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The Opiate Withdrawal Timeline


Opiates is a term that applies only to natural opioids, such as heroin, morphine, and codeine, as opposed to opioids, which is a term that refers to natural, semisynthetic, and synthetic opioids. These substances interfere with nerve receptors in the body and brain, reducing the strength of pain signals and pain sensations.


When any drug or substance is taken in excessive amounts, it may cause an overdose which is an injury to the body in the form of poisoning.

The short answer is yes, you may overdose on opiates. An example of an opiate that you may overdose on is heroin, and a heroin overdose can be deadly. When you overdose on heroin, your breathing will slow down or cease. This reduces the amount of oxygen that enters your brain, which triggers a condition called hypoxia. Untreated, this can have long-term adverse mental effects on you, put you in a coma, or even give you permanent brain damage.


Physical dependence is an adaptation to a drug that causes withdrawal symptoms when the use of the drug is stopped. These are painful physical signs that can occur to you when you avoid taking the medication.


Early symptoms of opiate withdrawal include:

  • Agitation

  • Anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Increased tears

  • Runny nose

  • Yawning

  • Sweating

  • Muscle aches

Late symptoms of opiate withdrawal include:

  • Nausea

  • Dilated pupils

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal cramping

  • Diarrhea

  • Goosebumps

These symptoms are very unpleasant, but they are usually not life-threatening. Symptoms typically begin within 12 hours of the last use of opiates and within 30 hours of the last exposure.

While taking opioids during pregnancy is extremely dangerous and heavily discouraged, if you or someone you know is doing so, they are causing harm not only to themselves but also to the baby in many ways. Babies born to mothers who are addicted to or used opioids while pregnant often suffer withdrawal symptoms as well. These may include:

  1. Dehydration;

  2. Poor feeding;

  3. Vomiting;

  4. Digestive issues; and

  5. Seizures


Detoxification is a series of procedures and medical techniques intended to treat and safely manage acute intoxication and withdrawal, which involves the clearance of contaminants from the body of a patient who is acutely intoxicated and/or reliant on drug abuse.


With some opiates, you might notice the first signs about six to eight hours after your last exposure to the substance. In the use of some drugs, however, like extended-release opiates, you may not show any withdrawal symptoms for about a day. During this period, you are most likely to experience a disturbance in digestion, sleep deprivation, cramps, and the initial signs of depression. Over time, these symptoms slowly worsen.

A few days after exposure, the symptoms will gradually start wearing off. Your appetite may return, you will have less trouble sleeping, and you will experience cramps a lot less frequently. The danger during this phase of detoxification, however, is that the psychological withdrawal symptoms may still be overbearing.

On day five, most of the physical signs start to disappear. Around this time, you are dealing mainly with emotional and psychological problems. Examples of these include depression, anxiety, and continuing nervousness. In this phase, you may feel as though you should be doing something, but you cannot figure out what it is.


There are several methods and interventions that are meant to help you go through your detoxification period with as little discomfort as possible. Health professionals may administer buprenorphine or a combination of other drugs intended to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. However, it is important to note that treatments like these are not enough to ensure complete withdrawal from substances, and further rehabilitation may be required.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved sublingual buprenorphine for office-based treatment for detoxification or maintenance of opioid dependency in 2002. Buprenorphine is long-acting, effective, and can be administered sublingually (under the tongue). It can, however, precipitate withdrawal symptoms if used too soon after an opioid agonist. If the patient has withdrawal symptoms and has waited at least 12 hours after short-acting opioids and 36 hours after methadone, buprenorphine is typically used to alleviate these symptoms and is less likely to precipitate withdrawal. It can also be useful when administered in an emergency room.

Some methods of detoxification include rapid detoxification. In the clonidine-naltrexone detoxification process, rapid withdrawal of naltrexone precipitated extreme withdrawal symptoms when combined with high doses of clonidine and benzodiazepines before and after naltrexone to relieve symptoms. Although withdrawal is limited to 2 or 3 days, there is a lack of evidence that naltrexone is abruptly or slowly discontinued afterward.

Various drugs, including naltrexone or nalmefene, propofol anesthesia or extreme midazolam sedation, antiemetic ondansetron, antidiarrheal octreotide, and clonidine and benzodiazepines, have been used for rapid opioid withdrawal under the general anesthesia procedure and have been conducted either on an inpatient or on an outpatient basis. However, though claims for high abstinence rates have been made months after detoxification, there is no reliable testing, the samples are not representative, and the procedures carry a further risk of deadly side effects.


Coping with opiate withdrawal can be overwhelming. There are a lot of things to watch out for and a lot of ways to disrupt your recovery. Luckily, Recovery Blvd can help you not only deal with the signs of opiate withdrawal but beat opiates completely.

Here at Recovery Blvd, we endeavor to provide you with therapy and treatment that is tailored to your condition to allow you to break free from the chains of drug abuse and experience a fullness of life.

If you wish to know more about Recovery Blvd, you may call us at (866) 231-3007. You may also visit our drug rehabilitation center in Portland at 1316 SE 12th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214, to book an appointment.

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