Opioid Withdrawal

Opioids, also referred to as narcotics include strong prescription pain relievers commonly known as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and tramadol. Doctors often prescribe opioids to reduce pain after a significant injury or surgery. They are also prescribed to cope with the pain from health conditions like cancer.

According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, ongoing abuse of prescription opioids results in aches and pains, muscle spasms/twitching, stomach cramps, muscular tension, heart pounding, insomnia, and problems sleeping, feeling sick, among others.

Although it gives the user a sensation of living pain-free, opioid abuse blocks the transmission of pain messages to the user’s brain. Over time, this can significantly slow down the brain functions to the point that it cannot produce the necessary amount of chemicals for optimal brain and body function.



What Are Some Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms?

While it’s just as addictive as other drugs, opioid withdrawal differs in that it also includes psychological symptoms:

  • Flu-like symptoms (sweating, chills, goosebumps, headache, generalized muscle and/or joint aches)
  • Fatigue, restlessness, anxiety, trouble sleeping, hallucination and/or tremors
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and/or diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure

These symptoms can appear as early as 12 hours from the last opioid dose and intensify within a 24-to 96-hour length. Symptoms alleviate as a patient reaches the five to seven day mark of opioid withdrawal. Whether a patient was on a low versus high-dose of opioids can also impact withdrawal time.

What Are the Stages of the Opioid Withdrawal Timeline?

Depending on the last dose, patients undergoing an opiate detox will typically undergo many withdrawal effects. These stages range for every person and patients may find themselves working through a short or longer timeline depending on the following:  

  • Whether the individual took short or long-term opiates
  • How long opiates were used and for what purpose
  • The mental and physical health of the person

The severity of symptoms can last up until a week after which the symptoms generally fade.

Opioid Withdrawal

However, psychological and emotional symptoms start taking over at the three-week mark including depression, irritability, restlessness, trouble sleeping and anxiety more than physical. Cravings for the drug and depression can linger for weeks or even months.

Keeping this in mind, these are the three stages of withdrawal most opiate addicts experience while detoxing:


This initial challenging phase of opiate withdrawal tends to be the most painful and intense. Symptoms of withdrawal typically begin as early as eight to sixteen hours after the last opiate use and peak at the 72-hour mark and may last up to five days depending on the situation. Once addicts have successfully managed to get through their relapses, they are on the way to rebalance their bodies chemically.

Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Sweating
  • Muscle, bone, and joint aches and pains
  • Loss of appetite
  • Runny nose


In phase 2 of opiate withdrawal, the body is working to flush out all substances and rebalance the endorphin levels that were depleted during opiate addiction. The cravings will have significantly reduced giving the user relief. Symptoms continue to peak at the 72-hour mark which is why it’s crucial to maintain physical strength and drink enough liquids especially water as eating may still pose a challenge.

Symptoms in this stage include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Chills
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


This stage from opiate withdrawal is the longest. It can last anywhere from one week to two months.  While the user is in the clear and the body has flushed out the toxins, it’s still common to experience continued nausea, anxiety, insomnia, and other withdrawal-related symptoms but on a much less intense level. Experts recommend that to ensure a safe recovery, one should stick to a low-stress routine to continually distract the mind from the cravings.

What Are Opioid Withdrawal Treatment Steps?

Managing the opioid withdrawal process requires the support of a professional team in addition to the emotional support of family and friends. One can also manage opioid addiction through the use of home remedies, but the most intense cases of opioid addiction are best managed at a rehabilitation center.

A full continuum of care is imperative for managing the opioid withdrawal process successfully. It typically includes three levels: detox, residential and outpatient services.


The goal of the first stage of withdrawal treatment or detox is to eliminate the physical need for the drug. Typically, a medical team consisting of doctors, nurses and staff will do a complete medical evaluation to determine the level of addiction and health needs resulting in a detox plan which starts the detox process. Detox at Arete Recovery also includes FDA-approved medications to limit withdrawals such as this one throughout the entire process. Following medical detoxification, a patient will be admitted to either an inpatient or residential program depending on the medical evaluation and the degree of substance abuse in patients.


This next stage of withdrawal treatment is to continue treatment in a residential facility. Depending on the medical detox plan, patients can either spend full-time at a short-term facility (approximately 45 days) or a longer period (60-90+ days) at a residential recovery. They are similar in that they both ease the patient from detox to fewer intensive forms of treatment. They are different in that a “resident” is learning important life skills and coping strategies at a residential recovery to prevent relapse at a residential recovery, so s/he is better equipped for long-term recovery.

Professionals at Arete Recovery provide medical supervision and support in both the inpatient and residential recovery to help the patient transition effectively from treatment to the outpatient stage.


After the successful completion of inpatient or residential recovery, you may transition to an intensive outpatient program designed to provide ongoing counseling as you navigate life beyond the walls of inpatient clinic and residential recovery.

Transitioning to an intensive outpatient program (OP) is imperative for preventing relapses and abstaining from opioids for the long-term. Contrary to on-site programs like inpatient and residential recovery, outpatient clinics give clients the flexibility to commit to their responsibility while supporting them with rehab services at a facility, clinic or hospital for ongoing treatment. A client’s treatment is determined by what is most essential for his/her recovery.

If You’re Suffering from Opioid Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling to stay hopeful while dealing with opioid addiction, know that you are not alone. We want to give you that hope! The caring, trained medical staff at Arete Recovery, your medical detox, and residential treatment center, want to help you get through every stage of your recovery journey successfully.

Call (855) 781-9939 now to speak with one of our addiction specialists for more information.