Opiate Withdrawal Timeline and Duration of Symptoms

Published on 7/28/11
Categorized in Heroin Addiction
Opiate Withdrawal Timeline and Duration of Symptoms

If you are trying to quit an opiate such as heroin, you know how hard it can be. The good news about opiate withdrawal is that the most painful symptoms are over the quickest. Here is a look into the time frame of opiate withdrawal, from the first few painful hours to the hard-earned relief of recovery.

Acute Opiate Withdrawal (First Phase)

Symptoms of opiate withdrawal usually begin within 12 hours of the last heroin use or within 30 hours of the last methodone use. Initial withdrawal symptoms peak after about three days and tend to last for five days. Flu-like symptoms generally subside after ten days.

Many people try to quit heroin and opiate use alone. This is often a very dangerous and potentially fatal decision.

The major symptoms* of acute withdrawal are:

  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps

*The body produces what is known as an opposing response in the presence of a drug. The goal of this opposing response is to balance out the effects of the drug. When the drug is no longer present in the body, frequent users will experience the effects of this opposing response for a few days. This is what is behind acute withdrawal symptoms. Since the opposing response is intended to balance out the effects of the drug, its symptoms are the opposite of the drug's effects. Hence, depression instead of euphoria, diarrhea instead of constipation, insomnia instead of drowsiness, etc.

Second Phase of Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

The second phase generally lasts for about two weeks. During this duration of opiate withdrawal, natural levels of endorphins, which are depleted during long-term opiate use, stabilize themselves.

The major symptoms you will see during the second phase are:

  • Goosebumps
  • Chills
  • Dilated pupils
  • Leg cramps

Third Phase of Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

This is the longest and least severe phase. It can take anywhere from a week to two months (though it must be said that not all literature recognizes this third phase, and some individuals may not experience it). Once this phase is finished, the former user feels back to normal again.

Primary symptoms of this phase are mostly psychological, including:

Opiate Withdrawal Remedies

Treat yourself as if you had a very severe flu: sleep a lot, stay hydrated, and stay nourished.

Many people try to quit heroin and opiate use alone. This is often a very dangerous and potentially fatal decision. Seek the professional advice and assistance of a medically certified detox specialist in your journey towards sobriety.

If you cannot seek treatment, here are some opiate withdrawal remedies that you can try. Again, the best way to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms is to seek a treatment professional, but you can try these at-home heroin withdrawal remedies first.

  • Sleep 10 to 14 hours per day
  • Drink at least 64 fluid ounces of water per day
  • Drink electrolyte-rich drinks like Gatorade or coconut water to replenish important vitamins and minerals
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet and try avoiding grains due to excessive water retention
  • Take an epsom salt bath -- this reduces muscle tension and hydrates the body, preventing cramps and encouraging good sleep
  • Take melatonin and magnesium before bed
  • Take L-Phenylalanine in the morning
  • Get full-body massages
  • Walk 30 to 90 minutes per day
  • Practice yoga

Things to Avoid

  • Processed foods (foods from boxes and foods with more than 6 ingredients on the label)
  • Sugary drinks and sweets, which heavily influence blood sugar levels and energy
  • Alcohol
  • Drug use (any)
  • Caffeine
  • Excessive use of over-the-counter painkillers like Aspirin or Ibuprofin (take one pill before bed to help with fever symptoms)

Major flu-like symptoms are to be expected during the acute stage of opiate withdrawal. To combat this, treat yourself as if you had a very severe flu. Sleep a lot, stay hydrated, and stay nourished. Create a before-bed relaxation ritual. Do things that make you happy (that are drug-free). And ask for help and support from your friends and family.

Opiate Withdrawal Duration

Opiate withdrawal lasts from 7 to 10 days with subtle symptoms lasting for months. When taking opiates, your body learns how to "be happy" on opiates. Your brain's neurochemical receptors, your opiod receptors, are heavily influenced by the external neurostimulating drugs you are consuming. By abstaining from these drugs (and breaking their control over your behavior), you are relying on your body's natural ability to produce "happiness" chemicals, specifically serotonin and dopamine.

During the duration of heroin withdrawal, these chemicals may be depleted. Accept and expect this fact. Work with it and try to create patterns of behavior that promote these natural chemicals: healthy food, enough sleep, abstaining from intoxicants and toxins (quit smoking), and emotionally satisfying activities.

If you or a loved one is experiencing opiate withdrawal, AllTreatment strongly recommends seeking a medical professional to handle this often painful and very challanging opiate detox process. Many treatment programs require patients to go through heroin detoxification before entering in their program. Get in the know, learn what to do, and take your first big step. Look into heroin treatment centers for the best treatment possible.

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