Opioid Withdrawal Timeline and Treatment
Opioid withdrawal may be associated with a number of opioids, including:
People who develop physiological dependence on opioids are at risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they reduce use or stop use completely. As part of treatment for opioid addiction, medical detox can help you manage the unpleasant symptoms that may be experienced at the start of recovery. This page will discuss opioid withdrawal, its symptoms, and the timeline of what to expect during withdrawal. You will learn about opioid addiction treatment, opioid detox, as well as medications that may be used to manage opioid withdrawal.
Though some degree of opioid dependence may develop in those using opioids therapeutically, opioid dependence (and its associated withdrawal syndrome) are common features of problematic opioid use or addiction.1,2 The presence of opioid withdrawal, in fact, may be used by treatment professionals as one of several criteria for diagnosing an opioid use disorder.2 When physiological dependence on opioids develops, withdrawal symptoms may arise should a person stop taking the drug or abruptly reduce their use.1
Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
People may experience different opioid withdrawal symptoms at varying levels of severity. Some common opioid withdrawal symptoms include:2,3
- Dysphoric mood.
- Muscle aches.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Fever and sweating.
- Runny nose and watery eyes.
- Dilated pupils.
Opioid Withdrawal Timeline
The rough timeline for opioid withdrawal—including the speed of withdrawal symptom onset, the progression of symptom severity, and the duration until symptom resolution—may vary somewhat in association with one opioid drug to the next.1,2
Different pharmacological properties for individual opioids, in part, may influence the character, severity, and total timeline for withdrawal. For example, there are relatively shorter and longer-acting opioids. Short-acting opioids, like heroin and many of the prescription opioids, have a relatively quicker onset of opioid withdrawal symptoms.3 These may begin 6-12 hours after the last opioid dose.2 These symptoms may peak within 1-3 days and then begin to decrease between 5-7 days; however, less severe withdrawal symptoms may last for weeks or even months.2
Longer-acting opioids, like methadone, last longer in the bloodstream, and withdrawal symptoms may not arrive for 24–48 hours after the last dose.2 These long-acting opioids can have withdrawal symptoms lasting for 10–20 days.3
Opioid Withdrawal Treatment
Withdrawal can be an unpleasant and sometimes painful process to endure. Left unmanaged, it can present significant challenges to early recovery. Opioid Detox protocols that involve pharmacological opioid withdrawal management under the guidance and supervision of medical professionals can help make the process more comfortable.
Medications for Opioid Withdrawal
FDA-approved opioid withdrawal medications that can be used during opioid detox to help with withdrawal include.4,5
- Methadone: This medication is a long-acting opioid agonist that works on opioid receptors in the brain, reducing or eliminating withdrawal symptoms and blocking the effects of opioids.
- Buprenorphine: This medication is a partial opioid agonist that binds to opioid mu receptors in the brain, having a relatively less pronounced pharmacological effect, and a potentially greater safety profile than full agonists. When used as prescribed, buprenorphine is able to stabilize a person in opioid withdrawal, with little risk of a rewarding opioid effect of its own.
- Clonidine: Though it is technically an off-label use, clonidine is a non-opioid medication that has been used for years to relieve many opioid withdrawal symptoms.
- Lofexidine: Like clonidine, lofexidine is an alpha-adrenergic agonist medication that can be used as an adjunctive medication to help manage opioid withdrawal. Unlike clonidine, it has been recently FDA-approved for such use.
Post-Detox Treatment and Continuing Care
Detox is an important element of early recovery, but it is not a substitute for more comprehensive treatment efforts.4 After you or your loved one has completed detox, there are multiple levels of care, in a variety of treatment settings, available to assist you with continued recovery work. Though each patient may not necessarily move through every one of these different types of care, your treatment journey may involve some combination of the following:4,6
- Inpatient treatment. Inpatient care offers around-the-clock supervision for people struggling with substance use disorder.
- Intensive outpatient treatment. More intensive than outpatient and less intensive than inpatient, the intensive outpatient treatment offers around-the-clock support services without having the reside in the treatment facility.
- Outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment allows the patient to live at home and keep their everyday responsibilities while attending treatment and therapies as scheduled.
- Aftercare is an ongoing support to help in long-lasting recovery. This often involves support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or other similar support settings.
Finding Opioid Treatment Near Me
Find opioid addiction treatment near you in only a few short minutes. Using our treatment directories tool can make finding the best treatment for opioid withdrawal easy. This tool allows you to narrow down the location as well as the specific type of care you prefer.
After a list of results appears, researching the different opioid addiction treatment programs available can help you find a treatment setting that is appealing to you and may be the most encouraging for you to begin your recovery. If you plan to pay for rehab with insurance, you can also use the tool to search facilities that accept your insurance.
Paying for Opioid Addiction Treatment
Whether you are using insurance for rehab or looking for other ways to cover the cost of treatment, our admissions navigators can assist you in making sure you do not enter treatment with a financial burden. Take your first step to recovery and start treatment today.
If you would like more information about addiction treatment options available in your area, contact American Addiction Center’s helpful admissions navigators at for a free, private consultation today. Our professional and caring admissions navigators are here for you 24/7.
Start the journey to recovery and find out instantly using the form below if your health insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies.
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