients.
These findings may seem counterintuitive, but opioid detox isn’t the same as opioid addiction treatment.
While opioid detox can be effective for treating withdrawal symptoms, it doesn’t treat addiction itself. The same applies to rapid detox, a method for treating withdrawal symptoms that promises quick results but often causes life-threatening adverse events, including death.
Not to mention, many opioid withdrawal treatments use buprenorphine, methadone, or another opioid replacement drug to help manage uncomfortable symptoms. Unfortunately, it’s not unheard of for people who undergo such treatments to end up swapping one opioid addiction for another.
Needless to say, to ensure lasting results, you should choose a treatment that tackles opioid addiction at its core instead of just treating withdrawal symptoms. That’s exactly what Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) is designed to do and why this treatment has helped more than 24,000 people around the world break free of opioid addiction.
Why Do Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms Occur?
As mentioned above, opioid withdrawal symptoms only occur in individuals who have become dependent on opioids.
Simply put, opioids suppress the production of endorphins and stimulate that of dopamine and opioid receptors. As such, they alter not only the perception of pain but also the brain chemistry.
Because of these neurobiological changes, opioid use may result in tolerance and dependence. Once you build up a tolerance to opioids and become dependent on them, you’ll have to take increasingly larger doses to feel their effects and function normally.
If, however, you stop or reduce your opioid use after developing dependence, your body and brain will have to get accustomed to the absence of the drug. As the body detoxes from opioids and tries to restore normal function without these drugs, opioid withdrawal symptoms occur.
Can Withdrawal From Opioids Be Lethal?
One of the most common myths about opioid withdrawal is that it isn’t dangerous. In reality, opioid withdrawal is a potentially life-threatening condition that should be taken very seriously.
Opioid withdrawal often causes nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms that, when left untreated, can lead to dehydration, abnormally high blood sodium levels, and heart failure. While this doesn’t happen often, treating withdrawal symptoms is crucial to reducing this risk.
Moreover, dealing with withdrawal symptoms can be very difficult, to say the least, which is why opioid withdrawal is associated with a very high risk of relapse. It’s not uncommon for people to go back to opioids to ease the pain and discomfort caused by opioid withdrawal symptoms. Sadly, due to decreased tolerance, relapse often leads to overdose, coma, and even death.
Opioid Withdrawal Timeline
The opioid withdrawal timeline is not set in stone and varies based on factors such as the type of opioid taken, duration of opioid use, and dosage.
For example, short-acting opioid withdrawal symptoms usually start within the first 8–24 hours, whereas those of long-acting opioids may take up to three days to show up.
Here’s what the average opioid withdrawal timeline looks like:
Early opioid withdrawal symptoms usually start within the first two days since the last dose and include:
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
- Abdominal cramps
Depending on the type of opioid used, opioid withdrawal symptoms usually peak sometime within these days. Besides the above-mentioned symptoms, you may also experience:
- Dilated pupils
More often than not, physical opioid withdrawal symptoms start to subside within the first 7–10 days after taking the last dose. However, long-acting opioid withdrawal symptoms may continue for 14 days or even longer.
After the physical symptoms are gone, it’s not unusual for people to struggle with psychological withdrawal symptoms, such as intense drug cravings, irritability, and depression. However, if these last for weeks or months, it may be a sign of post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
ANR Opioid Treatment for Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) is an innovative opioid dependence treatment that can help you successfully recover from opioid addiction in a matter of days.
Unlike traditional treatments, ANR addresses the neurobiological cause of opioid dependence instead of just treating withdrawal symptoms. Not only that, but it also doesn’t involve any replacement drugs and thus doesn’t put you at risk of becoming addicted to other opioids.
By re-regulating the endorphin-receptor system, ANR restores your brain to its pre-addiction state, leading to lasting results and negating the risk of relapse. Since the treatment is performed under sedation, you can rest assured that you won’t feel any pain or discomfort.
Most importantly, the ANR treatment is suitable for everyone, including those with complex health issues. Not only is the treatment tailored to each patient individually, but it is also carried out in an ICU setting of accredited hospitals. Our team of highly experienced medical professionals includes critical care physicians, cardiologists, nephrologists, and more.
Take the first step toward an opioid-free life today by contacting us for a free consultation!
Hopefully, this article has shed some light on the importance of treating withdrawal symptoms.
In short, if you’ve become dependent on a substance—be it alcohol or opioid medication—and quit taking it, your body will experience various physical and mental withdrawal symptoms. Since these symptoms can be very dangerous and hard to manage on your own, you should seek professional help as soon as you decide to get sober.
If you’re battling opioid dependence, the ANR treatment can help you manage withdrawal symptoms with ease and reclaim your life from opioid addiction.
Treating Withdrawal Symptoms FAQ
Depending on the severity of withdrawal symptoms, it may be impossible to stop them with over-the-counter medication and other home remedies. Since alcohol and drug withdrawal can be very dangerous, seek medical help to get through it safely and successfully.
Depending on the substance used and the severity of withdrawal, your doctor can prescribe you medication to help counteract withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms are strongest during their peak, which usually happens within 48–72 hours after the last drug or alcohol use. That said, this may depend on the specific substance used.
Not treating withdrawal symptoms may result in severe and potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms such as seizures and delirium tremens, post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), relapse, and death. Due to these risks, you should never attempt to quit drugs “cold turkey” or without medical supervision.
The duration of drug or alcohol withdrawal depends on the specific substance used. More often than not, withdrawal symptoms subside within a week or two. However, psychological symptoms, such as cravings and depression, may linger for a longer time.