What Happens During Opioid Withdrawal?

In Addiction by Tree House Recovery

Detoxing from opioids is one of the biggest challenges in addiction recovery. Opioid detox is not typically dangerous, although there have been rare cases of people dying, usually from dehydration. However, it is considered to be the most miserable detox experience. People often describe it as having the worst flu they’ve ever had, knowing they can make it stop if they just start using again. For many people, opioid detox is a major barrier to recovery. Often, people trying to detox on their own will give up halfway through because the withdrawal symptoms are so bad. Fear of withdrawal keeps many people using long after they stop enjoying it. Knowing what to expect from a detox helps to reduce anxiety. This way, at least you have an idea of when you’ll start feeling better.


Early Symptoms

Starting points of detox symptoms depend on what kind of opioids you’ve been taking. Short-acting opioids like heroin typically result in detox symptoms after about six hours. Conversely, symptoms from longer-acting opioids like oxycodone may take longer to materialize. 

Initial symptoms often include muscle aches, runny nose, insomnia, yawning, anxiety, sweating, fever, and increased heart rate and blood pressure.


Peak Withdrawal

Detox typically becomes most intense after about three days. At this point, all the drugs are out of your system and your physiology has to begin the painful process of adapting to the absence of opioids. Symptoms typically include diarrhea, vomiting, intense cravings, nausea, stomach pains, and depression. Individuals attempting to detox on their own often give up at this point. Dehydration risk is the highest during this stage due to vomiting and diarrhea, so it’s crucial to stay hydrated. Acute withdrawal typically lasts about a week. However, some symptoms, including cravings, trouble sleeping, and depression may linger for longer. 


Coping With Symptoms

The best way to cope with opioid withdrawal symptoms is to detox in a facility where medical staff can monitor you. This reduces the risks associated with dehydration and high heart rate and blood pressure during detox. Additionally, medical detox monitoring increases the likelihood that you will follow through and complete the detox in its entirety. While there’s no way to completely avoid the discomfort of opioid withdrawal, detoxing in a facility at least ensures your basic needs are met, allowing you to be as comfortable as possible until your symptoms subside. People often find that hot baths or showers help relieve symptoms and having something to read or watch on TV helps distract from the discomfort.


Need Support in Your Recovery From Addiction?

There’s no way to detox from opioids without experiencing some level of discomfort. Unfortunately, recovery from opioid addiction can not begin until a detox has been completed. Keep your eyes on the prize. Your big-picture goals of a better life are well worth the temporary discomfort. At Tree House Recovery of Portland, Oregon, we help men create happier, more fulfilling lives, free from drug and/or alcohol addiction. To learn more about our unique recovery program, call us today at (503) 850-2474