Many people ask, “How long will a person experience opioid withdrawal?” As you might suspect, it can depend on the individual and several other factors, such as:
- the length of time using the substance
- the substance itself
- the method of abuse (e.g., snorting, smoking, injecting, or swallowing)
- the amount taken each time
- family history and genetic makeup
- medical and mental health history
What happens during withdrawal?
The body produces natural opiates that control pain, anxiety and depression. If a person gets a broken leg, for example, the body doesn’t produce enough opiates to treat the pain. External opiates treat the pain, but over time and prolonged use, the body’s receptors in the brain, the spinal cord and gastrointestinal tracts become desensitized to them and higher dosages are needed to achieve the same effect. The increased consumption creates the dependency on the receptors and when the person stops taking the opiate the body reacts to the lack of the opiate it had been taking.
What are the symptoms?
Generally, physical opiate withdrawal symptoms can be anywhere from mild to severe and can last anywhere from a few days to a month. It comes in two phases. The initial phase can include these symptoms:
- muscle aches
- excessive sweating
- runny nose
- extreme cravings
- excessive yawning
- insomnia and restless leg syndrome
The second phase, which can be more intense, begin after the first day or so. They include:
- dilated pupils
- rapid heartbeat
- nausea and vomiting
- abdominal cramps
- high blood pressure
While these symptoms are very unpleasant and painful, they usually begin to improve within 72 hours, and within a week there should be a significant decrease in the acute symptoms. Longer term symptoms are usually more behavioral and emotional.
In study after study, physician-supervised use of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is proven to be the most effective method for handling opioid dependency comfortably, when used in conjunction with behavioral therapies and family counseling, significantly outperforming traditional forms of treatment that rely on counseling alone or MAT alone.
If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, use or dependency, reach out for help today.