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Opioid withdrawal symptoms & timeline

Learn about opioid withdrawal, its symptoms and how long it lasts

Opioids are a group of drugs used for severe pain management and include both opiates (such as morphine, codeine, heroin, and opium) and synthetic opioids (like fentanylhydrocodoneoxycodone, and methadone). Chronic use of opioids results in debilitating dependence.

Opioids are similar to other drugs in that the timeline and symptoms of withdrawal vary on a person-by-person basis. Many systems within the body are altered when opioids are taken for a long period of time. Typically, the timeline for withdrawal symptoms comes in two different stages:

Early stage
(within 24 hours of last use)

  • Anxiety
  • Intense craving for the drug
  • Aggression or quick temper
  • Emotional agitation
  • Delusions
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Sweating

Later stage
(24 hours after last use)

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dilated pupils and possibly blurry vision
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure

Different drugs remain in your system for different lengths of time, therefore impacting withdrawal symptoms and onset. For example, heroin leaves the system faster – but symptoms start sooner, usually within 12 hours of last use.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms after the first 24 hours are usually very unpleasant, intense, and painful. This is why our addiction treatment centers offer medically-monitored detoxification under the guidance of our clinical staff. Comfort medication is provided to help patients get through withdrawal symptoms, and begin focusing on the next step in their treatment.

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