Opiate withdrawal can be excruciating. When individuals are coming off of heroin or certain painkillers, they may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms a few hours after the last dose. Understanding the opiate withdrawal timeline is important so that you know what to expect, whether you’re helping someone through it or going through it yourself.
Opiate Withdrawal Is Painful
Opioid drug use changes an individual’s brain chemistry. Under normal circumstances, the body produces its own mood-boosting opiates. These are called endorphins.
Endorphins help you feel energized and positive. They’re also strong pain relievers. A runner’s high, which is a result of endorphin release during exercise, is a euphoric feeling that some runners compare to the effect of taking morphine.
When you take opiates, chemicals that bind to your endorphin receptors bombard your body. As a result, your body is overloaded and stops producing its own endorphins.
If you abruptly stop taking the drugs, your body doesn’t have any feel-good chemicals attaching themselves to those receptors. You instantly go to the opposite end of the spectrum, experiencing physical pain as well as agonizing emotional and mental distress.
Luckily, the withdrawal period doesn’t last forever. This opioid withdrawal timeline explains the opiate withdrawal symptoms that occur until the body begins to produce enough endorphins on its own again.
Stage One Opiate Withdrawal Timeline: Acute Withdrawal
The first stage of opiate withdrawal is the most intense. If you’re detoxing from a short-acting opiate, like heroin, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms within about six to 12 hours. You might not start feeling symptoms from long-acting opiates, like methadone, until 30 hours after your last dose.
This stage lasts about five or six days.
Clients in the acute withdrawal stage feel like they have a terrible case of the flu. It can be hard to handle all the symptoms that hit at the same time. Physical symptoms that can occur during the first stage of opiate detox are:
- Muscle aches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Heart palpitations
- High blood pressure
- Runny nose
People going through opiate withdrawal can experience powerful mental and emotional symptoms as well, including:
- Sadness and a desire to cry
- Agitation and anxiety
- Trouble sleeping
Stage Two: Acute Withdrawal
After about a week, your body will begin to stabilize. You’ll begin releasing endorphins again. Symptoms of opiate withdrawal during this stage aren’t as severe as during stage one. However, you may struggle for a week or two as your body gets back to a balanced state.
Opiate withdrawal symptoms during stage two include:
- Goosebumps and chills
- Cravings for drugs
- Abdominal cramps
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
Stage Three: Protracted Withdrawal
After you’ve gotten through the first two stages of opiate withdrawal, you’ll feel much better. Unfortunately, you’re not in the clear yet. The post-acute-withdrawal stage can go on for several months. Although you may not be writhing in pain, you could suffer from psychological problems that are difficult to manage. Because this stage is so long, it can be the hardest to handle.
Opioid withdrawal symptoms during stage 3 include:
- Trouble concentrating
Don’t Go It Alone
Making it through each stage of the opiate withdrawal timeline successfully helps prevent relapse. To get through each stage, individuals need support, addiction treatment, and a solid plan. You can gain control over your life with the help of an opiate addiction rehab program. Get help with any stage of withdrawal by calling Crestview Recovery at 866.262.0531.