According to the Centers for Disease Control, opiate overdose is rapidly becoming an epidemic in the United States. Illegal opiates and prescription opiates account for the majority of the overdose deaths. Many people who have gone through opiate rehab say that opiate withdrawal is one of the worst things they have ever been through. At first glance, the symptoms of withdrawal do not seem that bad. Unfortunately, the symptoms are severe and many people in withdrawal experience them all at once.
Most people who try to quit opiates without some form of assistance quickly relapse and fall back into their old patterns of abuse. One thing that makes it easier to get past the symptoms of withdrawal is knowing the opiate withdrawal timeline. This lets you know what to expect and when. There are four primary phases of opiate withdrawal.
Phase One: Acute Withdrawal or Detox – 2 to 14 Days
Phase one is one of the most intense phases of opiate withdrawal.
- 6 to 12 hours after the last dose of the opiate
o The heroin is leaving your body,
o According to the National Library of Medicine, you begin to experience the symptoms of acute withdrawal which are:
- Abdominal cramping,
- Irregular heart rate,
- Insomnia, and
- Intense depression.
- 24 to 72 hours after the last dose of the opiate
o The symptoms peak and are at their worst,
o You begin to think that there is something seriously wrong. You may even think that you are dying,
o Many people relapse at this point because they think the symptoms will go away if they do.
o The symptoms do not usually abate with a dose of opium so you might consider taking more. This is where many of people overdose.
o If you make it through the first 72 hours without relapse, this set of symptoms might taper off a bit.
- 3 to 7 days after the last dose of the opiate,
o New symptoms start to appear as the first set of symptoms begins to level off.
o These new symptoms are:
- goose bumps,
- leg cramps,
- joint cramps,
- abdominal cramps,
- dilated pupils, and
- continuations of the previous symptoms.
o during this time you will also experience intense paranoia, anxiety, and depression.
- 7 days to 2 weeks after taking your last dose
o you continue to experience the above symptoms but they gradually fade,
o intense cravings continue to be a problem,
o the intense craving gradually becomes more random, and
o you begin to feel physically if not mentally better.
A few things affect this and the other phases of withdrawal. These things are:
- amount of opiates used the last time you used them,
- amount of the opiate that you took regularly,
- method of delivery,
- length of time you used them for,
- length of time you used them at once,
- body weight, and
- overall health.
The symptoms of the acute phase gradually go away as the body rebalances the dopamine and other endorphins in the brain and body. As they balance out the levels of endorphins and neurotransmitter levels that, the drug use depleted. Vitamins are very important during the post acute phase.
Phase Two: Post Acute Withdrawal – 14 days to 2 to 4 months
At this point the majority of the physical symptoms are gone the majority of the time. Unfortunately, if you were a heavy user the symptoms might appear randomly during this phase. You feel better but the sudden appearance of withdrawal symptoms is very discouraging to some people and relapse occurs.
This phase lasts between two weeks up to a few months. There is no exact time line for this phase. For some people it only lasts a few weeks and in heavy users, it can last up to three months. Much of your recovery depends on:
- the medications you are on during the withdrawal,
- medication replacement,
- how long you used for, and
- the effectiveness of other therapies you are engaging in
Most of the symptoms in this phase are mental rather than physical. A few of them are:
- loss of pleasure in normal activities,
- lessened sense of physical pleasure in anything,
- generally malaise, and
These symptoms stay with you through the next phase of the withdrawal timeline.
Phase Three: Complete Withdrawal – 2 to 4 Months up to 12 Months
This is the phase where the majority of the physical symptoms are gone with the exception of cravings for the drug. Cravings can last for several years depending on your level of use and amount of relapses.
During this phase, detox procedures and counseling continues during treatment. The activities that you picked up to cope with the withdrawal are an important part of your routine. This phase lasts between 2 and 12 months depending on your progress and if you have relapsed or not. Much of this phase is spent getting back your life and allowing things to become normal again.
Phase Four: Aftercare – Lifelong
The last phase is maintaining your sobriety and staying away from the opiate. Many people continue counseling and other holistic activities for much of their life. You should continue to utilize any healthy habits and programs such as:
- eating healthy,
- methadone or other drug maintenance, and
- regular visits to the doctor.
The hardest part of opiate withdrawal is behind you during the aftercare phase. All you need to do is maintain a healthy lifestyle and healthy habits.
If you have any questions about the timeline or would like help fighting an opiate addiction, call us at 1-800-854-3274. We understand opiate addiction and can help.