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Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline

Opiate drugs encompass a wide spectrum of drugs, most all of which work to reduce pain symptoms. As one of several classes of drugs, opiates interact with the brain and body in ways that foster drug abuse practices. According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, an estimated nine percent of the U. S. population has abused opiates at some point in their lifetime.

While opiates work wonders at relieving most any type of pain symptom, these drugs can cause more harm than good the longer a person keeps using. Recreational users can expect to see the same course of diminishing returns as opiates all but take over brain and body functions.

Not surprisingly, stopping opiate abuse is no easy feat, bringing on unpleasant symptoms for days, weeks and in some cases months on end. The opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline represents a fairly accurate schedule for what a person can expect when stopping opiate drug use.

In cases of long-term or chronic drug abuse, the opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline can run considerably longer. In effect, the risk of relapse increases the more severe the withdrawal symptoms and/or the longer the duration of symptoms. For this reason, people experiencing an extended opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline may want to consider getting some form of treatment help to better their chances of a successful recovery.

Opiate Withdrawal

Anyone who’s taken opiates as a treatment for chronic pain has likely experience some degree of opiate withdrawal in one form or another. Opiate withdrawal effects develop when stopping or reducing drug use. Once the brain and body start to rely on the drug, withdrawal effects will also develop in cases of long-term use regardless of whether a person stops using or not.

People using opiates for recreational purposes stand to experience the worst of withdrawal effects after frequent and/or long-term use. In essence, opiate withdrawal plays a pivotal role in perpetuating drug-using behaviors as users tend to keep using in order to ward off uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

As everyone’s body chemistry differs, the opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline can run shorter or longer depending on how a person’s system responds in the absence of the drug’s effects.

Factors Affecting Opiate Withdrawal Severity

opiate withdrawal severity

Opiate withdrawal severity will depend on the extent of opiate abuse.

After so many weeks, months or years of opiate abuse, the opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline represents the amount of time it takes for the brain and body to repair and recover from the drug’s damaging effects.

According to Penn State, opiates work by forcing cell sites throughout the brain and central nervous system to produce large amounts of neurotransmitter chemicals. Neurotransmitters transmit information from one part of the brain to the other as well as throughout the body’s central nervous system. Under normal conditions, cells release these chemicals on an as-needed basis, which works to maintain a stable, steady balance of chemicals at all time.

With repeated use, cell structures start to breakdown making them less responsive to opiate effects. As this happens, cells require increasingly larger doses to produce the drug’s desired effects. In the process, chemical imbalances start to form, which in turn disrupts brain and central nervous system functions.

The opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline depicts the amount of time it takes for the body to undo the damage caused to cell receptor sites as well as any damage done to the systems that rely on neurotransmitters to function normally. The longer a person keeps using opiates, the greater the damage to brain and central nervous system functions, the more severe withdrawal effects will be. The opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline increases in duration accordingly.

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline

In general, the opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline consists of two stages: acute withdrawal and protracted withdrawal. Anyone who’s developed a tolerance to opiate effects will experience the acute withdrawal stage. People who’ve used opiates on a frequent basis for longer than three months will likely experience both stages of withdrawal.

Acute Withdrawal

The opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline produces effects that are the exact opposite of an opiate “high.” In the absence of the drug, the brain and body must pick up where the drug’s effects leave off. In effect, the severity of symptoms experienced throughout the opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline reflects the degree of damage done to the brain and body. According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, the acute withdrawal stage can run anywhere from four to 10 days depending on the severity of the addiction or drug problem.

Acute Withdrawal Symptoms

The acute opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline typically begins within 12 hours after the last dose of the drug. Acute symptoms typically take the form of:

  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Agitation
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps

Protracted Withdrawal

People coming off chronic or long-term opiate use can expect to experience the protracted portion of the opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline, which starts as soon as the acute stage ends. Protracted withdrawal results from the damage done to the brain’s chemical pathways, which essentially alters cell functions on a molecular level.

These effects change how the brain works on a fundamental level, warping central nervous system functions as well as a person’s overall emotional status. This stage of the opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline comes with a high risk for relapse due to the persistent emotional discomfort experienced.

Protracted Withdrawal Symptoms

Protracted withdrawal symptoms may not necessarily be opiate abuse-specific in terms of the types of symptoms experienced. In effect, any form of long-term drug abuse will produce protracted withdrawal symptoms once a person stops using.

Symptoms experienced include:

  • Anxiety episodes
  • Severe depression
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Problems concentrating
  • Persistent drug cravings
  • Inability to experience joy or contentment
  • Irritability

The protracted opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline can run anywhere from six months to a year or longer in duration.

Treatment Considerations

In cases of mild to moderate addiction, a person may well be able to make it through the opiate withdrawal symptoms timeline without treatment help. Once the possibility of protracted withdrawal enters the picture, professional treatment help offers a person the best chance of making it through withdrawal and maintaining ongoing abstinence.

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