Opioid Withdrawal Timeline, Symptoms & Detox
Opioids are a class of drugs that are used to reduce pain. Those that have the opium poppy as their source are natural opiates. Examples include codeine, morphine, heroin, and opium. There are also man-made synthetic opioids, which include such medications as hydrocodone, methadone, and oxycodone. These are generally more potent than natural opioids.
While these drugs are often prescribed by doctors, they can be extremely addictive. Many opioids are illegally sold on the street and used as narcotics. Those who have developed an addiction to opioids are encouraged to seek help as soon as possible.
Word of the opioid epidemic is no novelty to most people who follow the news and current events. This widespread problem has its roots late in the 1990s when pharmaceutical companies gave reassurances to the health care community about opioid pain relievers. The message they presented was that this pain relief would not cause patients to become seriously addicted. In turn, some doctors prescribed too many opioid medications.
Now, the dangers of opioids are well known. In 2018, an estimated 130 people died daily from overdoses of opioid-related drugs. This added up to about 47,600 deaths over the year. Two million people had a disorder of opioid usage, and 10.3 million misused their prescription opioid drugs. The numbers are large and growing larger, but help is available for those who seek it. The first step is to seek professional assistance. With help from rehab staff, you can overcome opioid addiction.
These drugs are very effective in the treatment of pain. Opioids work by binding to receptors for opioids in the spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and brain, among other areas of the body. They cut down the sensations of pain with a reduction of pain messages that are directed to the brain. What may be surprising is that the human brain creates its own opioids. These decrease pain, can help prevent anxiety and depression, and lower the respiratory rate. However, the body does not produce sufficient quantities of opioids to treat the high levels of pain associated with broken bones and other severe ailments.
Doctors utilize opioids that mimic the effects of naturally occurring opiates to treat moderate and severe pain. These medicines can also reduce pain that does not respond well to treatment from alternate medications. Some types and sources of pain are resistant to the standard pain treatments that are traditionally sought after first. In these circumstances, opioids are very useful tools in pain management.
Opioids impact the body in a few potential ways. They might affect the brainstem, for example. This vital part of the body controls functions such as heartbeat and breathing. Opioids could reduce coughing or slow breathing. They may also act on the limbic system in the brain, creating feelings of relaxation or pleasure in those parts of the brain that control emotions. The spinal cord is also involved in pain reduction with opioids; it carries messages from the body to the brain and back again. In these ways, opioids are used to curb and control pain.
Unfortunately, opioid drugs are known to cause addiction and physical dependency. The National Institute on Drug Abuse approximates that 2.1 million Americans abuse opioids. Worldwide, this number lies between 26 and 36 million people. Prescribed opioids are not the only ways opioid addicts get their drugs. There are a few illegal drugs, such as heroin, that are also classed as opiates.
Dependence occurs when the user has taken the narcotic over a long period of time. The body grows desensitized to those effects associated with opioids. This means that it takes ever-increasing amounts of the drug to attain the effects previously accomplished with smaller amounts. Obeying the need for more of an opioid is dangerous. It increases the risk of overdosing accidentally.
Many of the people who grow dependent on opioids have been taking them for the control of pain, to avoid it, or to avoid symptoms of withdrawal. In many such cases, users do not realize for some time that they have grown dependent. Withdrawal effects can be mistaken for flu symptoms or other similar conditions.
The cause of opioid dependence is the way prolonged use impacts the function of nerve receptors in the brain. Usage changes the functioning, causing the receptors to grow dependent on the opioid to function. One sign of dependence is the appearance of withdrawal symptoms when a dose of the drug is missed or the dosage is stopped entirely. The body responds to the drug’s absence physically; these responses are the withdrawal symptoms.
Physical Impacts of Opioid Use
When drugs attach to opioid receptors in the body, the perception of pain is reduced and a sense of well-being is fostered. While this may feel good for the user for a time, negative impacts will emerge if the substance is misused. Side effects include drowsiness, nausea, constipation, and mental confusion. When opioids are taken repeatedly, the body’s own opioid production is inhibited. This is part of the cause of withdrawal symptoms.
Opioids are also involved with areas of the brain that give off “rewards.” These medications and illegal drugs are thus capable of producing an enhanced sense of pleasure. The euphoric effects are lessened in orally taken pills that have been developed to release in a slow and steady fashion into the body’s bloodstream. Crushing them to take in different ways has further negative impacts on the body, from respiratory arrest to coma.
Opioid Withdrawal Timeline
A countdown clock starts with each dose of an opioid in a body that is dependent. In short-acting opiates, that clock takes from six to 12 hours to produce withdrawal symptoms after the last dose. In long-acting opiates, 30 hours tick past until the symptoms begin. After 72 hours, the symptoms peak.
An important factor to note is that not every drug remains in the human body for the same length of time. This varying duration means that the onset of withdrawal symptoms will not be identical from drug to drug. Nor will symptoms be identical from person to person, as individual variations between the severity of an addiction and the frequency of opioid use impact the overall duration of symptoms. The user’s overall health is another facet of withdrawal to be considered.
Heroin, for example, is known to exit the human body more rapidly than other opioids. When someone stops using it, symptoms of withdrawal take up to 12 hours to appear. In contrast, someone who has been on methadone will not find symptoms for up to 36 hours, or a day and a half.
Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
Symptoms of withdrawal can be split into two main categories: early and late. Early symptoms include:
• Muscle aches
• Tearing up
• Excessive yawning
• Difficulty falling asleep and continued difficulty staying asleep
• Runny nose
• Racing heart
Late symptoms are often more intense. They include:
• Abdominal cramping
• Skin breaking out in goosebumps
• Dilated pupils with potentially blurred vision
• Abdominal cramping
• High blood pressure
• Rapid heartbeat
Another category of withdrawal symptoms is that of infants whose mothers were addicted or who had taken opioids during the pregnancy. These babies often experience symptoms of withdrawal after birth. The withdrawal signs among newborns include:
• Problems with the digestive system
• Lack of interest in feeding
• Growing dehydrated
• Experiencing seizures
The psychological and medical care of those patients experiencing symptoms of opioid withdrawal is known as withdrawal management. Unfortunately, trying to quit without outside help is extremely difficult. Those who try to kick the habit on their own are much more likely to relapse and fall back into substance use disorder. On the other hand, getting management can reduce discomfort and be much safer. Plus the user will be establishing a relationship with a professional who could help during the next phase of maintaining sobriety.
Those people experiencing symptoms should have separate spaces. Workers on hand can help with complications and monitor the patient as they go through symptoms. Blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing are all important facets of overall health while enduring withdrawal.
Those going through withdrawal should consider utilizing calming practices such as meditation. They should by no means be forced to participate in physical exercise. Such activity can prolong the withdrawal and cause the symptoms to get worse. While in withdrawal, many people experience fear or anxiety. Factual, accurate, realistic information about drugs and withdrawal should be presented to help allay feelings of being scared or anxious.
Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome
Opioid withdrawal syndrome is life-threatening condition that results from addiction. There is no diagnostic test to establish withdrawal syndrome, but urine is taken so that a toxicology expert can rule out other drugs, either alone or in combinations. Urine tests can show heroin, morphine, oxycodone, propoxyphene, and codeine.
Other tests may be performed if a health care provider has concerns about the other problems that often accompany illicit drug usage. Tests for blood chemistry and liver function, complete blood count tests, chest X-rays, electrocardiograms for the heart, and testing for tuberculosis, HIV, and hepatitis C may be included.
One way to manage opioid withdrawal pharmacologically is with the gradually tapered use of an opioid agonist such as methadone. Short-term use of a partial opioid agonist, such as buprenorphine, is another. A third is detoxification using opioid antagonists like naltrexone or naloxone. To treat symptoms of withdrawal, loperamide is used for diarrhea, clonidine for reduction of blood pressure, ibuprofen for myalgia, and promethazine to treat vomiting and nausea.
If you suffer from an addiction to opioids, you may decide to check into a rehab clinic that can help patients through the process of detoxification. Maybe you have tried to stop at home but lacked a strong support system or medicines to help you through the symptoms. Seeking treatment from a reputable facility like Green Mountain Treatment Center or New Freedom Academy can be an excellent first step in freeing yourself from drug use. Both located in scenic New Hampshire, these inpatient rehab facilities are ideal for those who want to get away from temptations. Our on-site staff members treat addiction with medication, understanding, and kindness.
Our facilities offer such advantages as low client-to-clinician ratios. While living on-site, you’ll have access to clinical psychotherapeutic support in group and one-on-one settings, treatment for mental disorders that co-occur with addiction, and cognitive behavioral therapy. These treatment options offer a foundation for you to build a life free of drug use after recovery from the symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
Overcoming an Addiction to Opioids
It may seem like overcoming your addiction isn’t possible. However, you’re not alone. Many people have sought treatment for opioid addiction, and you can too. Contact a treatment center today to get the help you need.