In recent years, opiate addiction has become one of the largest growing concerns for people living in the United States. Opiate prescriptions are incredibly easy to come by, whether from a physician, co-worker or even a neighbor. What many people don’t realize when they begin abusing opiates, however, is the high risk for dependency and a full-blown addiction. Once the user becomes physically and psychologically dependent upon opiates, the opportunity for great consequence skyrockets. For individuals who want to quit using opiates after developing an addiction, it helps to understand the opiate withdrawal timeline.

What are Opiates?

man sitting against a wall wonders about opiate withdrawal timeline

The term “opiate” refers to a wide array of drugs, ranging from legal drugs like fentanyl, codeine, and morphine to illegal drugs like heroin and opium. Each medication ranges in strength, but all are capable of producing euphoric sedative effects.

Opiates–both the legal and illegal types–work by changing the way our brain perceives pain. They bind to opioid receptors and send pain-blocking signals to the brain. This “opioid effect” can slow breathing, stop coughing, and generally lessen the sensations of pain and depression in the body.

Opiates produce a high feeling by turning on the reward and pleasure centers in the brain. This surge of pleasurable feelings causes individuals’ heart rate, respiratory function, blood pressure, and body temperature to decrease.

Opiate Withdrawal

When people take opiates over a long period of time or in larger doses than their physicians prescribe, these drugs can literally change the way an individual’s brain chemistry works. As a result, they can suffer serious physical and psychological dependence. Once this occurs, the body might not feel “normal” without the presence of opiates in the body. If the user attempts to cut back or quit abusing opiates, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms generally start to occur within 6-12 hours after the last dose.

Opiate Addiction Timeline

Like with most drugs, opiate withdrawal symptoms can range in severity from mild to severe. The severity of symptoms largely depends upon how long the individual has been abusing opiates and in what form/doses. Other factors can also play a part in determining exactly how intense withdrawal symptoms become. These factors include:

  • How the user administered the drug (orally, intravenously, etc)?
  • Underlying medical conditions, including co-occurring mental disorders
  • Some environmental and/or biological factors, like family history of addiction, previous traumas, or living a high-stress and non-supportive lifestyle

For most people who are trying to quit abusing opiate medications, withdrawal symptoms typically begin about 6-12 hours after the lost dose for short-acting opiates, and within about 30 hours after the last dose of longer-acting opiates.

Early withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Agitation
  • Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
  • Anxiety
  • Flu-like symptoms including a runny nose and fever
  • Hypertension
  • Elevated heart rate

Later-stage opiate withdrawal symptoms typically peak around 72 hours (exact timeline differs for every user) into the process and include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Depression
  • Compulsive craving for more of the drug

Get Help for Opiate and Heroin Addiction and Opiate Withdrawal

If you or a loved one has developed an addiction to heroin or some other type of opiate, you should know that there is treatment available that can help you get sober, regain your strength and independence, and prepare you for a successful life of sobriety. At our premier facility, Crestview Recovery in Portland, Oregon, we have comprehensive treatment programs (including heroin addiction treatment) that are designed to treat each of our guests on an individual and thorough basis, to ensure safe and effective results.

A few programs and services offered at Crestview Recovery include:

  • Intensive outpatient
  • Off-site detox referrals
  • Therapy with our Master-Level therapists
  • Extra activities for guests to enjoy including skiing, snowboarding, and white water rafting

If you suffer from any underlying emotional disorders, we also offer dual diagnosis treatment to help treat your addiction from every angle and ensure you have the very best chance possible at achieving sobriety.

Call Today

Opiate addiction is a serious problem that requires medical intervention. If you or a loved one needs addiction treatment for opiates, Crestview Recovery has the tools and resources necessary to put you on the path to successful rehabilitation. Contact us today at 866-262-0531 to learn more about our unique treatment programs.