If you’ve used or abused opiates for three or more months, trying to reduce or stop drug use altogether can seem like a never-ending battle. Opiate drugs, such as oxycodone, heroin and Vicodin are notorious for breeding physical and psychological dependence over time.
While opiate withdrawal may seem like it’s never going to end, the withdrawal process does follow a certain timeline so there is hope for relief. If you’ve been battling opiate withdrawal symptoms for six months or longer, other contributing factors may require additional treatment supports in order to maintain ongoing abstinence from drug use.
How Opiate Withdrawal Develops
The pain-relieving effects brought on by opiates result from how these drugs force the brain to release large amounts of neurotransmitter chemicals. These same interactions also account for opiate “high” effects.
According to Pennsylvania State University, opiate withdrawal symptoms develop out of the widespread brain chemical imbalances left behind by long-term opiate use. Since the brain relies on a delicate chemical balance to function normally, a chemically-imbalanced state weakens its ability to maintain the body’s systems as normal.
Opiate Withdrawal Timeline
The opiate withdrawal timeline offers a general guideline for the withdrawal process as well as how long each stage takes. This timeline can be broken down into two main stages: acute withdrawal and protracted withdrawal.
Acute Opiate Withdrawal
The acute opiate withdrawal stage begins 12 hours after your last drug dose. According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, this stage can run anywhere from seven to 10 days.
Acute withdrawal brings on mostly physical symptoms, including:
- Muscles aches
- Abdominal cramping
For people at the early stages of opiate abuse, the acute stage may well mark the end of the withdrawal process.
Protracted Opiate Withdrawal
For someone who’s addicted to opiates or abused them for three months or longer, a protracted withdrawal stage will likely begin once the acute stage ends. Protracted withdrawal brings on mental and emotional-type symptoms that can last anywhere from three months to a year.
Symptoms to expect include:
- Problems thinking and concentrating
- Intense drug cravings
- Ongoing fatigue
- Inability to experience emotion in any form
This can actually be the most difficult stage of opiate withdrawal as ongoing feelings of depression make it especially difficult to remain drug-free on an ongoing basis.
Chronic or Long-Term Addiction Effects
When opiate withdrawal effects persist for six months or longer, it may be time to consider medication treatment, particularly if you’ve suffered one or more relapse episodes along the way. In effect, long-term or chronic opiate abuse problems change how the brain works to the point where it can’t function normally without opiate effects.
Medication therapies, such as buprenorphine and methadone provide needed support for damaged brain chemical processes while restoring a normal brain chemical balance. These effects can greatly reduce and even eliminate opiate withdrawal symptoms altogether.
If you’re struggling with opiate withdrawal and are in need of added support, call our helpline at 800-405-7172 to speak with one of our addiction specialists.