Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms and Signs and Detoxification

Early opiates withdrawal symptoms can include achy muscles, tearing of the eyes, insomnia, agitation, and anxiety. Here's what you need to know.

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According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, about 9 percent of Americans abuse opiates at some point during their lifetime. Prolonged use of opiates causes an addict’s body to develop a physical dependence on the drug. For those who become addicted and then decide to stop the abuse, opiate withdrawal can be a serious obstacle to overcome.

Withdrawal results from significantly reducing or ending the use of opiates. With the drugs no longer being ingested, the addict’s body takes time to detoxify. This period of detoxification can result in a number of withdrawal symptoms as the addict’s body begins to recover from its dependent state. There are visible signs of these symptoms. By watching the signs closely, you can determine if the addicted individual is in the early stage of withdrawal or in the later stage.

Early opiates withdrawal symptoms can include achy muscles, tearing of the eyes, insomnia, agitation, and anxiety. Signs to look for during this period include a runny nose, excessive yawning and sweating regardless of temperature or level of exertion. These early symptoms usually begin within 12 hours after the addict’s last heroin use and 30 hours after methadone or other opiates. Symptoms of later stages of the withdrawal process include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and nausea. At this point in the withdrawal process, you should expect to see the addict displaying dilated pupils, goosebumps and vomiting.

Observing the signs of withdrawal can be indicative of an addict’s going through the withdrawal process. To be certain that these signs are of opiate withdrawal, a physical exam by a medical professional that includes a blood or urine test, followed by an interview on medical history is needed.

Withdrawing from Opiates: Treatment Methods and Options for Help

Opiate withdrawal treatment is recommended for all those going through the withdrawal process. The best treatment is one that includes both medication and therapy.

Clonidine is a medication often prescribed during the withdrawal period to combat the physical symptoms of withdrawal. While taking clonidine the addict experiences a lessening of anxiety and agitation. Clonidine also reduces the achy muscles, heavy sweating, abdominal cramping and runny nose experienced during withdrawal.

The psychological treatment of the withdrawing addict is usually handled during the rehabilitation period that takes place shortly after the detoxification period ends.

How Long Do Opiate Withdrawals Last?

The duration of withdrawals depends completely upon the length of time an addict has been taking opiates and how dependent they have become on the substance. A typical withdrawal timeline can be anywhere between one week to several weeks.

Do You Have a List Popular Slang or Street Names for Opiates?

Big O, black stuff, block gum, hop, black tar, horse, brown sugar

Are There any Home Remedies for Getting Clean Safely?

Although some people believe that flushing the body out can provide relief from withdrawal symptoms, there is no proven home remedy for easing the pain of getting clean. For the best results, it is better to forego alternative or “natural” methods and seek professional help. Rehabilitation centers have proven methods to help relieve the discomfort in safety.

How Long Does it Take to Detox from Opiates?

The length of the detoxing process depends on how long an addict has been using opiates as well as the amount of the substance taken. The average detox time lasts anywhere from 5 days to several weeks.

Detoxing from Opioids, Addiction Treatment Rehab and Recovery

Detoxing from opioids is done best in a treatment facility where round-the-clock care is available to deal with the symptoms of withdrawal as well as any possible complications. While it is possible to detox without any help, the untreated symptoms often convince an addict that it’s better back on the drugs than off. With medical assistance, these symptoms are reduced significantly, making the detox process an easier one to undertake.

Detox is just the beginning of recovery. Addiction treatment rehab is a necessary follow-up to detox for the best chances of lifelong recovery. As with the withdrawal treatment, rehab uses a combination of medicinal help along with therapeutic aid.

The primary medication used during treatment is methadone. Methadone is a synthetic opiate that reduces the body’s need for other opiates. It’s been used successfully for several decades as a treatment aid.
Therapeutic treatments include one-on-one counseling and group therapy. The counseling deals with the personal issues of the addict. In counseling, an attempt is made to determine the underlying issues that led to the addiction. Once these issues are found, coping strategies are developed for the addict to deal with them without turning to the opiates for relief. As support for counseling, groups such as Narcotics Anonymous or Smart Recovery help by providing a counsel of peers to the addict. These peers will help the addict to recognize the pitfalls of recovery, and the actions needed to avoid them.

Recovery from opiates is possible with the proper treatment. There are treatment facilities throughout the country. Call 1-888-658-5242 for any questions you may have about opiate withdrawal symptoms or treatments. The call is free and the hotline is staffed 24 hours a day.

Opiate Information at a Glance
Form, Intake, and Dosage Interactions and Complications
  • Drug Forms: Tablets, Elixir, Oral suspension
  • Administration Routes: Administered orally, injected
  • Dosage: Varies with Drug
  • Overdose: Varies with Drug
  • Alcohol Interaction: Intensifies side effects, can be fatal
  • Illicit Drugs: N/A
  • Prescription Medications: Increased depression with other analgesics and antipsychotics
  • Contraindications: N/A
Effects and Adverse Reactions Substance Abuse
  • Short-Term: Sedation, euphoria, delirium, hallucinations, muscle spasms
  • Long-Term: Coma, severe respiratory damage, circulatory damage
  • Risk of Substance Abuse: High
  • Signs of Abuse: Irritability, signs of depression, delirium
Physiological Problem Signs and Symptoms Dependence and Addiction Issues
  • Withdrawal Syndrome Onset: 12-24 hours after the last dosage
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Strong cravings, sweating, shakes, anxiety, nausea, aches
  • Tolerance: N/A
  • Cross Dependence: N/A
  • Physical Dependence: Moderate to high
  • Psychological Dependence: High
Legal Schedules and Ratings
  • Controlled Substances Act Rating: Schedule I